The air was too thick to breathe and too thin to drink. Looking at the grass, which was now less than an inch from his head, his quivering arms finally gave out. Only 12 pushups, not 20. The recruit muttered to himself, “How am I ever going to do more pushups?”

            Like a ghost from a Harry Potter story, the drill sergeant materialized inches from the recruit’s ear. Using a calm-furious-quiet-scary drawl, the sergeant answered, “By doing more pushups.” 

            Groaning, gulping, and trying to jump to attention while also trying to do more pushups, the recruit croaked out, “Yes, Drill Sergeant!” Carefully using an inside-his-head voice, the recruit thought, “But I was hoping there was a different way!”

            Why would we even bother to ask a question if we are not willing to consider the answer? Perhaps we don’t like the answer, or we were hoping for alternatives. When it comes to asking questions of God, where do we turn for better answers if we don’t like the ones we find in the Bible?

            In Acts 2:37, the Jews listening to Peter’s Pentecost sermon asked the question, “What shall we do?” In the next verse, Peter tells them to repent and be baptized. In verse 40, Peter kept urging the Jews to save themselves. In verse 41, we see those who “received his word were baptized…” The Jews asked the question. Peter gave them the answer. The Jews heard the answer and obeyed it.

            On that great day, more than 3,000 people decided to be baptized. I once wondered how that was possible, and then I saw the Southern Steps of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The area is littered with hundreds of small pools that were regularly used in ritual purification. Then I wondered what it would have looked like. The religious zeal must have been overwhelming. Maybe it started at one ritual pool, and then those who came up out of the water met some other converts at a neighboring pool. Before long, were all the pools being used?

            The miracle of Acts 2:41 is not the number: 3,000. The miracle is that the offer of salvation was made, and people listened and did what God, through Peter, told them. That miracle can still happen today. Even though Jesus suffered torture and humiliation, it is through that suffering that God extends grace to humanity. In the first century, people were told to repent and be baptized. The first-century converts did it. The twenty-first-century people read Acts 2 today. What will we do with the same message from so long ago? Will we disregard the answer to the question, or shall we join ourselves to the message of the text? Sit down with me over an open Bible. Let’s study the Word of God together!

Photo by Diego González on Unsplash

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