23 June 2022Acts 2:22-36
But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power. (v. 24)
In the passage we read today, it's still the day of Pentecost (when the Holy Spirit comes to the disciples) and Peter is still addressing the crowd of people assembled in Jerusalem. Many would have been pilgrim visitors to the city for the Festival of Weeks.
In this second half of his sermon, Peter draws on a few passages from the Hebrew Scriptures to talk about Jesus’ death and resurrection. It is quite hard to distinguish Peter’s words from Luke’s words in this text; it appears to have been composed in Greek, and uses exact quotations from the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, neither of which would have been Peter’s natural tongue. The idea that the crucifixion was planned and intended by God (v. 23) is a particular feature of Luke’s writings.
There is an interesting textual instability in this passage where the original wording is hard to translate into English. It's indicated as a footnote in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible (NRSV) for verse 24. This verse could be translated as "God raised him [Jesus] having destroyed the cords of death, because it was impossible for him to be held by it." The word 'cords', as used to bind captives, doesn’t make it into the NRSV but gives a graphic sense of Jesus’ victory over everything destructive that seeks to trap us, which is good news indeed.
As well as Jesus, the text talks about King David. It suggest that David would not die and be abandoned to Hades (v. 27). And yet here they were in Jerusalem, the site of David’s tomb. The logic of the argument goes something like this: if these scriptures are true, and yet David is still in his tomb, the scriptures must really refer to another David, a descendant of his: Jesus of Nazareth.
Today, this kind of proof from Scripture might seem odd to us, and increasingly tenuous in a post-modern culture that is abandoning trust in sources of authority such as the Bible. But it was obviously deemed appropriate for the audience at the time, and it seemed to work, as tomorrow’s passage will explore. But notice how Peter uses Scripture in a fascinating, multifaceted way: it is brought into collision with tradition (David’s tomb is in Jerusalem), reason (David’s body is still in the tomb) and experience (they have clearly just seen and heard something unusual). From this collision an astonishingly radical new theology emerges: Jesus, the man from Nazareth, is both Lord, equal to Yahweh, and he is the Messiah, the promised deliverer.
- Responding to the gospel must include making more followers of Jesus Christ. How can we present the good news in a way that makes sense to people who do not have a knowledge of or trust in Scripture?
- If the cords of death have been destroyed, how does that change your life?
“You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.” Amen. (Acts 2:28)