Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The 'Day of Pentecost' (Acts 2).

The Backstory: Remember how God called Abraham and promised him a homeland and multiple descendants to bless the world. Abraham’s descendants multiplied but were enslaved in Egypt. God called Moses who led Israel out of Egypt to Mount Sinai were God formed them into the nation of Israel that was to be ‘kingdom of priests’. They began to take possession of their land under Joshua but they would need a king to be a ‘light to the nations’. God found in David a king after His own heart and promised David a ‘perpetual kingship’ over God’s people. It was David’s son, Solomon, who built the Jerusalem Temple as a dwelling place for God among His people. But Solomon’s many foreign wives introduced an idolatry that split the nation. The ‘Northern kingdom’ would be scattered by the Assyrians and the ‘Southern Kingdom’ was later carried into ‘Exile in Babylon for 70 years’. When the Persians conquered the Babylonians they allowed the Jews to return to their land but Israel remained dominated by various Pagan empires. God’s people were waiting for a ‘conquering king’ to restore the kingdom and God sent Jesus, who was announced by John the Baptist and ‘anointed by the Spirit’ at his baptism. Then Jesus, after overcoming the Devil’s temptations in the wilderness, went around proclaiming the ‘Kingdom of God’. Jesus formed a ‘new people (12)’ around himself and once his disciples recognized his Messianic identity he made his way to Jerusalem where he was enthroned as ‘KING of the JEWS’ on a cross. He looked like a failure, but three days later Jesus was ‘declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead’ (Romans 1:4). Then after showing himself to be alive to his disciples with many convincing proofs he ascended into heaven after telling his disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the gift of the Father, the promised Holy Spirit. This brings us to the ‘Story of Pentecost’ from Acts 2. Watch the story being told and read the comments below.
Pentecost (Acts 2):
On the ‘Day of Pentecost’ all the believers were gathered together when the sound of a violent wind filled their house. Something like tongues of fire came down and rested on them. They were ‘all’ filled with the Holy Spirit and they spoke in other languages as the Spirit enabled them. God-fearing Jews from throughout the empire were in Jerusalem for Pentecost crowded around the house. The crowd was amazed because they heard these Galilean disciples ‘praising God’ but each in their own languages. Some in the crowd wanted to know what this meant but others accused the disciples of having had too much wine (Acts 2:1-13). So Peter addressed the crowd to explain the matter.
Pentecost was an agricultural festival fifty days after Passover. Pentecost was a celebration of the first fruits of the harvest and it had become associated with the ‘giving of the law’ at Sinai. The law was given at Sinai roughly 50 days after that first Passover. All this was a reminder of God bringing Israel out of Egypt and into the land promised. So the day was about God providing for His redeemed people whom He called to do His will on the earth. Moses had gone up Mt. Sinai and had come down with the law, and external summary of God’s will. In his ascension, Jesus had gone up into heaven and at Pentecost the Holy Spirit came down to empower God’s people to do God’s will. At Sinai 3000 were put to death because of the idolatry of the ‘golden calf’ incident. Yet, at Pentecost 3000 were baptized and added to the number of God’s people (Exodus 32:25-28, Acts 2:41).

Pentecost advanced the story of the covenant God made with Abraham to bless the world (Genesis 12:1-3, Galatians 3:8, 14). Abraham’s call follows and reverses the ‘Tower of Babel’ incident where God had confused language to prevent the people from working together in opposition to His will (Genesis 11). In contrast at Pentecost when the disciples declared the ‘wonders of God’ those in the crowd were enabled to hear them in their own languages with no translation. This linguist unity was a testimony that God was now extending His reign throughout the earth (Acts 1:8). This was the Spirit’s empowerment which Jesus had promised to enable his disciples to testify about him throughout the earth. So Pentecost represents a significant advance in God’s plan to bless the world through Abraham. To do this God was now has pouring out His Spirit on ‘all people’ as foretold by the Prophet Joel (Acts 2:4, 17, Joel 2:28-32).

Some in the crowd sought an explanation while others thought the disciples were babbling drunkards. So Peter explained that this was what God had said through the prophet Joel regarding God pouring out His Spirit on ‘all people’ in the ‘last days’. Their sons and daughters would prophesy, their young men would see visions, their old men would dream dreams and God would poured out His Spirit on ‘all His servants’. The ‘last days’ had come and the final ‘Day of the Lord’ when the sun would go dark and the moon would turn to blood would come. For now God would pour out His Spirit on ‘all peoples’ including all genders, all ages, all ethnicities and all who calling on the Lord, that is Jesus, will be saved (2:21). 

Peter preached Jesus as a man who had been accredited to them by signs and wonders and yet they had handed Jesus over to be put to death on a cross. But this was all part of God’s set purpose for David had foretold how God would ‘not abandon Jesus to the grave, or let His Holy One see decay’ (Psalm 16).  King David had died and was buried but God had promised to enthrone one of David’s descendants (2 Sam.7:12-14). David had foretold the resurrection and the ascension of Jesus Christ. So God exalted to Jesus to His right hand and Jesus had poured out the Holy Spirit. This was Peter’s explanation for what was observed that day at Pentecost. David hadn’t ascended into heaven, and yet the Psalm (Ps 110) said, “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”  Peter concluded by announcing that God had made the crucified Jesus, both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:22-36). The resurrection confirmed that Jesus was true Messianic Davidic king and the ascension indicated that Messiah Jesus was the Lord of all the earth. This is the good news is that Jesus is both Messiah and Lord, and in his death Jesus had conquered sin and death changing everything.

Peter’s hearers were ‘cut to the heart’ and asked what they should do. Peter told them to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Peter assured them that the promise was for them and for their children and for all who were ‘far off’; for all who the Lord would call. 3000 believed Peter’s message and were baptized. The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, the breaking of bread, and to prayer as essential practices. They shared everything in common and the apostles did many miraculous signs. They met together daily in the temple courts and they broke bread in their homes regularly and the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:37-47).

These early Christians were a family unified around the resurrected Christ who had ascended into heaven where he was enthroned as the Lord of all the earth. From his heavenly throne Jesus had poured out God’s Holy Spirit and as a result these early Christians simply couldn’t help but speak about the Jesus they had seen and heard. Their speech was transformed but so were their lives for they were a family that shared everything in common. As we reflect on this early Christian community we can only wonder why we fall so short of their example. 

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