Acts 2:22-39 and hands

So in beginning to research this passage, in beginning to see what others have written, my instinct that this passage has to be “just right” or it is offensive seems to be the case. In context, Peter, a Jew, is talking to those Jews in the crowd in Jerusalem that are not followers of Jesus. Peter is in his world. He’s addressing folk that are like him, that are his neighbors even. But they have not been followers of Jesus, either before or after the crucifixion or resurrection — perhaps they were ones that shouted crucify him. Perhaps Peter saw them in the courtyard where he lied about being a follower of Jesus, and when the cock crowed and he realized what he had done, he wept. For anyone else to say, “hey you killed Jesus” is deeply offensive, yes? But Peter completely understands their fear and disbelief and circumstances. In telling this story, I have to maintain Peter’s point of view. I have to hope the audience hears Peter’s voice and gets the context of the story and does not hear it as a blanket judgement of all Jews, everywhere, of all times, as apparently it has been taken over the centuries. Yikes!

The voice of this passage is Peter’s. Yet it seems to me the movement or change in the passage is that of the crowd, of “those of you who are Israelites”. In the beginning, when Peter says …”this man….whom you crucified and killed….” I can see him raise his hands like you do when someone might start to yell at you. As if the crowd had started to shout or murmur, “we didn’t kill him, it was Pilate’s men who killed him”. I can see them cross their arms. So Peter quickly adds, “by the hands of those outside the law.”

By the end of the section, when he finishes up: “…God made him Lord and Messiah/this Jesus/whom you crucified” Peter doesn’t soften the blow this time. And this time, I wonder if the crowd had dropped their crossed arms in order to hide the tears in their eyes? The next passage begins with the crowd “cut to the heart”.

So Peter’s words changed them, powerfully.

And seeing Peter’s “stop hands” in my mind’s eye, made me realize that “hands” are everywhere in this passage. Jesus was “handed over” to humans by God, Jesus was killed by the hands of those outside the law, Jesus is at the right hand of God. In fact, God raised him up…..because death could not hold him. Death’s hands are defeated. There’s a lot going on, but at least the last couple weeks “hands” have sprung out at me in this passage, a very tactile sense of being held, of being alive (and not experiencing corruption, which Peter doesn’t mean morally, but physically, “God will not let his Holy one experience decay”).

Comments welcome! What does “right hand of God” mean to you? Is there any modern context for this?


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