Coming Home. It’s a very special feeling, isn’t it? Jake and Bernie have just returned after 15 months working and holidaying in England and Europe. They had all sorts of adventures. Great stories to tell, facebook albums full of amazing photos. Met some incredible people. Saw some amazing sights.
But in the end, they couldn’t wait to get home. Home to beaches and cold beer and hot pies. Home to their own bed. Home to their families, and to church.
Because COMING HOME is where you’re MEANT TO BE.
BACK TO THE START…
I want you to notice there’s a spectacular HOMECOMING in Acts chapter 2. But we won’t really understand it without at least a little bit of background. Because you’ll see there in verse 5, the crowd of people who are gathering in Jerusalem have come from EVERY PLACE YOU CAN THINK OF. But they’ve got ONE THING IN COMMON. Verse 5, have a look. They’re all JEWS.
But it begs the question – How come the Jews are scattered all over the nations in the first place?
And the answer goes all the way back to Deuteronomy. Right back at the very BEGINNING of the nation of Israel. Because right then Moses gives a warning. That if they’re UNFAITHFUL TO GOD, they’ll be scattered around the nations like dust. From one end of the earth to the other. They’ll go from NATION/ to NOTHING/ in the blink of an eye. The consequences of turning away from God.
But even then, there’s a promise. And it comes in Deuteronomy 30, the first six verses. As Moses looks far into the future. A promise that IF THEY REPENT, if they TURN BACK WITH ALL THEIR HEARTS, that there’ll be a HOMECOMING.
2 and when you and your children RETURN to the LORD your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, 3 then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and GATHER YOU AGAIN from all the nations where he scattered you. 4 Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the LORD your God will GATHER YOU and BRING YOU BACK. 5 He will bring you to the land that belonged to your fathers, and you will take possession of it. … 6 The LORD your God will CIRCUMCISE YOUR HEARTS and the hearts of your descendants, so that you MAY love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.
A return TO GOD/ will result in a RETURN to THE LAND. He’ll forgive them. And bring them home.
Do you notice, not only a HOMECOMING – but CHANGED HEARTS as well. As GOD’S SPIRIT will circumcise the hearts of his people.
And the only thing they’ll have to do, the only thing they’ll have to do to be part of the homecoming, to have THEIR HEARTS CHANGED. Is TO REPENT. Turn back to God with all their heart and soul. That’s the promise.
Now to cut a long story short, the whole Old Testament is the story of how ISRAEL FAILS. And gets demolished. How the Israelites are scattered to the four winds.
And even those who HAVE come back, they’ve come to THE LAND of Israel without ever really coming home to GOD.
The Old Testament prophets looked forward to the time when all that would CHANGE. The time when THE MESSIAH COMES, to gather God’s people back together. To bring God’s people HOME. For REAL.
And so here we are in Acts chapter 2.
Last time, we looked at chapter 1. And how Jesus says the Holy Spirit’s going to come on the disciples; and they’ll have GOD’S STRENGTH. To go out from Israel/ to ALL THE WORLD. With the message that THE KING HAS FINALLY COME. And it’s time for God’s people to COME HOME.
Except here in chapter 2, the world’s already come to THEM.
First of all though, Jesus said they’d receive the SPIRIT. And they DO. In a spectacular way. We’re told in verse 2 there’s a sound like a howling wind; and the whole house shakes on its foundations; and what looks like tongues of fire through the air onto each of them.
Just like the pillar of fire rests over the tabernacle in the desert. The sign of God’s presence. And this fire is the sign of God’s presence too. Not on a TENT. But on lots of individuals. Lots of little dwellings of God’s presence. His HS filling all these people.
Which is what verse 4 says. They’re filled with the HEART CHANGING HOLY SPIRIT. And suddenly, these guys who have been told they’ve got to go and TELL THE WORLD are speaking in other languages. Without even learning them first.
Now I reckon that would be a great way to learn a language, wouldn’t it? Going through bible college we had to learn Biblical Greek and Hebrew; hours every week, tests every second day. Grinding away. Let me tell you, it was hard work.
But here are the apostles, and suddenly they’re speaking Turkish and Latin and Aramaic and Pamphilian and everything else.
Which is incredibly good timing, considering they’re in the middle of a crowd of Jews. Who are visiting Jerusalem from all the places you can see mentioned in verse 9 and 10 and 11.
And they come together when they hear the sound. And here’s the stunning thing. They can all UNDERSTAND what’s being said.
It’s sort of like what you get at the United Nations where everyone’s got their set of headphones on with an interpreter talking in their ear translating what’s being said from the front.
Except in this case, THEY DON’T NEED THE INTERPRETER. Because the HOLY SPIRIT has given the apostles the ability to SPEAK IN ALL THESE LANGUAGES so they can understand.
And they’re absolutely amazed. “Aren’t all these men who are speaking GALILEANS? Then HOW IS IT THAT EACH OF US HEARS THEM in his OWN NATIVE LANGUAGE?”
And what are they hearing? Down in the second part of verse 11. “We hear them declaring the WONDERS OF GOD in our own tongues.”
