About the Journey 2 - from Kerry

About the Journey - Acts 2:1-41 - from Kerry Flemington

On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, 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.

At that time there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem. When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers.

They were completely amazed. “How can this be?” they exclaimed. “These people are all from Galilee, and yet we hear them speaking in our own native languages! Here we are—Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the areas of Libya around Cyrene, visitors from Rome(both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans, and Arabs. And we all hear these people speaking in our own languages about the wonderful things God has done!” They stood there amazed and perplexed. “What can this mean?” they asked each other. But others in the crowd ridiculed them, saying, “They’re just drunk, that’s all!”

Then Peter stepped forward with the eleven other apostles and shouted to the crowd, “Listen carefully, all of you, fellow Jews and residents of Jerusalem! Make no mistake about this. These people are not drunk, as some of you are assuming. Nine o’clock in the morning is much too early for that. No, what you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel:

‘In the last days,’ God says,
‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
Your young men will see visions,
and your old men will dream dreams.
In those days I will pour out my Spirit
even on my servants—men and women alike—
and they will prophesy.
And I will cause wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below—
blood and fire and clouds of smoke.
The sun will become dark,
and the moon will turn blood red
before that great and glorious day of the Lord arrives.
But everyone who calls on the name of the Lord
will be saved.’

“People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know. But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him. But God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip. King David said this about him:

‘I see that the Lord is always with me.
I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.
No wonder my heart is glad,
and my tongue shouts his praises!
My body rests in hope.
For you will not leave my soul among the dead
or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave.
You have shown me the way of life,
and you will fill me with the joy of your presence.’

“Dear brothers, think about this! You can be sure that the patriarch David wasn’t referring to himself, for he died and was buried, and his tomb is still here among us. But he was a prophet, and he knew God had promised with an oath that one of David’s own descendants would sit on his throne. David was looking into the future and speaking of the Messiah’s resurrection. He was saying that God would not leave him among the dead or allow his body to rot in the grave.

“God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this. Now he is exalted to the place of highest honor in heaven, at God’s right hand. And the Father, as he had promised, gave him the Holy Spirit to pour out upon us, just as you see and hear today. For David himself never ascended into heaven, yet he said,

‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit in the place of honor at my right hand
until I humble your enemies,
making them a footstool under your feet.”’

“So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!”

Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”

Peter replied, “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. This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away—all who have been called by the Lord our God.” Then Peter continued preaching for a long time, strongly urging all his listeners, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation!”

Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.
Acts 2:1-41

The disciples and Jesus’ followers are gathered in Jerusalem, as Jesus had told them to do. He asked them to wait there until they had “received that power from heaven.” Waiting; this is not something that they had been particularly good at. Their discipleship, in many ways, had been marked by impatience. But here they are. And not only are they waiting, but they aren’t even sure what they are waiting for. This speaks to the transformative power of trusting in Jesus. And when I say Jesus, I don’t mean the flowery hippy-nice guy who we seem to somehow make him out to be. I mean Jesus as in fully man and fully God as his disciples and followers finally came to understand him to be. As such, they knew that he was utterly reliable, utterly trustworthy. “You tell me to wait but won’t tell me for how long and what I’m waiting for? Done!”

The thing that they’ve been waiting for comes in the form of God’s Spirit, dwelling in them, and giving them the supernatural ability to speak in foreign languages. Jerusalem is full of Jews gathered from all corners of the earth for Pentecost. God wants them to hear, know, and understand the truth about this controversial character that was crucified during the Passover. I’m sure it’s still being discussed throughout Jerusalem as people gather again for the first major festival since then. The religious leaders are on high alert to keep this rebellion quelled. They don’t want momentum to build around this idea that maybe the Nazarene, Jesus, was the Messiah. So, God with his sense of humour and in his omnipotence, gives this transformed band of stragglers the ability to speak in the languages of all those foreigners gathered; foreigners who, upon finally understanding the truth of Jesus for themselves, will carry it home with them to foreign lands. God’s words never return empty.

But for me, it’s another miracle that is happening simultaneously that gives me pause. God certainly uses the supernatural as he sees fit; of that, I am certain. I also know I see through a mirror partially dim and so I really have no real sense of how it manifested itself in the early church or how it manifests itself now. I’m also not particularly concerned either, because what jumps out at me, and the miracle that I can really relate to as I read through these passages, is the miracle of Peter.

Throughout Jesus’ ministry, Peter has been possibly the most brash and impatient. He’s been the most zealous and outspoken. He’s been so certain of his allegiance to Jesus only to abandon him in spectacular form at the first opportunity. As much as he loves Jesus, his need for self-preservation at all costs is laid bare that cold night of Jesus’ trial. Is Jesus utterly reliable, utterly trustworthy when we find ourselves in grave and overwhelming situations that seem impossible to navigate through? Peter doesn’t think so on that particular night.

I’ve written previously about what Jesus does to restore him, to reassure him that he is capable of carrying on with the work that Jesus has for him. This is all good and well though until we’re met with another opportunity that puts our faith to the test - faith in who Jesus is and who Jesus is, in us.

The gathered crowd who heard the disciples speaking were amazed and confused. Not unjustifiably, some of them assumed that the disciples were simply drunk, even though it was only 9 in the morning. Who steps in to respond? Peter. Peter the passionate; Peter the brave. He is no longer phased by the possible opposition or persecution he might face. He is singular in his focus of taking this rare, supernatural phenomenon and leveraging it to the fullest, whatever the cost, so that these people gathered can finally understand, in their own language, the fullness of God’s story and theirs, and how it is fulfilled in and through Christ’s death and resurrection.

This transformation has not turned Peter into a Christian clone as some of us fear we might become - boring and lifeless. He hasn’t lost any of who he was created to be. But that energy and character is no longer focused on self-preservation and being number 1. Instead, his eyes are firmly set on Christ and doing whatever it is God is calling him to do. And on this particular day, rather than argue about whether they’re drunk or not, or proclaim their special dispensation, Peter just gets on with it, forgetting himself and pointing and arguing with passion and joy, why Jesus was the Messiah, and why they should bother about him.

When Jesus first called Peter, he knew this is who he would become. He saw beyond Peter’s self-absorption, beyond every fickle word, every broken promise, every arrogant statement. His patience and compassion for Peter never waivered. And that is how he sees us. None of us is beyond hope. Neither the worst among us or the worst within us is too much for God. In fact, it’s what he’s after. Remember, he came for the sick; those in good health don’t need him. But it may take us hitting the bottom, like Peter, before we’re willing to let go of ourselves and our control over our own lives. For Jesus, though, the bottom is just the glorious beginning.

you can contact Kerry directly at kerry@arnuthill.com

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