Less than two months after Jesus had died on the cross and resurrected from the dead, the Spirit that Jesus had promised to his disciples comes in a really dramatic fashion. The Bible says that all of a sudden, there was a sound of a fierce, rushing wind. (Scholars say the word used means something akin to a tornado.) Then, all the disciples start speaking fluently in languages they’d never even heard.

This all happens in a public place, and a lot of people in the crowd recognized their language, so naturally, they wonder what is going on.

So the Apostle Peter stands up in front of this crowd—many of whom had cried for Jesus’ crucifixion not that long ago—and tells them they had been wrong about Jesus. You killed him, he said, thinking you were getting rid of a blasphemer and public nuisance, but God overturned your verdict by raising him from the dead. And this resurrected Jesus is the one behind all these strange phenomena.

A couple of times (Acts 2:23, 36) Peter points at this crowd and says outright, “You killed him.” These verses have tragically, at times, been used anti-Semitically, claiming the Jews killed Christ and that they should be held responsible for it. But that is a very poor understanding of Peter’s meaning here.

First, when Peter says, “You killed him,” he was speaking to the whole human race, not just that crowd. Furthermore, not everyone there had been directly involved in Christ’s crucifixion. Peter is really looking at us and saying, “You all killed him.” In Acts 2:39 Peter says, “This is about you, your children, and those who are far off—people in countries all around the world that haven’t even been born yet.”

Second, when Peter says, “You killed him,” he was including himself in that number. You see, on the night that Jesus was crucified, Peter had denied him three times.

On the third denial, Luke says that while Peter was still speaking, a rooster crowed. Then, Jesus turned and looked straight at Peter. Jesus’ face, by that point, would have been purple, bruised, and dripping with blood and spit, and in that moment, Peter realized that Jesus was being beaten for his betrayal.

Peter was cut to the heart and went out and wept bitterly.

You are cut to the heart when you realize that it was your sin that put Jesus on the cross—when you see Jesus looking at you. It was your refusal to submit to God’s authority, your rebellious attitude to your parents, and your insistence on always doing things your way for which Jesus died.

It was for all the times you put pursuing money and the praise of people over pleasing him.

It was for all those times you bent the truth to protect yourself.

It was for your refusal to confess him before your friends out of fear over what they might say.

It was for your ungratefulness and your pride in thinking that your way was better than God’s.

It was for your selfishness.

It was for your love of gossip and your insensitivity to other people’s needs.

When you are cut to the heart like Peter, you suddenly come to see that the first person you were sinning against in all this was Jesus.

Before you have been cut, you say things to yourself like, “I know I’m not perfect, but I’m a pretty good person. I’m better than most people.” After you’ve been cut, you see your sin as a betrayal of Jesus himself.

When you’ve been cut, you see you were the prodigal son who said, “I don’t want you, God! I hate the rules of your house. There’s more pleasure for me out in the far country.” Sin becomes less about you breaking God’s rules and more about you betraying God’s heart.

And when I say you, I mean me.

Here’s how I was cut.

I grew up with parents insisting I obey the rules, and I kept most of them—on the outside. But inside, I thought I knew better than God.

God had been so good to me, yet I resented and rejected him in my heart, thinking I knew better. I commandeered the gifts he had given me for his glory and used them for myself. And then, in an instant, I saw that my rebellion put Christ on the cross. I felt Jesus in the eyes of my soul, staring at me. This wasn’t about me and my parents or the church. This was about God and me.

I felt the full impact of that hymn we had sung hundreds of times in church: “Years I spent in vanity and pride, caring not my Lord was crucified, knowing not it was for me he died at Calvary.”

But then, on that glorious day, “My conscience felt and owned the guilt and plunged me in despair; I saw my sins his blood had spilt and helped to nail him there” (from another old hymn by John Newton).

I was cut.

Has that ever happened to you? Salvation occurs when you are personally convicted of your sins and you run to him on your own. Conviction and forgiveness and salvation are things between you and God only.

Have you been cut to the heart?

Acts 2:37–39 says,

“When they heard this, they were pierced to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: ‘Brothers, what should we do?’ Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call’” (CSB).

The response of 3,000 to the conviction of their sins was to immediately be baptized—not for their salvation but in response to it.

Our response should be the same: a willingness to go wherever he tells us to go and do whatever he tells us to do.