An Urgent Message from the Holy Spirit:
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
If I started my sermon by shooting off some fireworks I would definitely have your attention. You would be wondering what is going on, and waiting to see what I would do next. The Holy Spirit had a better way to wake the people up when Peter and the other disciples preached in the temple on Pentecost.
Think how it would be if you had been in the crowd at the Temple on Pentecost. It was one of the three great Jewish festivals, a celebration of the wheat harvest. Jews had come from all over to celebrate. Just for a moment, imagine yourself as one of those Jews who had grown up in a foreign country, maybe Egypt. Now you are living back in Jerusalem, and you have come to the Temple to worship. You’ve learned Aramaic just like the other Jews, and you’re pretty comfortable conversing with them. But Egyptian is still your native tongue. That’s what you speak when you talk to your children. Suddenly, in the temple, you hear someone speaking Egyptian. You walk over there, and you recognize the speaker as one of the disciples who had been with Jesus. He is a Galilean. He shouldn’t know Egyptian. He has never studied. Something very strange is going on here. Now he definitely has your attention! You listen, and you hear him preaching about Jesus.
There were some there who said it was nothing important. They heard and ridiculed the disciples. They said, “These men have had too much wine.” That’s the reaction that sinful people often have to the Word of God. This isn’t worth their time. It isn’t worth listening too. It isn’t worth the effort of understanding how it applies to your life today. It won’t help anyway.
Peter said no, this isn’t just a bunch of nonsense. “These men are not drunk, as you suppose,” he said—and you have to catch the irony here—“it’s only 9 in the morning”—in other words, too early to be drunk. No, what was happening there was from the Holy Spirit, because God had an important message he wanted them to pay attention to. In fact, it was something God had been telling them for a long time. God gave this message to the prophet Joel hundreds of years earlier, and now he was doing it.
Peter quoted the prophet Joel, “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.”
This is what they were seeing that day in the temple on Pentecost. There were lots of prophets. It wasn’t like God used to do, when he gave a dream or a vision to one person or another—maybe Isaiah, or Elijah, or Moses— and that person went to the people and said, “I have a message from God.” Peter was saying that we are in the last days now, and we are seeing what the prophet Joel was talking about: lots of prophets. Look what has been happening ever since then too! People have gone out throughout the world bringing this message from God. We see lots of prophets, in a sense—look at all the pastors; look at all the ordinary people who have a message from God for their friends and family! And here is the Word of God brought to you in your own language; not miraculously as at Pentecost, but nonetheless! It hasn’t always been this way. In the Old Testament, if you wanted to know what God had to say, you needed to learn Hebrew. Not so today! Here it is for you in English!
What’s so important that God has sent out all the prophets and he has given his Word to us in our language? We are in the last days, and there are signs of the judgment that is coming! Peter continued with the prophecy from Joel, “[God says] I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.” It sounds to me like a city is burning. The people of Jerusalem would soon see their city destroyed by the Roman army, and they may have thought of these words. They needed to be saved, but not just from the burning city of Jerusalem. That was only a sign of what was coming. Peter explained that they were in big trouble, because they had crucified their Savior. They needed to be rescued from the Judgment that is coming. He told them repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins. 3000 of them paid attention and were baptized, they called on the name of the LORD, and they were saved.
We may hear those words from the prophet Joel and think of different things—blood, fire, and billows of smoke. That may remind you of World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, or any number of other battles. It may remind you of something horrible that you’ve seen in the news—9/11 for instance. Some hear the words about the sun turning to darkness and the moon into blood and they think that there will be a war on the moon. Personally I don’t really think that’s what God meant, but I do know that if there is ever a war on the moon I will be looking at this prophecy and thinking this is a sign that the Judgment is coming!
Now some will dismiss what the Scripture says, thinking its only for religious fanatics, religious drunks! —and that these words aren’t worth the effort. No! As Peter said, “These men are not drunk.” The words are meant for you, so pay attention.
The prophets have gone out into all the world. The Word of God has been brought to you in your own language. The signs, the blood, fire, and billows of smoke are in your life. You know that you need to be rescued from the horrible things that happen in life, but you need to pay attention to what God is really saying to you. All those horrible things are only signs of the Judgment that is coming.
Pay attention, and ask yourself how these words are meant for you. How is your house burning down? Where are the blood, fire, and billows of smoke in your life? What do you need to be rescued from? Then remember that those things are just signs of the destruction that is coming—we need to be rescued from the Judgment.
Today, we see all the prophets. Today we see the signs of the Judgment. And today, the good news that God really wants us to hear is in the last part of the prophecy that Peter quoted, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” We, who see the signs of the Judgment that is coming, we can call on the Lord to save us. That just means that we hear that God has promised to rescue and we say “Yes! Have mercy, LORD! Rescue me!” Then, since he has told us that he wants to use Baptism, the preaching of the Word, and Holy Communion to save us, we run to those things. We, who call on the name of the Lord, will be saved.
There is a picture in my mind of God coming to you like a fireman searching through a burning house. He finds you sleeping on your bed. He says, “Wake up! Your house is burning down. You need to get out! Come with me! Now is not the time to roll over and go back to sleep. This would be a bad time to think, “This fireman is crazy. He must be drunk.” If you say, “Hm, my house is on fire, that’s an interesting theory. I think I’ll ponder that for a while”—you are going to die. Take the time and effort to listen to what the Word is saying. I am telling you that your world, your life is burning down. You need to ask yourself how that’s true. See the signs and know that you need to be rescued. Your house is burning down, and you need to get out. Take God’s invitation—call on him to save you. Not just once, but every day. I’m talking about a lifestyle of following him out of the burning house. Come to hear what he says in his Word. Call on his name, and you will be saved. Amen.