Good morning. Before we get to our passage, I wanted to make a quick recognition of a few people. Last week we looked at the Holy Spirit as the power for ministry and that we are all called to participate in ministry. We have two people who have both led ministries for a long time at Grace who are both stepping down this spring. It seemed more fitting last week but neither was here in service, so we’re doing it this week. Jake Thompson is stepping away from directing our kid’s Sunday School ministry. Think about how many of our kids have gone through the various classes over the past 12 years and how much Bible teaching has happened under his supervision. He’s been faithful with what’s in front of him and we have benefitted as a church because of his faithfulness. So thank you, Jake.
I also wanted to recognize Lauren Gilkerson. She has led Women’s Prayer for at least 5 or 6 years. Like Jake, Lauren has also been incredibly faithful to lead well and simply do what was in front of her and encourage the women of Grace to gather for prayer and encouragement. Thank you, Lauren.
I have a gift for each of you after service. If you have been blessed by either of these ministries, please be sure to let Jake and Lauren know that. Would you pray with me?
Father, thank you for your Word. I thank you for these people and the privilege is is to shepherd and preach to them. There is so much in this passage and I know I’m breezing over things. Please illuminate this text through your Holy Spirit. Apply the truths of it to our hearts that we may grow and bear more fruit.
Last week we looked at the events of Pentecost and why it was such a significant mark in the history or redemption. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came in power to fill God’s people for ministry and to fulfill the Great Commission. There were about 3000 Jews who witnessed this scene. Where we left off the passage, they were asking, ‘What’s the meaning of this?’ So Peter stands up and gives the first Christian sermon in order to explain Pentecost. His sermon is built around 3 Old Testament prophecies that he quotes and explains. He begins by connecting the prophet Joel’s words about the coming of the Holy Spirit, but then uses the quote as a way to urge people to call on the name of the Lord.
The three OT quotes form the basic structure of Peter’s sermon and will also form the structure for my sermon as well. Peter looks first at the pouring out of the Holy spirit in verses 14-21. Then he connects the coming of the Holy Spirit with prophecies about Jesus and his identity. Jesus is both the Risen Christ, and he’s the Ascended Lord. In verses 22-31 Peter tells us that Jesus is the promised Messiah or the Christ. And then Peter moves on to describe the Lordship of Jesus in verses 32-36.
Now this is a lot for one sermon. Our family attended a church before we moved back to Minnesota and the pastor spent 5 or 6 weeks just on Peter’s sermon. There’s so much here and I have one week. So be warned that it will be a little uneven in how I cover it, I had to make some decisions. Since we looked at the role of the Holy Spirit last week, I’m going to move quickly through that section. And since Jesus life, death, and resurrection are probably most familiar to us, well I’m going to move pretty fast through that section too. That’s not to say that there is not lots of gold there. What I want to take a closer look at in this sermon is the Lordship of Jesus. What Peter describes in this section is the Ascension of Jesus. By looking at the Ascension we will look at the benefits of Jesus returning to the father. Last week we could have titled the sermon, Why it’s good that the Holy Spirit came, this week is titled, ‘Why it’s good that Jesus Went Away’.
While I wish I had 5 or 6 weeks to thoroughly cover everything in Acts 2, we have to make some sacrifices. Let’s look at the first section where Peter explains what is happening.
The Holy Spirit Comes to all People
As you look at Peter’s sermon, you might wonder, ‘how does Peter know all of this? Is he just cherry-picking verses to quote? Isn’t this the same guy who was often clueless in the gospel accounts?’ He is the same guy that was often clueless. He’s the same guy who denied Jesus when he was arrested. But a lot has happened in the last 50 days. Not only did Peter witness the resurrected Christ, but he sat under Jesus’ teachings for 40 days. The things that Peter and the other disciples didn’t grasp during Jesus’ earthly life, now have new significance. If you want a good description of this, read Luke 24. There the disciples are taught by Jesus and their minds were opened to the scriptures. Suddenly with new perspective, they were able to see that all of the scriptures pointed to Jesus. Peter isn’t grabbing random Psalms and making them fit his narrative. The Psalms fit the narrative of scripture and Peter is connecting the dots in a way he wouldn’t have before. Now, it is true that Peter also was brought along by the Holy Spirit to write scripture, but we have those writings to help us better connect the dots as well.
