Preaching to the Jew First
The first Christian sermon preached in public came from a Jewish fisherman to a very large crowd numbering many thousands in the city of Jerusalem. The crowd had gathered and grew because of the signs, wonders, and miracles that accompanied a group of Galileans, who were soon recognized as those who had followed Jesus the Nazarene.
The apostle Peter, leader of the group of twelve, along with many others were telling the mighty deeds of God to the Jews who were native to Jerusalem and to those visiting on a festival pilgrimage. When the Galileans were accused of being drunk at 9am, Peter stood with the eleven others and presented a defense that turned to proclamation. The Spirit was in them to preach good news to the Jews first.
The message from the first Jewish Christian preacher to his multiethnic Jewish audience is very important for us to consider, especially because of its prominent position in New Testament history. Acts 2:14–36 is the prototype sermon for the Jewish people to hear and understand the Gospel of Jesus. Preaching Christ crucified is a stumbling block to the Jew (1 Cor 1:23), yet Peter’s sermon unashamedly makes the controversial point to the Jews that Jesus is both Lord and Messiah.
Convincing Jews in the first century was as daunting a task as convincing them today. Peter used the Hebrew Scriptures to make his case. He called on the prophet Joel, the prophet David (the king), and other prophetic words from the Psalms for support to prove Jesus was God’s Messiah for Israel.
Peter addressed the anticipated objections to this claim by interpreting the fulfillment of prophecy in the person and work of Jesus. His three main points were the death/burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus — all of which are noted in the Psalms.
God has executed salvation for those who believe, both Jew and Gentile, and this is evidenced by the Holy Spirit poured out on believers — an event clearly seen in Israel’s prophets (Acts 2:38; 10:45). Therefore, for these Jews, the message and miracles personally experienced on the day of Pentecost are directly attributed to Jesus. God has vindicated and validated Jesus, as the one who sits at His right hand (Psalm 110).
Avoiding the Old Testament, as some preachers do today, is unthinkable in bearing witness to our Jewish friends. Jesus is the only person in history who clearly fulfills what the prophets told Israel to look for when Messiah comes and when He comes again.
God’s predetermined plan for Jesus to bring salvation to sinners and glory to Himself was executed in the way the prophets foretold (Acts 2:23; Eph 3:11). God’s after-ministry assessment is positive toward Jesus with the resurrection and ascension as proof (Acts 17:31). Jesus is Lord, and whosoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved (Joel 2:32; Rom 10:13; Phil 2:11).
How will the Jewish people call on Jesus of whom they have not heard (apart from cursings)? How will the Jewish people hear about Jesus without a preacher (who must explain these things)? When God sends you for this purpose, follow Peter’s example in preaching the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Messiah from the perspective of the Hebrew prophets. They said it would happen this way…and it did.
Spokane Valley, Washington
May 23, 2021