Fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection the Holy Spirit arrives. This time comes to be known as Pentecost.
Why this time? Why this place?
Because it is perfect.
It was the Jewish pilgrimage festival of Shavuot. A celebration of the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. A celebration of a revelation from God, and in addition, a harvest festival where the firstfruits would be brought as an offering. The harvest has begun. All Jewish men would travel to Jerusalem for Shavuot.
As part of the festival they would read from the Torah, especially the book of Ruth, a foreign widow dedicates herself to the Jews, finds a new husband in accordance with the law, a ‘kinsman redeemer’, and goes on to give birth to a son, who becomes the grandfather of King David.
It’s divinely perfect that King David is in the genealogy and ancestral lineage of Jesus, as prophesied, meaning Ruth and Jesus are in fact kin.
And that this firstfruit harvest festival and celebration of God’s revelation to Moses is about to become the next chapter in human history and will change the World forever.
For God’s own grain offering, he that must fall to the ground and die in order to be reborn as many, the firstfruit of that harvest and Lord of that harvest, and the Kin Redeemer of all mankind is about to make his power known.
‘When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.’
It was Shavout, remember. A major Pilgrimage festival.
‘Now there were staying in Jerusalem God fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed they asked, “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it each of us hears them in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, and Elemites, residents of Mesopotamia, Judea, and
Cappadocia, Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene, visitors from Rome, (both Jews and converts to Judaism) Cretans, and Arabs, we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
‘Some however made fun of them and said “they have had too much wine.”
Again, the serious questioners on one side, the deniers and scoffers on the other. A common theme. Pick a side.
Certainly, this wonder that is the first of many acts of the Holy Spirit through the followers of Jesus has got the attention of the people, and given the disciples the ability to speak and be understood in the native language of all the Jews attending the festival.
At this point, at this instant, more people have just received the Holy Spirit than in the last 1000 years or more. From being a once in a century phenomena, it has just become, literally, a household occurrence.
‘Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
“In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your young men will see visions, Your old men will dream dreams, Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, And they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heaven above And signs on the earth below, Blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood Before the coming of the glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
He’s telling them what just happened, and what is happening, and what will happen. He’s telling them what time it is. And now he’s going to bring them right up to speed, right up to the present moment. He’s going to show them the massive error of their misunderstanding and their vast malfeasance of action, and he’s going to give them an opportunity to be reconciled with God.
“Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.”
He then continues his explanation of where they all stand.
“Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne.”
“Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.”
“Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.”
“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
Peter just told these thousands of Jewish men that the Messiah they have waited for since the dawn of their race, the one foretold by all their prophets, the one written in their Holy Scrolls, the one anointed by God, the Lord and Christ… they killed him last month.
‘When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
What else could they say?
There’s only two paths open to them. Path one, reject what they have just been told, deny it, disbelieve it, and carry on with their hopes and prayers for the Messiah to come, all of which would now be worthless and void. Path two, accept the truth and the enormity of their sin, and ask the ones delivering this catastrophic revelation. “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Peter replied. “Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
The promise still stands today. For the far off. For all whom the Lord Jesus Christ calls. He calls.
What say you to his call?
‘And with many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptised, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
Now the fire is an explosion. And that was just day one. On a timeline graph it’s a vertical line straight up and off the page.
So in the perfect time and place, with visitors to Jerusalem having travelled from all regions, soon to travel back to those regions, the Church was born of the Holy Spirit and of Truth.
The Truth that Jesus Christ is the Messiah and the giving and receiving of the Holy Spirit to those who turn to him in an act of true repentance and public acknowledgement.
Spirit and Truth.
It feels a lot like today.
The promise still stands, even to us who are very far off. Brothers, what shall we do?
The answer has not changed.
Nor will it.
“Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
‘And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.’
And now, having received the Holy Spirit, Peter and the other disciples and followers start to live in a Godly way, and as well as various wonders and miraculous signs, perhaps the greatest miracle was the way their lives changed, living together, harmoniously, sharing wealth, pooling resources.
And as before, when Jesus did miracles, now so are the disciples doing them, although not by their own power or authority, but by the name of Jesus. Peter heals a crippled beggar, and again, it was explained to the astonished onlookers, that this was by Jesus, the one they had rejected and killed. See Acts 3.
They’re basically doing what Jesus did. And the effect was the same. Some believed, some denied, even what their own eyes were telling them. Even what the healed man himself was telling them. Belief is a choice leading to realisation of truth. Disbelief is also a choice. Leading to an entire life lived absent truth and pointless.
Belief leads to experience and total conviction and confirmation of truth.
Disbelief leads to absence of experience which confirms the disbelief.
The former is to walk in reality, light, awareness, wonder, and what is described as the fruits of the Spirit, joy, peace, comfort, love. And all this through a living relationship with Christ that lives within and around the believer, who soon becomes a knower, and walker in the Way.
The latter is to walk in darkness, ignorance, and death.
There is a third category, almost incomprehensible.
Those who believe, but who reject.
Peter and John encounter this third category in the form of the Sanhedrin, the religious order in charge of the Temple of Jerusalem. The ones who had conspired to kill Jesus, of course.
‘Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: it is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is
“‘The stone you builders rejected, Which has become the capstone.’
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
It’s notable that being filled with the Holy Spirit gives one a certain ability to speak truth to those who consider themselves power. It’s not confidence. It’s authority. Being on the right side of God.
The Sanhedrin do not deny that the cripple is healed, he is after all standing right there in front of them, and they all have walked past him countless times on the steps of the temple and seen his crippled state, now transformed.
And here are the men who healed him, explaining exactly how. It is by the name of Jesus, whom they have been testifying about to everyone in the city. It’s not that they don’t believe them.
“What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. ”Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it. But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name.”
They try to assert this authority and instruction over the disciples, who are having none of it.
“Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
As for the Sanhedrin, they knew it was a miracle. But they had no concern for the truth. They care only for how something is perceived in relation to their own position of petty power. They don’t really care about God, or the truth. They care about their own order, their own position, and their own respectable past, and their own respectable future. They care about continuity of the same, even if the same is a falsehood of the most disastrous for them magnitude. Those who believe and reject, when pushed to either surrender or defend, soon become an active enemy of the truth.
And thus it happens, repeatedly.
Extract from All People Must Know by Bird LoveGod