In seeing one’s sinfulness, and choosing to be baptized in repentance of one’s sins, is to understand and know God’s love revealed to us in the life of Jesus.
Peter, in this early passage in Luke’s Acts of the Apostles, is addressing his fellow Jews in Jerusalem. He is proclaiming the word of God to them in a way that they had never understood it before. He uses the prophecy of Joel and the psalms of David to reveal to them what was always there, but which they did not yet see, that is, until Peter open their eyes to it here. What is it that they ‘see’? That Jesus Christ, the man that they is the One who is both the Lord and the Messiah that had been prophesied. The events of Jesus’ ministry, suffering, death and resurrection were still fresh in the minds and memories of his listeners.
Peter is very direct here. He does not, in the modern parlance, parse his words. He tells them, “This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God, you killed, using lawless men to crucify him. But God raised him up…” (verse 23) Many had their eyes opened to this truth and they were “cut to the heart” and asked Peter and the other Apostles what they were to do. And Peter’s response is our scripture passage for today: “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
For Peter, repentance and baptism were understood in a positive sense. It represented a change of both mind and heart toward God. In seeing one’s sinfulness, and choosing to be baptized in repentance of one’s sins, is to understand and know God’s love revealed to us in the life of Jesus. It is also to choose to reflect that change of mind and heart in one’s daily life. All of this is in accord with the teachings of Jesus himself. For Luke, this choice to repent and to be baptized is the natural response to the experience of personally coming to know Jesus and the depth of God’s love and mercy that was revealed in his life, death, and resurrection.
It is this soul deep realization and desire to repent, and to be baptized that opens our hearts and minds to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Father revealed himself to the People of God in signs and wonders. Jesus revealed the Father’s infinite, unconditional love for us in person, in the flesh. Even though we are sinners, he willingly suffered and died for us in order to free us from sin and death, forever. This knowledge is what moves us repent and to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. In doing this, God’s Holy Spirit enters the holy temple of our souls and continues to instruct us, to encourage us, and to strengthen us in our faith through his generous graces.
Enter us, Lord. Sweep our souls clean, for we are sinners in need of your great mercy. Light the dark places of our minds and our hearts with your saving grace. Give us the graces we need to begin walking in your ways this day and all those yet to come. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen!
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