Let’s look at what Peter says is happening. What is happening at Pentecost with the wind and fire and speaking in different languages is the fulfillment of Joel 2. Joel had prophesied that there would be a day when the Holy Spirit would come. The Holy Spirit was active in the Old Testament and had worked through various people, but it was rare and was not a permanent dwelling. Some were empowered by the Spirit for specific times or tasks like Bezalel who constructed the tabernacle and the holy vessels. Others were overcome by the Holy Spirit for their leadership office, like Samson and Saul. But the Spirit was also later removed from them for different reasons. What was promised through Joel was that the Holy Spirit would be poured out on all of God’s people. Men, women, old, young, even servants. And this pouring out would cause people to prophesy, to attest to the works of God.
Now Peter tells the people that this prophecy has been fulfilled at Pentecost. As we looked at last week, one of the features of Pentecost is the ushering in of the New Covenant. This dwelling of the Holy Spirit is now a permanent dwelling in the people of God. What is not as obvious in Peter’s sermon, but will certainly develop in the rest of the book of Acts and the New Testament, is that the New covenant will not just be for Jewish men and Jewish women, but for all people, including the Gentiles. The requirement to be brought into the New Covenant is the same for everyone regardless of ethnicity, sex, or background. The gospel will go out to all people. And as Peter moves to the end of this prophecy he explains how someone gets the Holy Spirit and enter into the New Covenant:
And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Peter urges the people to call on the name of the Lord for salvation. Now, when you and I hear this, we might assume Peter is talking about Jesus as Lord. But remember that he is preaching to devout Jews. So if Peter is imploring them to call on the name of the Lord, who might they have in mind? They might not fully recognize who Jesus is. In the Old Testament, LORD referred to Yahweh or Jehovah and described God the Father. But as we move along in the story of redemption, the focus becomes Jesus as Lord.
The rest of the sermon is to explain who this Lord is. Peter will use two Psalms to show how Jesus is both Christ and Lord.
The Promised Christ
Who is this Lord? Peter cuts right to the chase and tells us it’s Jesus. This Jesus who the Jews knew about. They saw his life and the mighty works, wonders and signs that accompanied his life. Just like we saw at Pentecost, Peter is witnessing to the Mighty Works of God through Christ. And he begins building his case that Jesus is the Messiah promised by the Old testament prophets.
So Peter walks through the wonderous works Jesus did in his earthly ministry. And this was common knowledge for his audience. Then he leans in hard and tells the crowd that they killed Jesus. Can you imagine? The preacher points the finger at you, looks in your eyes and says, you killed Jesus!
Grace, our sin does the same thing. Our slightest sin is high treason against a holy God. The penalty for our sin is death, either ours or Jesus’. Your sin put Jesus on the cross. Your rebellion killed Jesus.
And yet, Peter also shows that it was according to God’s plan of salvation that Jesus would be killed and handed over to lawless men. God uses means to accomplish his purposes. We won’t wrestle with how that exactly works, but both are true because the Bible says they are. We should be able to rest in that.
Peter mentions that he and the disciples witnessed the resurrection. They saw him, spoke with him and ate with him. Others touched his wounds. He really rose from the grave and he really remained in a human body. It wasn’t a ghost or some kind of illusion. It wasn’t only that the disciples witnessed the resurrection. Others in the Old Testament did mighty works and signs. A few even rose from the dead. But this Jesus is different. Peter quotes part of Psalm 16 to show that Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament.
