The Story here is so wonderful, and we have so much of Peter’s sermon on that first Pentecost, that we like to jump right from “Repent and be baptized!” to “about three thousand were added!”
But there are those words, right there in the middle, verse 40:
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
40With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. ~ Acts 2:38-41
The sermon wasn’t over with “for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
He warned them and pleaded with them with many other words. It could have been an all-day revival that just started at nine in the morning.
I’ve only got one point to make, and I’m gonna make it as quickly as I can.
There were a lot more than 3,000 people in Jerusalem. Probably most of them had been there since Passover, to enjoy the feast with friends and families. They knew what had happened on that hill outside of the city wall. They knew who Jesus was and what He’d taught and what He’d done; how He died and quite likely the rumors that He was alive again. It was bound to be the talk of the town. Some of them may have welcomed Him into town and threw down their coats in His path. Some of them may have turned on Him and shrieked “Crucify Him!” when He hadn’t turned out to be the kind of deliverer they craved.
But they were there, and they heard the Spirit-wind and the many languages. They saw the tongues like flame. And they knew what Peter was talking about when he went back through their history and literature and prophecy and pointed out all kinds of things that could not have meant anything — in retrsospect — but that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah they had longed for and their forefathers for generations ahead of them.
Is there a preacher who can’t and wouldn’t like to imagine taking Peter’s place; having an extraordinary revival with 3,000 converts after one powerful, soul-bursting six-minute sermon like his in Acts 2?
But, let’s face it; it ain’t-a-gonna-happen very often these days. Most people don’t know Jesus except as an epithet when something goes wrong. They don’t have a clue about Hebrew history. They barely have a concept of sin beyond something bad that they don’t like. They didn’t pillory the Son of God to a cross with their vocal vote, or see Him there as He died hour by hour, or make the connection between prophecy and reality right before their eyes. And not all of the likely tens of thousands of visitors to/residents of Jerusalem — even the ones who were present to hear the Spirit’s message on Pentecost — said yes to the water and the blood.
Plus it takes time to make disciples. You can stir people and persuade them, perhaps even baptize them in a matter of minutes. But have you made them disciples? Do they know Whom they have believed? Jesus chose twelve men, and with very few short breaks, spent most of three years with them as nearly as we can tell. One of them still turned on Him and the other eleven deserted Him at the moment of truth. Still, they came back from it on Pentecost with a hundred or more friends (Peter didn’t preach alone, you know) to do what God had in mind for them to do — together. That’s discipleship. They communed, shared, prayed and stayed together. When some were arrested, they didn’t scatter like threatened rats; they gathered to pray. That’s discipleship.
I don’t preach. Well, not often. Sometimes I get the urge, but it usually passes after I lie down a while.
But on those rare occasions when I do, I can usually get past the unrealistic ambitions and expectations with a few fairly rational thoughts like these:
The miracle doesn’t always happen.
The audience isn’t always primed.
Preaching is only part of the process.
Discipling takes time.
Not everybody accepts the message.