They’re ANNOUNCING THAT THE TIME HAS COME. The time Moses talked about. The time the prophets like Ezekiel and Isaiah and Joel had talked about; where God’s Spirit would come. And CHANGE HEARTS. And the gospel would go out to ALL THE NATIONS. And ALL KINDS of people would be brought into the KINGDOM. In this new thing called THE CHURCH.
And NOW is the time. It’s TIME TO COME HOME. The launch of a whole new era. That’s the WONDERS of God. The POWERFUL ACTS of God.
God’s vision for who his children are is SO MUCH greater than ours. We can’t see beyond this building, or western Sydney, or Australia. But God’s eyes can see his children in Portugal, and Hungary, and France, and Spain, and Vanuatu. And they’re just waiting for someone to tell them the good news about God pouring out his Holy Spirit. That God can make them NEW, and live WITH them! And then he can bring them home TOO.
Except the hearers don’t quite REALISE that at first. Some of them, maybe the locals who don’t speak any of these other languages, maybe people looking on from a distance and all they can hear is the rabble; and they say, huh, look at these blokes, they’ve had such A BIG NIGHT, it’s carried over into THE MORNING AFTER! They’ve had too much wine. V13.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN? Peter’s Sermon
Well, that’s the cue for Peter to start explaining. V15. He stands up with the other eleven, and he raises his voice above the noise, and he addresses the crowd.
They’re not drunk at all – it’s only nine o’clock in the morning. Which wouldn’t be much of an argument in Sydney. But apparently it was in Jerusalem.
And he says, what’s happening is WHAT WAS PROPHESIED BY JOEL. That God would pour out his Spirit, not only on THE PROPHETS – like he had in the Old Testament. But on EVERYONE.
Men, women. Boys and s. Masters and servants.
And that ANYONE who calls on God will be saved. Anyone who TURNS BACK to him will be forgiven.
And it’s all because of Jesus. That’s what Peter goes on to tell them. That this man Jesus of Nazareth, he was accredited to them by all sorts of miracles.
Who was handed over to them in God’s plan; and they PUT HIM TO by nailing him to the cross. Just a month and a half before. Put to . In a case of mistaken identity.
But that wasn’t the end. In Verse 24, Peter says, GOD RAISED HIM. In fact, he HAD to. Because it was IMPOSSIBLE for to HOLD him.
And there’s a powerful picture that’s used. But we don’t pick it up in English. It says God freed Jesus from the AGONY of . It’s literally “God freed him from THE LABOURS, OR BIRTH PANGS, of ”.
The picture is of trying to hold onto Jesus, but Jesus just bursting out. As surely as a women who gives birth. It mightn’t be quick. It mightn’t be easy. But it’s 100% certain. It’s going to happen.
It’s no good saying once labour’s started, “I don’t think I want to do this any more. Let’s just go home!”
That baby’s coming. And there’s nothing much you can do to stop it!
And Peter’s saying “It’s the same with Jesus. He’s MESSIAH. He’s LORD. There’s no way that can keep him. It’s impossible!
And then to prove it, he quotes Psalm 16, where King David foresees a Messiah whose body won’t go to the grave like everyone else; a Messiah who’ll SIT AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD and RULE FOR EVER.
And if you go down to verse 32, you’ll see that’s the bottom line. That’s the whole focus of Peter’s sermon. Remember what Jesus wanted the apostles to be? WITNESSES TO THE RESURRECTION.
And here as Peter PREACHES THE GOSPEL, that’s what he’s on about. The scriptures foretold it. And we’ve seen it. Verse 32. “God has raised this Jesus TO LIFE; and we are all WITNESSES to the fact.”
And that resurrection is God’s declaration – God’s WITNESS – that Jesus really IS LORD and CHRIST. Raised to the right hand of God; RULING OVER ALL THE NATIONS.
And BECAUSE he’s Messiah and Lord, God the Father’s given him the Holy Spirit to distribute to his followers. One of the perks of the job. That’s v33.
And that, says Peter, THAT’S WHAT YOU’RE SEEING TODAY. Jesus, pouring out the Holy Spirit.
Well, what do you do with information like that? What do you do when you’ve suffered a case of mistaken identity.
I heard of a who were invited to go to a dinner party. They were told that one of the guests at the party would be Brian Booth – the former Australian Cricket Captain.
The husband was pretty excited about having the chance to talk with Brian Booth. The wife, however, had no idea who Brian Booth was and her husband had forgotten to tell her.
During the course of the evening the conversation turned to cricket – as it inevitably would. When Brian Booth had made a few comments about the game the wife stepped in and said “Oh. So you played some cricket when you were younger, did you?”
The whole dinner party went quiet. She had just asked a former Australian Cricket Captain if he ever played cricket.
But failing to recognise JESUS is far worse. As these Jews listen to Peter, as they weigh it all up, it dawns on them. They’ve made a huge mistake. The Lord; the promised Messiah. he came. And instead of worshipping him, they killed him. And now God’s raised him.