“‘I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’
Peter is not only making the case that Jesus rose from the dead. He is also quoting David to show that Jesus is the promised Messiah, or the Christ. That’s what Christ means-Messiah.
David wrote of a Holy One not being abandoned or corrupted. Peter makes the connection for us. Even though it might look like David is writing about himself, it’s clear he’s not. David was a godly man and favored by the Lord, but he still died. His body died and he stayed in the ground. Peter shows us that David has someone else in mind, someone who will not only not see corruption, but someone who will sit on David’s throne forever. A future son of his. David looked ahead to this day. Peter uses this idea to further show that Jesus is this promised Messiah.
When David was king of Israel, the Lord spoke to him through the prophet Nathan and promised him a special son.
2 Sam. 7:12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
At first, one might have thought it could be David’s son, Solomon. He built the temple and sat on a throne. But his kingdom did not last forever. There must be another son to come from the line of David. And now Peter makes the connection between Jesus as Messiah and Jesus as the Son of David. The Son who will be king and sit on the throne forever. And we see this in our next section where we’ll take a closer look at the Ascended Lord.
The Ascended Lord
First, flip back a page to Acts 1:8-11: Here is the account of the ascension. Jesus is talking and giving the disciples their commission.
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
Jesus is lifted up and taken to heaven where he is no longer seen. It’s pretty mysterious and there’s not a lot of description or explanation. And maybe that’s why it isn’t covered much in the church. It’s as if Jesus is gone to heaven and merely waiting until it’s time for his glorious return. But the Ascension is a significant doctrine and Jesus is actually doing quite a bit. Remember as well that when he promised the Holy Spirit, he says in John 16 that is beneficial that he goes away. So far we’ve seen over the last two weeks why it matters that the Holy Spirit came. What’s the benefit of Jesus going away? The benefits are found in the Ascension. His returning to the Father brings all kinds of benefits for us. I’m going to look at four that we find in our text: His Exaltation, He’s at the father’s right hand, He poured out the Holy Spirit, and He is Ruling as Lord.
One of the things that happened at the resurrection is there was a change. Not in Christ’s nature. He remains the same in his nature, but he went from a humbled state in his incarnation to an exalted, glorified state after he conquered sin and death. What Jesus accomplished in his humiliation, he now takes his rightful place in glory.
We see this in another well known passage in Philippians 2. As I read it, notice the change from humiliation and service to exaltation and Lordship.
Philippians 2:5-11 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
In his earthly ministry, Jesus was a humbled servant, obedient to the point of death. It doesn’t mean he wasn’t all powerful or had the right to rule as king, but he didn’t take his place on the throne until his exaltation. Jesus carried out his work by going to the cross and then the resurrection began his exaltation, and this continues through his ascension as Peter notes. He is exalted. He is no longer a suffering servant, no longer a man of sorrows but an exalted King. Theologian Herman Bavinck says this about the exaltation: ‘After his resurrection and his ascension Christ has the highest place beside God in the whole universe.’ (Mighty Works of God p.355)
So where did Jesus go in has ascension? He went to sit at the Father’s right hand.
At the Father’s Right Hand
‘Right Hand’ is mentioned three times in Acts 2 all referring to Jesus (verse 25, 33 and 34). Where does he go in his ascension? He goes to the heavenly throne room and sits down at the right hand of the Father. ‘The Right Hand’ is used a number of times in the Bible and it is referred to as the place next to God the Father. Jesus is now seated on his throne at the right hand of the Father.
Heb 1:3 After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…
One of the benefits of Jesus seated at the right hand of the Father is that he grants us access to the throne room. Jesus is our High Priest who grants us access.
Heb 8:1 Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven.
