Cut to the Heart

On the day that the Holy Spirit comes on the followers of Jesus for the first time, it causes quite a stir. The whole community begins to speak in different languages, allowing them to communicate to the thousands of pilgrims from around the world that have ventured to Jerusalem for the festival of Pentecost. This miracle of speech catches people’s attention, and soon there is a crowd of thousands gathered, hearing the good news as told to each one in their own native language.

This freaks people out, and some begin to speculate that the disciples must be drunk on wine! In the midst of all this confusion, Peter stands up and began to address the people. He explains that the disciples are not drunk, but rather that this gift of language is a sign of a new era. It is an age inaugurated by Jesus, who has sent the Holy Spirit to everyone, regardless of gender, age, class, ethnicity, or any other human barrier. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved, immersed into this new life and power that is flowing in the streets of Jerusalem that morning.

The Holy Spirit is so palpably present, that three thousand people are immediately convinced of the truth of Peter’s testimony. The Bible records:

Now when they heard [the message that Peter preached], they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” (Acts 2:37)

The thousands present for Peter’s speech are cut to the heart, because they realize that they have executed the promised Messiah, God’s son. Even though most of them were not in Jerusalem when this occurred, they accept personal responsibility. We did this; we humans killed the one whom God sent to us in mercy. We have become killers of love, murderers of God himself. Where can we turn for help?

Peter answers this question, calling for an immediate response: Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the Holy Spirit. This is God’s promise for everyone, now and forever: If we turn from our selfish ways and offer ourselves to God, we will receive the Holy Spirit. Jesus will turn our lives upside down and fill us with his amazing life.

Have we heard this message – really heard it? Can we wrap our minds around the fact that we have nailed Jesus to a cross, and yet he returns to us in love and mercy? Are we ready to turn from our selfish, ignorant, murderous ways and embrace the same posture of humility that God has taken with us? Are we ready to be cut to the heart, feeling the wounds of our own violence, committing ourselves to become peacemakers? Are we ready to repent – to be filled with the Spirit that makes real change possible? It’s never too late to turn it all around.