Theme: Peter’s Sermon at Pentecost
This week’s lessons teach us about the wide variety of ways in which the whole Old Testament points to Jesus.
Scripture: Luke 24:17-37
Today we look at some of the texts Jesus must have used in his sermon, which we discussed yesterday. An obvious place to begin is with Peter’s speech at Pentecost found in Acts 2. Peter used three texts in that message. The first was about Pentecost itself. It was from Joel—the prophecy that in the last days, God was going to pour out his Spirit upon all flesh (Joel 2:28-32; see Acts 2:17-21). Peter explained that Joel’s words were being fulfilled right then in the sight and hearing of the people. Then he went on to preach about Jesus. To do that he drew on two more texts from the Old Testament.
The first was from Psalm 16, a psalm written by King David: “I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you fill me with joy in your presence” (Acts 2:25-28; see Psalm 16:8-11).
This seems to have been a popular text not only for Peter but also for other early preachers of the gospel, because Paul, for example, also quotes it later on in Acts when preaching in the synagogue at Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:35).
Why was this text so important? The reason is that the psalm was by David, and David could not possibly have written the words “You will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay” of himself. David’s body did see corruption. In fact, Peter pointed that out, reminding his hearers that David’s tomb was right there in Jerusalem, and all they had to do was go and look into it. They would see that his remains were still with them and in a decayed form.
But if David did not write these words of himself, of whom did he write them? Obviously, he was writing as a prophet. He was looking forward to the One who should come, and he was saying of him, “You will not abandon his soul to the grave and you will not let him see corruption.” This was fulfilled by Jesus and by him only. So these are the points of Peter’s sermon: 1) David did not write about himself; 2) David wrote about the Messiah; 3) What he prophesied of the Messiah has been fulfilled by Jesus; and 4) We are God’s witnesses that this is so.
The second Old Testament text Peter cited as having been fulfilled by Jesus Christ was Psalm 110:1: “The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’” This is the verse of the Old Testament that is most often quoted in the New Testament, being cited either directly or indirectly at least 25 times. Why is this? One reason is that it goes back to an incident from the lifetime of Jesus himself. The leaders of the day were trying to trip Jesus up, asking him all kinds of difficult questions, and he was fending them off easily, as one would expect. However, when they got to the end of their questioning, he said that he was now going to ask them a question, and it was this: “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?”
They answered, “The son of David.”
Jesus then asked, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’?” Jesus proceeded to quote Psalm 110:1, and then he continued, “If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son” (Matt. 22:42-45)?
Everyone knew that the Messiah was to come from the line of David. God told David that one of his descendants would be the Messiah. But if the descendent was to be a mere son of David, how is it that David could call him “Lord”? A son would call his father, “Lord,” not the other way around. There is only one answer to that problem, and it is that the Messiah would be more than a mere man. He would have to be God. It is only thus that he could be at the same time both David’s son and David’s Lord.
Psalm 110:1 therefore speaks of the divinity of the Messiah. But it also speaks of a plurality within the Godhead, because in the same verse it is Jehovah who speaks to Adonai, the Messiah, saying, “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.” This is the way the author of Hebrews uses the same verse (see Heb. 1:13). In other words, the more we look at Psalm 110 the more we see in it, and the more we see why it was so significant for the early Christian preaching.
Peter had heard Jesus explain the verse in this way. So at Pentecost he remembered it and declared, “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).
Give the first source for Peter’s speech at Pentecost. How did Peter use this source?
Name the second text Peter used. Why is it important?
What was Peter teaching us about the Psalms?
How do you resolve the dilemma that the divine Messiah comes from the human line of David?
Which Old Testament verse is most quoted in the New Testament? Why?
Observation: Looking at Old Testament texts referred to in the New Testament will shed light on what is being studied in the New Testament. And also take note of repetition in the Bible; God has a purpose for it.