It’s kind of like the really exclusive club that you see in a movie. It’s got the velvet rope and bouncers outside with a long line of people. Everyone wants to get in, but only the coolest and wealthiest can get in. You’re not rich, you’re not famous. In fact, you threw tomatoes at the building the other day and now there’s a picture of you on the Don’t Admit list. And yet you have a friend who can get in to the club anytime he wants. So you walk up to the front door, cut in line and walk right by the bouncer and go into the exclusive club. You have no business being there. Apart from your friend, you could never get in. But with your friend, no one can stop you from entering.
What a friend we have in Jesus. He grants us access to places we otherwise have no business being. We can go before the Father. Not only that but we can ask him things and even expect that he will do them. Not because we have any authority, but because we can ask in the name of Jesus.
When we pray, we pray in Jesus’ name. That’s not just a nice add-on to close our prayers. We are pleading with God to hear our prayers and answer them. And what business do we have to even dare ask something of a holy God? Because we have a High Priest making intercession for us. We now have access to God through the eternal God-man, Jesus Christ.
One other thought on Jesus as our High Priest: He remains a man.
When Jesus came as a baby, he took on a second nature. He was fully God and by taking on flesh, he was also fully man. He was the God-man and that didn’t change with his ascension to heaven. He remains the God-man, possessing two natures. Jesus’ body didn’t see corruption because he rose from the dead. I don’t pretend to know how that works completely, but he is forever both God and Man.
Another benefit of the Ascension is that Jesus pours out the Holy Spirit.
Pours out Holy Spirit
We’ve already seen that the Holy Spirit was poured out on the people. It was promised by Joel. So who poured it out? Verse 33 says that By Ascending to the Father, Jesus poured out the Spirit. He has accomplished his earthly work, and now he has won the right to pour out the Holy Spirit. We benefit from Jesus leaving because the Holy Spirit comes to dwell with us. So not only do we benefit from Jesus going to the Father, but we also get the benefits of the Holy Spirit coming. The Spirit leads us in truth, convicts us of sin and empowering us for ministry and for prayer. We pray in the name of Jesus, granting us access to the Father, but we pray in the power of the Holy Spirit. When we pray, all three persons of the trinity are involved. We pray to the father, Jesus grants us access and presents our prayers and the Spirit helps us to pray in our weakness. We have three people helping our prayers be effective. Not our flowery words or gritting our teeth, but the power of God allows and enables us to ask great things in prayer.
Rules as Lord
The last benefit we will look at is found in verse 34:
34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
35 until I make your enemies your footstool.”’
Jesus rules as Lord from the right hand of God the Father.
I think it’s easy to acknowledge that Jesus is Lord over the church or over Christians. But Psalm 110 says that Jesus also rules over his enemies. He rules over everything, which means he’s king and he rules the kingdom. He told people this in his earthly ministry.
Mark 1:14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
Jesus is Lord means that Jesus has authority over all the earth. This is another thing he was given after his resurrection. He now has authority, given by the Father, to rule the world. The kingdom is here and Jesus is the king. He told us himself when he began preaching the gospel.
Jesus is a king and has a kingdom. The gospel is the good news of Christ dying for our sins. But it’s also the good news of a good king who rules over a kingdom that’s better than any other kingdom in this world.
Another Old Testament prophet, Daniel, had a vision about the coming of the Son of Man.
Dan. 7:13 “I saw in the night visions,
and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
When he hear the coming of the Son of Man, we tend to think Jesus’ second coming to earth. That is, he is coming to us. But in Daniel’s vision, the son of Man is coming to the Ancient of Days. In other words, the vision is describing Jesus coming to the Father. Daniel 7 is a vision of the Ascension not the second coming. He’s not coming down, he’s coming up into the heavenly throne room. Daniel goes on to describe what happens at the Ascension:
14 And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.
At the ascension, Jesus was given all dominion and glory and a kingdom. It’s an everlasting rule of an everlasting kingdom.
