1 June 2024

Preaching for a verdict

Major Ian Mountford

Major Ian Mountford reminds us to present convincing evidence about Jesus.

Key text

If you have seen the ITV drama Mr Bates vs the Post Office, you will have caught a glimpse of Chelmsford’s Shire Hall. It is a grade II listed building that has three carvings high above the front windows depicting justice, wisdom and mercy. While the building was used in the drama about a real-life miscarriage of justice, it has not been used as an actual court since 2012. Whether formally as a court or more recently as a drama set, it is a place where passionate pleas have been made for truth before a judge and jury, and also those in the public gallery listening intently.

On the day of Pentecost – and in response to Jesus’ instruction in Acts 1:8 – we encounter Peter giving his witness statement, not in a courtroom but outside a house in Jerusalem. He addresses the attentive crowd with discernment and passion.

With context and relevance, he points to the evidence about Jesus and, prompted by the Holy Spirit, quotes three Old Testament passages: Joel 2:28–32, Psalm 16:8–11 and Psalm 110:1. His impassioned plea demonstrates understanding of culture and context.

Pause and reflect

  • How does Scripture connect with your own story?
  • How might it be helpful to use Scripture as a starting point in conversation with people?

Many who heard Peter speak were already aware of Jesus’ miracles, wonders and signs and the reality of his crucifixion. Peter declared that these facts underpinned the claim that the Resurrection was an attestable fact and the ultimate sign that what Jesus said about himself was true. Peter was effectively saying: ‘Look at the evidence.’

A photo shows people holding up colourful speech bubbles.

Acts 2:37

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?'

Read Acts 2

In his book The Reason for God, Timothy Keller writes: ‘If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all he said; if he didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead.’

Pause and reflect

  • How can you speak the centrality of the Resurrection into the events of today?
  • Where are you currently seeing God at work?

In the UK and Ireland Territory, our five mission priorities are: share the good news, serve others without discrimination, nurture disciples of Jesus, care for creation, and seek justice and reconciliation. They are not independent of each other but connected to the missio Dei – sent mission of God. They are the good news of God’s Resurrection power and presence, his work by his word and Spirit, and his gracious invitation to participate in it. Each of the five marks points to the lordship of Jesus Christ and the invitation to life in all its fullness with Jesus. They are the fingerprints of God at work, evidence of his Resurrection power and our testimony.

Our role is to proclaim the gospel, to participate in God’s mission and reach our contexts and cultures with the same passion, plea and cultural relevance of Peter.

Pause and reflect

  • Where do you see the fingerprints of God’s activity in your life?
  • Where in the life of your corps and community do these fingerprints point to the lordship of Christ?

With reference to Psalm 16:8–11, Peter goes on with confidence and hope to validate his account, attesting that Jesus was the one David had written about. God’s fingerprints are all over it.

Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase, The Message, renders verse 29 as: ‘Dear friends, let me be completely frank with you. Our ancestor David is dead and buried – his tomb is in plain sight today.’ However, Peter preaches that God is at work – God had promised, God has raised this Jesus to life and, furthermore, God has poured out the Holy Spirit through Christ. Then, Peter declares that they be assured of this: ‘God made this Jesus, whom you have crucified, both Lord and Messiah’ (v36).

Peter’s passionate statement demands a verdict. His testimony and his plea to examine the facts present a challenge to his hearers. They respond with a question: ‘What should we do?’ (v37). Peter’s response is that they should repent and be baptised so they will receive the Holy Spirit. So 3,000 people did! The rest is his-story – a story of good news that inspires the Church to mission today.

Pause and reflect

  • So, what should we do?
  • What do you take away from this challenge?

In his book Miracles, CS Lewis wrote: ‘To preach Christianity meant primarily to preach the Resurrection... The Resurrection is the central theme in every Christian sermon reported in the Acts. The Resurrection, and its consequences, was the “gospel” or good news which the Christians brought.’

The resurrection of Jesus is the centrepiece of Christianity. It is the hinge on which the door of our faith hangs. It is a reminder that central to all our mission is the declaration of his mission – Jesus Christ is Lord, risen, ascended, seated at the right hand of the Father and at work in the world today through his word and the Holy Spirit.

We are given the responsibility not only to preach the good news of Jesus, but also to live in such a way that, after deliberation, the jury arrives at the right verdict.

Bible study by

Major Ian Mountford

Major Ian Mountford

Territorial Mission Enabler, THQ

Discover more

Ivan Radford celebrates the harmony of passion and purpose in Channel 4’s The Piano.

Major Kerry Coke encourages you to bloom into the person God wants you to be.

Jo Taylor (Children and Youth Department) talks Terrain with Lyn Woods.

Reflections, prayers and Bible studies to help you go deeper with God.