Acts 2:14a, 36-41
14a Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd, 36 “Let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” 40 And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.
The book called “The Acts of the Apostles” was written around 85 to 90 CE by the anonymous author of the Gospel According to Luke. The first 15 chapters of Acts are a didactic “history” of the early Jesus Follower Movement starting with an account of the Ascension of Jesus and ending at the so-called Council of Jerusalem where it was agreed that Gentiles did not have to be circumcised and keep all the Kosher dietary laws in order to become Jesus Followers.
Today’s reading presents the last part of Peter’s long speech after the Pentecost Event. Rather than offend the ruling Romans by stating that they crucified Jesus (which they did), the author’s account of the speech repeated the earlier statement that the Israelites crucified Jesus (v.36).
As discussed at greater length in last week’s Scripture in Context, a variety of accusations were made against the Israelites/Judeans/Pharisees in the Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John. These Gospels (and Acts) were written from 70 CE to 100 CE when the Jesus Followers were contending with the Pharisees for control of Judaism going forward. Harsh words were expressed in the Gospels and Acts, and the Pharisees took exclusionary actions by expelling Jesus Followers from the synagogues.
In the same verse (36), Acts says God “made” Jesus Lord and Messiah. This statement shows that, in the early church, there was a continuingly evolving understanding of who and what Jesus of Nazareth was/is. Verse 36 presented a view that is generally described as “adoptionism” – the idea that Jesus of Nazareth was a human whom God adopted as God’s Son and “made” him Lord and Messiah. The New Oxford Annotated Bible suggests that the event at which this occurred was the Resurrection. This would not be consistent, however, with Luke’s notion that Jesus’ Sonship occurred at the time of Jesus’ Baptism (Luke 3:22). Both of these understandings are inconsistent with John’s theology in which the Logos/Word/Christ pre-existed from all eternity and at a given point in time became flesh in Jesus (John 1:14).
In concluding his speech, Peter urged the Israelites to repent (change their religious thinking), be baptized and have their sins forgiven (v.38). The Jewish Annotated New Testament points out that repentance and baptizing (or washing) were identified together in Isaiah 1:16 and in Psalm 51:7. The JANT notes, however, that “baptism in name of Jesus” also was way of distinguishing the new community.
After baptism, Peter said the recipients would receive the Holy Spirit (v.38). This presented a different sequence from the accounts of most baptisms described in Acts – typically, the Holy Spirit came first to persons and was the reason they were baptized.
The words “all who are far away” (v.39) are a paraphrase of Isaiah 57:19. A similar idea is found in Joel 2:32 that “everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” The NAOB suggests that its meaning in Acts is that the church was universal from the beginning.
1 Peter 1:17-23
17 If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile. 18 You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. 20 He was destined before the foundation of the world but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. 21 Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God.
22 Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. 23 You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.
In the First Century, it was not uncommon to write something in another person’s name so that the writing would have extra “authority” – particularly when the writer believed he knew what the “authority” (in this case, Peter) would have said.
The First Letter of Peter was likely written in the last quarter of the First Century, long after Peter’s death. It was written in sophisticated Greek and resembles the form of Paul’s letters. Its focus is not on the earthly life of Jesus of Nazareth, but on the Resurrection and the affirmation that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah.
The Jewish Annotated New Testament suggests that the letter was written to Jesus Followers in Asia Minor and purported to be written in Rome (“Babylon” in v.5:13). The use of “Babylon” for Rome became common after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. The JANT says the letter was addressed to Gentiles because it said they were “formerly ignorant” (v.1:14). The JANT says that the reference to “the time of your exile” (v.17) means that the believers were aliens in their surrounding society.
Today’s reading contains two (of five) directives to the Jesus Followers: (1) to live in reverent fear of the Lord (v.17), knowing they were ransomed by the blood of Christ; and (2) love one another deeply from the heart (v.22), knowing they were born anew through the word of God (v.23).
The reference to being “ransomed” (v.18) is comparable to Mark 10:45 (“the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many”) a motif based on the Suffering Servant presented in Isaiah 53:6-7.
The notion of being “born anew” (v.23) is greatly expanded in the Fourth Gospel in the story of Nicodemus (John 3) where Nicodemus was told he needed to be “born from above” or “born anew.”
13 Now on that same day two of Jesus’ disciples were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19 He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” 25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
The Gospel According to Luke is generally regarded as having been written around 85 CE. Its author also wrote the Acts of the Apostles. Both books were written in elegant and deliberatively crafted Greek and presented Jesus of Nazareth as the universal savior of humanity. Both emphasized the Holy Spirit as the “driving force” for events.
The Gospel followed the same general chronology of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection as the Gospel of Mark, and more than 40% of Luke’s Gospel was based on Mark. The other portions of Luke include (a) sayings shared with the Gospel According to Matthew but not found in Mark and (b) stories that are unique to Luke such as the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Presentation in the Temple, the Prodigal Son, the Good Samaritan, and the Road to Emmaus story.
The story is set on the same day (v.13) as the finding of the empty tomb (v.3). Although the author says that Emmaus was seven miles (lit. 60 stadia) from Jerusalem, the location of Emmaus has never been determined, and it is not referred to elsewhere in the Bible. Similarly, Cleopas was not mentioned elsewhere. Although Cleopas and his companion are described as “two of them” (v.13) – presumably disciples – and they refer to the women who went to the tomb as being part “of our group” (v.22), they are unable to recognize Jesus as he walked with them for two hours (the time it takes to walk six miles).
In speaking to the “stranger,” Cleopas/Luke did not blame all Jews for Jesus’ death, only “our chief priests and leaders” (v.20). He did not mention the Romans.
The Jewish Annotated New Testament points out that the word “redeem” (v.21) is the Greek word lutroō which also means “ransom.”
In the First Century, Moses was considered the author of the Torah, so “Moses and all the prophets” (v.27) included all the books of the Hebrew Bible at that time. The idea that the Messiah should suffer (v.26) was not a common understanding in First Century Judaism, but Luke’s Gospel presented this as part of “God’s Plan” and as “necessary” (v.26).
The action of taking bread, blessing it, and breaking it was an echo of Jesus’ acts at the Last Supper (22:19) and “opens their eyes” so they recognized the Risen Christ who promptly vanished from their sight (v.31). The disciples’ eyes were opened only after they showed hospitality to the “stranger” by inviting him to join them (v.29).
The New Jerome Biblical Commentary observes that at the Last Supper, Jesus said he would not share food with his disciples until God’s Kingdom had come (22:16). By now sharing food with these disciples, the Resurrected Christ showed that God’s Kingdom had come.
When the two disciples returned to Jerusalem, the eleven and their companions asserted that the Lord had appeared to Simon (v.34). The two disciples recounted their experience, and the Risen Christ appeared to all of them (v.36). The appearance to Simon was not otherwise described in this Gospel, but the incident may have relied upon 1 Corinthians 15:5 in which Paul spoke of the Risen Christ first appearing to Cephas/Peter/Simon.