In the Acts of the Apostles
The oldest account is found in Peter’s speeches in the Acts of the Apostles. In the second chapter, Peter explains Pentecost, a phenomenon internal to the community of Apostles which manifested itself to the people through the sound of a great rushing wind, and by their ability to speak in different languages. Peter explains that the Apostles were not drunk, but that the Holy Spirit had descended on them, as had been foreseen by the prophet Joel. The great day of God has come through Jesus of Nazareth whom you crucified, but God raised him from the dead, as David prophesied in Psalm 16. The Psalm in fact doesn’t speak of David, since he died and was buried, and his tomb is still with us today. But David foresaw the resurrection of Christ, who was raised and seated at the right hand of God, and received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit which he poured on us, as you see and hear. The conclusion to Peter’s speech is clear: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36). Let us review the essential points of this speech and of the others that followed.
- The central message is the resurrection of Jesus, of the Crucified One, whom the people knew well. The Apostles are witnesses to this before the people of Israel. The descent of the Holy Spirit is the consequence of the Resurrection.
- God God has fulfilled out the ancient promise by raising Jesus who is Lord and Christ, the Messiah. The future has already begun.
- The message is strictly God-centered: it is God who has awakened, or raised, Jesus from the dead. The Christology is ancient: Jesus is a servant of God, the faithful servant described by the prophet Isaiah. But the faith is now certain: Jesus is said to be the Messiah, Lord; in other words, God.
- The message consists in the fact that God raised Jesus. And, in this manner, God has carried out his plan for salvation, as he had promised. This is how the reflections of the Apostles are to be viewed in the light of the Scriptures.
- Peter’s speech to Cornelius, in Acts chapter 10, provides details found in the earliest tradition: Jesus was raised on the third day; for several days he revealed himself to selected witnesses; he commanded them to preach to the people so that they might repent and believe.