Acts 2:14 - “Then Peter stood up with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd.”
This one verse marks perhaps the most defining moment of Peter's life. The setting is Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. Peter along with 120 others had been tarrying in an upper room in prayer for 10 days, waiting for the gift Jesus had promised the Father would send. That gift was the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4), a gift that Jesus said would empower his followers to be bold witnesses in all the earth (Acts 1:7).
Acts 2:14 takes place right after Peter, along with the other disciples and followers of Jesus, received the promised gift of the Holy Spirit. In this passage, Peter stood up and delivered a message which ultimately signaled the birth of the New Testament church and the apostolic age. Peter could not have known it then, but soon thousands would be saved, the sick would be healed, and the demon oppressed would be delivered. The gospel message would spread faster and further than he could have ever imagined.
On the day of Pentecost when Peter stood to address the crowd, there was a great cost to be counted. The Feast of Pentecost, or Shavuot, was one of the largest feasts in the Jewish religious year. Jews and Jewish converts came from all over, even from as far as Egypt and Rome, just to take part in the feastival (Acts 2:10). All the devout Jews and religious officials would have been in Jerusalem during this time. More specifically, there were those in attendance who had the Roman government put Jesus to death.
By this point in time, the religious officials were likely already on edge because of the rumors that the man they had put to death was raised back to life. They would not want the messianic fervor surrounding Jesus to extend beyond his death, and as the following chapters in Acts display, they were willing to forcibly silence those who put forth claims of Jesus’ resurrection.
When Peter stood up on the day of Pentecost after the Spirit had come, preaching to crowds of pious Jews, he knew there was a price to be paid for extending this messianic movement. Peter was not just standing up as the apostle who would lead the church, he was standing up as the friend of Jesus who was finally willing to suffer, and quite possibly, die for Him.
Courage of the Holy Spirit
Peter had always been willing and ready to lead, but had been reticent when it came to suffering and potentially dying for Christ. Though he was the first to confidently state at the last supper, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you” (Matthew 26:35), Peter soon after denied Jesus three times. Needless to say, based on his actions, Peter was not exactly the disciple one would pick to lead the charge into almost certain persecution. So the question is: what changed for Peter? What about this baptism of the Spirit transformed Peter so dramatically? Along with many other things, the Holy Spirit baptized Peter with a willingness to sacrifice and suffer that was not present before.
In John 16:7 Jesus says to His disciples, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you.” Jesus was telling His disciples of a time when the Holy Spirit would be with them in a unique way that they did not currently know. He actually saw the time of the Holy Spirit coming as being even better for the disciples than when Jesus was with them in the flesh! This is an astounding thought.
After being arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin, Acts 4:8 says that Peter was “filled with the Holy Spirit” as he addressed them. Here again, the emphasis is on the infilling of the Holy Spirit emboldening Peter to witness, even in the face of persecution. The Spirit so transformed the disciples that even the religious leaders took note of the change when Peter and the others spoke: “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished” (Acts 4:13).
Peter receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit looked exactly like what Jesus prophesied it would—a Spirit-empowered witness. The Helper came and made the man who ran from persecution the very man who led the disciples and followers into certain persecution, something even being with Jesus in the flesh did not produce within Peter.