The word of the day is “gladly. ” We call miraculous something that is done by an extraordinary and mysterious power. But is the acceptance of such a phenomenon also a miracle? In our reading of Acts 2:38-43, we learn of the astounding reception of the initial preaching of the Gospel. In response to the first sermon preached after the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, three thousand souls were added to the number of believers. Luke, the writer of Acts record, “ “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized, and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.” (OSB vs. 43). Note that those who accepted Peter’s message had never heard such things before. Today we explore what moved the three thousand to the new faith in Christ.
Hearers Who Were Cut to the Heart
Luke makes two comments that would address our question. First, he says that the hearers of the Word were “cut to the heart” (OSB vs. 37). The word in Greek refers to being “pierced” or “pricked.” (Strong’s 2660, 132). The words that Peter directed at them were so heartrending that they were “stunned.” We see how deeply shocked they were in appeal, “What shall we do?” (OSB vs. 37).
Note that Peter ended his sermon with a troubling conclusion: He said that by raising Christ from the dead, “God has made this Jesus whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (OSB vs. 32). No wonder the people were totally dismayed. What had they done? How would this “Lord and Christ” deal with them? If He were alive, how would He judge them?
Hearers Who Received the Word Gladly
No wonder they received the Gospel proclamation of repentance and baptism so gladly. Imagine their relief to hear that this “Lord and Christ” would not only forgive them but grant them the gift of the Holy Spirit that had been poured out among the disciples. The forgiveness of God and the grace of the Holy Spirit offered a way of salvation from the sinfulness that had nailed the Lord to the Cross (OSB vs. 40).
Consequently, the Gospel writer says that some of the crowd “received his [Peter’s] word gladly” (OSB vs. 40). The Orthodox Study Bible uses the term “gladly.” But that word is not in the original Greek text. The word that the text uses is a compound that means “to take fully. ” From that combination of thoughts, the word gets the sense of “to accept fully without reserve.” Therefore, the addition of the word “gladly” to describe how the new believers accepted the message is appropriate. (Strong’s 588, 35).
The Spirit Working in the Heart
If Peter’s message “cut” these hearers “to the heart, they also “took it to heart.” Their spirits were first brought down low and then raised up high. They were troubled and then relieved. They were distressed and then comforted. They feared the judgment of God. But then the Word of forgiveness comforted them.
It is not difficult to believe that the Spirit of God was working as the people listened to the message of Christ Crucified and Risen. If that is true, then what was the difference between them and the rest of the crowd? It was openness to the Spirit’s moving in their hearts.
What about our response to the Gospel of Christ and His Resurrection? At this moment in history, are we as receptive? Are we as open to the working of the Spirit? Are we as eager? Are we as glad to receive it? This Paschal season is the time of the proclamation of the Gospel of Grace. Let us pray for the renewal of the Holy Spirit that we might our hearts to the Risen Lord and His teaching and receive it gladly.