Jesus is Lord. And as we saw in Philippians 2, every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. In our own lives this means that he is Lord of all. We cannot have areas of sin that we try to hide or hold onto. If you confess Jesus as Lord, you must submit to his rule as well. Maybe you are indifferent about the things of God. Jesus is Lord. But it also means that he is Lord even when we are weak. He is Lord, take heart. Maybe you have worry, Jesus is Lord. Maybe life feels overwhelming with bills and kids and demands at work. Jesus is Lord.
Now one question this bring up. ‘If Jesus rules over everything now, why does it not look like it?’ It’s a fair question. Our world is filled with all kinds of wickedness. We see war and violence. We see people approving of things God hates. We see division, conflict, discouragement and depression. We can even be tempted to look at our own lives and wonder, where is Jesus? If he rules, why are things so hard?
The kingdom is here, but it has not reached its fullness. It’s a kingdom that grows from small to great over time. It’s like a mustard seed, or yeast in dough. Daniel described it as a stone that grows into a giant mountain that fills the whole earth. Sometimes people talk about the kingdom as ‘already, but not yet’. It’s really here, but not in its fullness. But take heart, Grace Church. The kingdom belongs to Christ and it is advancing. When we think of earthly kingdoms or rulers through history like Napoleon it’s usually grown through force. But the kingdom of God is different. One writer describes it like this:
‘His kingdom expands not through evolutionary forces, human wisdom, or political strategy, or military conquest: it comes through obedient service to Christ while proclaiming the gospel, “which is the power of God unto salvation”’ (Gentry p.227)
The kingdom advances through obedience to the king and through proclaiming the gospel. And the promise of scripture is that it is a kingdom that will continue to grow, put his enemies under his feet and the king will have dominion forever.
After quoting Old testament prophets and explaining who this Lord is, Peter wraps up his sermon in verse 36, Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.
Jesus is both Lord and Christ is Peter’s main point. And then he turns the screws one more time and reminds the crows that they crucified him.
The Call to Respond
After the events at Pentecost the crowd asked the question, ‘What does this mean?’ So Peter explained it in his sermon. Now after Peter finishes his sermon, it says that the crowd was cut to the heart. They are convicted of their role in the crucifixion of Jesus and recognize their guilt. Here we see more work of the Holy Spirit. But it is not Peter’s rhetoric alone that cuts people to the heart. One of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to convict people of sin (John 16:8). This is what is happening to the crowd. So they ask a second question, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’
Peter gives them the simple command, ‘repent and be baptized’. But Peter also links it to the name of Jesus. Just like he began his sermon imploring the crowd to call on the name of the Lord and be saved. And the same is true for us. Repent and believe and be baptized.
And anyone who calls on the name of Jesus will receive the Holy Spirit. And after Peter continued explaining the scriptures, verse 41 tells us what happened next, “41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” We come full circle at Pentecost. It started with the Holy Spirit and now it ends with the Holy Spirit. What started as a feast of the firstfruits of the harvest, ends with 3,000 souls being saved. The firstfruits of the harvest that will continue until the kingdom reaches its fullness in glory.
It was good that the Holy Spirit came. It was to our benefit. Incredibly, it was also to our benefit that Jesus went away. Peter helps us see that all of it is the plan of the Triune God. Marvel at the power of the Holy Spirit. Be thankful that we have access to the throne room and live as if Jesus is King of the world. Because he is. Let’s pray.
Almighty God, you have given all things to your Son and now we come to you asking for what we need. We cannot fully grasp the immensity of your glory, but you still allow us to come before you. Strength to believe your word. Strength to fight sin and endure whatever challenges face us this week. Give us fuel to worship you in Spirit and truth. May all of our days be spent doing things that acknowledge Jesus as Lord. May our families be strengthened to live and delight in your kingdom. May our church be a sign of the kingdom here in Wyoming, give us wisdom in ways to make that happen. May our neighbors hear the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ. May we long for day when all of your enemies vanquished and the kingdom to be fully consummated. To him be honor and glory and power forever. Amen.