Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37)
The Right Kind Of Heart
Peter’s sermon at Pentecost was about eight minutes in length. He had responded to the crowd gathering when a mighty rushing wind filled the house they were in, and the manifestation of the Holy Spirit was evident upon the twelve. The multitude was drawn to the startling events of the morning, wondering what was going on. As the twelve apostles stood before the crowd, they began speaking in the many dialects and languages of those gathered for Pentecost. People from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt, and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene were present. Some came from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs. The multitude was amazed and perplexed at what they saw and heard.
It was a scene of chaos as the multitude tried to understand what was happening. Standing up with his fellow apostles, Peter spoke first and explained what was happening. Some thought the twelve men were drunk, and Peter said that would not be the case at 9:00 o’clock in the morning. He did go on to explain what had just happened was what Joel said would take place when the Spirit of the Lord would be poured out with prophecy, visions, and dreams. Peter then changes direction to remind the crowd of an event that occurred a little over a month earlier. The killing of Jesus of Nazareth was still on the lips and minds of those gathered in Jerusalem. Peter explained the Jesus whom the Jews had killed was the long-promised Messiah confirmed by the prophecy of David. The conclusion of the fulfilled prophecy was the Jesus whom they had crucified fifty days earlier was Lord and Christ.
Peter’s sermon was a succinct, moving, powerful, and complete testimony of the scheme of redemption through Jesus Christ. The body of the message was less than ten minutes. There were no bands, no singing, no frills, no entertainment, no appeal, and no pressure on the crowd. With just over five hundred words, Peter preached the first gospel sermon. What is remarkable about the events at Pentecost was not that three thousand souls were added to the church that day. It was not remarkable the apostles spoke in languages and had fire upon their heads. What is important to see in the Pentecost events is the listeners’ heart. They were devout men from every nation. Peter spoke for about eight minutes, and their hearts were pricked with his message. Hearing the Jesus who was killed earlier was the Son of God cut the men to their core. They were moved by the message of the man Jesus of Nazareth.
One of the challenges of preaching is storming the will of the hearts gathered to hear the message of salvation. What made the events of Pentecost powerful were hearts that were open to receive the story of redemption in Jesus Christ. For those who obeyed the gospel that day, there were no long debates about the nature of the words Peter spoke. No one challenged the interpretation of Joel’s prophecy and the psalms by David. Many more than three thousand refused to accept Peter’s words, but the hearts of the honest people readily accepted, believed, and obeyed the gospel. People do not respond to the gospel often because of their hearts, not the preaching. A man can speak passionately about the death of Jesus Christ and watch a crowd of lost souls walk aimlessly away. The preaching was sound, powerful, and according to truth, but when the heart is unprepared, uncultivated, and unwilling to accept the word immediately, men walk away.
The world needs more hearts willing to be cut and pricked with the simple story of Jesus Christ. Satan has done well to harden the hearts of those who want to debate the question of salvation, the merits of baptism, the identity of the church, and a host of useless wranglings – all the while remaining lost in the kingdom of perdition. Many souls will be lost not because of some evil they have committed, like murder, adultery, homosexuality, or lying. Most souls will be lost because they did nothing. Their hearts were never moved to move to salvation. When the few gathered on Pentecost heard the story of Jesus Christ, they were cut to the heart and asked what they needed to do to be saved. May the hearts of more men be opened to the grace of God.