And I guess there’s a bit of desperation in their voices when they say the words in verse 37. Read what they say. “When the people heard this, they were CUT TO THE HEART (convicted), and they said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, WHAT WILL BE DO?”
They recognised their mistake. That’s something many people today REFUSE to do. A of years ago we had Jews for Jesus speaking at church. And they must have had their schedule on the internet. Because a few weeks before, I got a letter from the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies. Warning me that Jews for Jesus was offensive to Jews, and that we should consider these things before inviting them.
Here’s some of what the letter said.
“Jews for Jesus maintain that it is Jewish to believe in Jesus, But the fact is one cannot be Jewish (waiting for the Messiah to come) and Christian (believing that Jesus was the Messiah) at the same time. They are two separate religions. It is dishonest to claim otherwise. Jews for Jesus are harming interfaith relations.”
According to the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies. They HAVEN’T made a mistake. So they’ve got nothing to correct. They’ve looked at Jesus, decided he’s not the messiah. And so they’re still waiting.
Which is like plenty of people OUT THERE. They don’t need to be JEWISH to do it. “Na. I’ve checked Jesus out. He’s IRRELEVANT.”
But that’s not Peter’s hearers. “What must we do? How do we fix up our mistake?” And look at how Peter replies. They’re important words. Because you might remember it goes all the way back to what Moses said. Coming home for the scattered people of Israel, it’s not just about coming to a PLACE. It’s a TURNING OF THE HEART. Heart and soul BACK to God.
And so Peter says this. “REPENT (TURN BACK) and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ; SO THAT YOUR SINS MAY BE FORGIVEN. And YOU (YOU TOO) will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit as well.
And so in verse 41, the ones who accept the message, they’re baptised – I don’t know whether they go into the river, or they’re just sprinkled with water or not – that’s not the point. The point is, they’ve seen they were wrong about Jesus. And they’ve totally changed their minds. They’ve turned around. They’ve repented.
And as a sign that they’re washed and forgiven by God, they’re washed on the outside as well. And about 3000 were added to their number on that single day.
Have YOU been baptised? If you’re a Christian, you SHOULD have. PETER tells you to. Jesus HIMSELF tells you to. If not, why not?
Perhaps you think “But it doesn’t MAKE me a Christian.” And that’s true. It’s only a SYMBOL of something that God does when he washes us clean. And gives us his Spirit.
But he still wants us to be BAPTISED. Because it’s GOOD FOR US. It’s good for our FAITH. Good for the faith of those watching. It helps to CONFIRM the REALITY of God’s promise. The reality of our forgiveness. And the reality of God’s Spirit with us.
“Repent AND be baptised”, Peter pleads.
COMING HOME TO WHAT?
There’s still a question though in all of this. And it’s an important one. The question is, COMING HOME TO WHAT? All these Jews. From all over the known world. They thought they were coming home to JERUSALEM. To the HOLY LAND.
But much more important than coming home to a PLACE. Is coming home TO GOD. That’s what REPENTANCE is.
And it’s something we ALL need. Have YOU come home to God? Maybe God’s done some SCATTERING in YOUR life. You’ve traveled MILES from him. It’s been YEARS since he felt close.
Today’s a GREAT DAY to come home. The promise of God is there. The promise of forgiven sins. AND the promise of his Holy Spirit.
And Peter concludes in v39. How BIG is God’s offer?
“This promise is for you and your children, AND for all who are far off. In FACT, for ALL whom the Lord our God will call”
And that’s YOU. He’s calling YOU home. Will you come?
But it’s more than coming home to GOD. It’s about coming home to a PEOPLE. And you can see it in the next few verses. That their repenting and turning back to God/ was the start of something REMARKABLE. Something they soon began to call THE CHURCH. Which means literally, THE GATHERING. The group of people that God has GATHERED together.
And so day by day, THEY GATHERED. From all the places God had called them home. And we’ll see next week what that LOOKED LIKE.
But it’s still the same today. God calls US home. Home to HIMSELF. And home to HIS PEOPLE.
And if you look around, you can see that we really HAVE been gathered from ALL OVER THE PLACE. From all sorts of backgrounds. And experiences. With all sorts of strengths and weaknesses. Goals and dreams. Just like those first Jewish converts.
But for all our differences. This group of people God has called us to/ is HOME. It’s where we BELONG. It’s where we should feel comfortable. Where we should be committed.
It’s much more important than just some place you come to on a Sunday. Somewhere to pass away a of hours.
Is that reflected in the way YOU think about church? In the way you TREAT church? Where it fits in your priorities? How much does it take to keep you AWAY from church? What do you say NO to/ because it clashes with church?
If this is HOME. Then we can be comfortable with each other. Just like FAMILY. Be REAL. Be HONEST. LOVE EACH OTHER DEEPLY. Home is SPECIAL. Family is SPECIAL.
Let’s REJOICE in it. Value it, appreciate it. Work hard at making it BETTER. God has gathered us. To himself, and to his people.
And until we make it to our REAL home, THIS IS HOME.