"Hey, did you see what God did there?" I think that's a fitting title for chapter 2, for it's cool to me what God set in motion long ago for time like the 60-100 days of chapters 1 and 2. (Hey, this section is called Observations, and here are the things I learned about and considered.)
In chapter one, Jesus taught his disciples a more things before he ascended. He told them to wait in Jerusalem until they were sent a gift from Father God, the Holy Spirit. They would be baptized with the Holy Spirit; they would receive power; they would be Jesus' witnesses, talking about Jesus as they went near and went far.
At the start of chapter two of Acts, the time is Pentecost. I didn't know anything about Pentecost, so I did some simple online research. I leared that Pentecost is a greek name for the Jewish calendar event "Festival of Weeks"; it means "fifty days". "Fifty days from what?" Yeah, I knew about the Passover, a remembrance of Israel's slavery in Egypt where God saved them from death if they put the blood of a lamb on their doorframe in trust of Him; God's death angel would then skip their household, thus sparing their lives. I learned online that a few days after Passover is the Jewish day of Firstfruits, something about God's people bringing a new grain offering (Numbers 28:26). And then 50-52 days later, Jews would celebrate the harvest with the Festival of Weeks.
Yep, I knew of the symbolism of the original passover, that Jesus, the spotless lamb from God, was killed for our sins and that those who would trust in God's covering of Jesus are saved. Jesus death was on the Passover celebration day.
An author online noted that at the time of the Firstfruits celebration, Jesus and others were raising from the dead--the first grains harvested, so to speak.
That's the setup. We're now at the day of Pentecost, the day of the harvest celebration. "So, what's God going to do on THIS day?"
The passage says that "all the believers were meeting together in one place." In that place of meeting, "there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability."
Because it's a festival day, devout Jews are there. The Jews are noted as having come from many other nations (e.g. the province of Asia, Egypt, Libya, Cretans, and Arabs... folks of other languages who were nonetheless devout Jews). They heard the loud noise at the nearby meeting; they heard the speaking of many languages. They came running to where the believers were. "How can this be?" they exclaimed. "We hear them speaking in our own native languages" about "the wonderful things God has done." They stood there amazed and perplexed. "What can this mean?" they asked each other. Others conveyed their disbelief, calling the believers drunk.
I ponder how the apostles had been told the Spirit would "come upon them" and that they would be Jesus' witnesses. Would any of them have had a clue what that meant? I doubt it. Did they know when to expect this to happen? Nope. And here it has just happened. Whammo--it has to have been totally clear in this moment that the Spirit has come upon them. And they're speaking in many languages, languages recognized by folks who are there. Another think Peter could not have known is that some of the people would express their reaction.
Yet I believe that, in this moment, Peter completely understood what Jesus had predicted, that this was the moment Jesus spoke of regarding the Spirit and regarding them being witnesses of Jesus. It says that Peter began to speak, and I consider that he did so out of clarity that this was precisely what Jesus had alluded to.
Peter quoted the prophet Joel, a passage hinting at this point: yyou most definitely want to be on God's side when that great and glorious (and I'll add scary for many) day of the Lord comes. The end of the matter back then and the end of the matter now was that "everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved."
Peter tells them that "you and lawless Gentiles" nailed Jesus to a cross. Peter talks about King David talking about life after death and how David certainly wasn't talking about himself (still found in the tomb); no, David predicted Jesus' resurrection. "God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!" They heard the truth of who Jesus is. The truth pierced their hearts.
"What should we do?!" some said. Makes me think of someone who freezes up during a crisis; there's an earthquake and it helps for someone else to call out instructions for safety like "Get in that doorway!" Several of these Jews just got a jarring clarity about their lives in light of the truths Peter told them, yet they didn't know what to do next. Their hearts were ready for truth, and Peter had the truth to give them. Peter pointed out the clear path to safety: "Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." I appreciate the "each of you" detail, that it's not something one family member can do on behalf of another. Each of them was to repent--one-on-one with God. Their sins would be forgiven as they shifted from their doubts or disbelief of Jesus to choosing to believe that Jesus WAS God's provision for their safety, for their rescue.
Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day--about 3,000 in all.
"Hey, did you see what God did there?" On the day of "harvest celebration" that Jews had honored for years and years, God harvested thousands from darkness into light, from eternal separation from God to eternal life with God.
That's the biggy in chapter 2. The short remaining part of the passage packs a punch: these new believers had a new view about their possessions, sharing generously with those in need. I also like how they joined together at their old place of worship (Jewish temple) with a completely new reason in mind. And the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.
While generations were born and died and most had no clue there was a plan, God's plan continued. God had set in motion a way of safety, a way of salvation for those who would believe. And God did it with flair, as seen with Jesus dying on (and making sense of) the Passover, and God working a harvest through Jesus on this day of harvest celebration.
I can trust that God knows what is best and is working--whether I know it or not, whether I trust Him or not--His good will.
I need to trust a lot more.
I can watch with more hope and have more of an expectation of "Did I see what God did there?"
Father, thanks for this reminder of your work. You know I struggle to see your work, long to see your work. It is reminders like these and reminders like seeing your work in others' lives that help keep me going, help me more readily trust you. I need to trust you. I'm committed to trusting you more.
Posted on Thu, February 5, 2015
by John Darrow