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What Now?

April 17, 2023

The southern steps leading to the Temple Mount were the main entrance to the Jerusalem Temple in Jesus’ day; it is where Peter preached his Acts 2 sermon. (DCR 2022).

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ 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.’” (Acts 2: 37-38).

In January 2020, on our first trip to Israel, we sat on the stone steps on the south side of the Temple Mount that were excavated in 1967. These were the steps to the public entrance to the Temple in Jesus’ day. Large numbers of pilgrims climbed those steps during the three main Jewish religious festivals–Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles.  These were the steps that Jesus and his parents walked up to approach the Temple at Passover—the steps that Jesus sat on when he left his parents to talk to the rabbis at age 12.  It was also on these steps that Peter delivered his Acts 2 speech and baptized 3,000 people (Acts 2:41)[1] in the many mikvahs around the steps.[2]  

When we sat on the steps in January 2020 listening to Bill Creasy read the Acts 2 narrative, we had no idea that two months later we would be asking the same question that the people asked Peter on that Pentecost[3] in 32 A.D: “What now?  Where do we go from here?” 

The people asked Peter the question because Peter had just told them that the recently crucified and risen Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah.  When they heard that, they were heartbroken and wanted to make it right: “’Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.’ When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Act 2: 36-37). They were uncertain about what they should do with that information. They were heartbroken and uncertain about the future. 

Peter told them that they needed to do two things: turn away from their old lives, and move forward and be identified as one of Christ’s own with a commitment to follow him: “Peter said to them, ‘Each one of you must turn away from your sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, so that your sins will be forgiven; and you will receive God’s gift, the Holy Spirit. For God’s promise was made to you and your children, and to all who are far away—all whom the Lord our God calls to himself’” (Acts 2: 38-39, The Good News Bible).  The Greek word, metanoia, often translated as “repentance,” literally means “change of mind”.  As the Good News Bible translation implies, it means making a decision to turn around, to face a new direction. Peter was telling the people that it is not enough just to be sorry for your sins—but that they must live as forgiven people.  Baptism is an outward sign that you identify with Christ and is a sign of faith.  

Two months after sitting on the steps that Jesus walked on and that Peter preached on, many of us asked ourselves “What now? Where do we go from here?”  We were also heartbroken and uncertain about the future in the wake of the death and destruction wrought by COVID-19.  But the answer was the same in 2020 as it was in the first century because “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).  God never changes, he is still God. He is still in charge.  He is still with us.  

 Use times of uncertainty to remember that Jesus is Lord.  Turn away from your sin, be forgiven, baptized, receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and live a new life in Christ Jesus. Use this time to meditate on how God wants you to live your life going forward. Use this time to renew your baptismal commitment to Christ, to the faith.  In the words of the psalmist: use this time to “fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people” (Psalm 116:14). 

The bad news is that we still live in uncertain times, and that we learn about political uprisings and unrest, wars, shootings, natural disasters and other tragedies almost instantaneously through modern communication forums–never mind having to deal with our own private suffering and challenges.

The good news is that every day we have an opportunity to open our eyes anew to God and to recommit to Christ Jesus.  You may have been traveling along life’s road for a while not acknowledging or recognizing the presence of God in your life, much like Cleopas and his companion as they walked from Jerusalem to Emmaus.  As they walked along the road in the days following the Resurrection, Jesus joined them, but they didn’t recognize him: “Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him” (Luke 24:31).  

Do you see Jesus in your life?  Do you understand that Jesus sent his Spirit to be with you, to help you, to comfort you, and to guide you during your walk through life?  If not, open your eyes and see Jesus.

Prayer:  Jesus, we are sorry for our sins and want to turn our lives around—to live for you. Thank you for sending the gift of your Spirit to be with us today and every day.  Holy Spirit, help us fulfill our baptismal vows and to live our lives in obedience to God.  Open our eyes to the opportunities you place before us to be your hands and feet in the world.   Amen

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] The Scripture texts for the Third Sunday of Easter are Acts 2:14; Acts 2:36-41; Psalm 116:1-14; Luke 24:13-35.

[2] Many mikvahs were located around the public entrance to the Temple because the pilgrims were required to cleanse themselves, to be ritually purified, before entering the Temple grounds.  

[3] In the Jewish tradition, Pentecost, which means 50 in Greek, occurred 50 days after Passover, and was known as the Feast of Weeks, one of the three annual pilgrim festivals in Jerusalem. The birth of the church under grace occurred on Pentecost 32 A.D. as described in Acts 2. The birth of the church under the law occurred on the first Pentecost in 1446 B. C., when Moses was given the law on Mt. Sinai as described in Exodus 32.  The baptism of the 3,000 people by Peter in Acts 2 is also a parallel to the 3,000 killed in Exodus 32. 

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