This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on May 15, 2016.
It has been said that often we are in the midst of a history-making, life-altering moment and do not realize the full impact of it until much later. Certainly, the Americans who were alive on November 22, 1963 instantly were aware that a horrific tragedy had occurred. However, they never could have dreamed that the assassin’s bullet that pierced the bright Texas morning would also shatter the foundation of trust and comfort on which American culture rested. The iconic photographs of an American President and First Lady hugging strangers and then riding in an unprotected vehicle with Secret Service agents nowhere near them would never be repeated. Rules changed, laws were passed, and Presidential limousines would henceforth be fortified to withstand bombs and equipped with everything from a self-sustaining oxygen supply to several units of blood matching the President’s blood type. The same lack of awareness of history-writing moments could be said of September 11, 2001. All Americans knew they were witnessing the unthinkable as they watched two airplanes obliterate two towers and almost 3,000 lives. However, they did not know that within hours armed soldiers would be patrolling every airport in America. They did not know that the airplane rides they casually used for business or family vacations would forever become tedious hours of scrutiny, security screening, and unending stress. In a matter of minutes—in 1963 and again in 2001 and many times before and since—life changed, and nothing would ever be the same. The same is true for individual lives. A child learns to walk or talk, a job is lost, a tumor is found, a promotion is awarded—for good and for bad, life changes in an instant, and nothing is ever the same again.
That’s exactly what happened in the second chapter of the Book of Acts. In a matter of moments, for the followers of Jesus Christ, everything was altered, and there would be no going back.
In keeping with Israel’s holy days…
- Jesus was crucified at Passover (the ultimate Lamb of God).
- Jesus arose from the dead on the Feast of First Fruits (celebrating the beginning of His spiritual harvest as “the first fruits of those who have died,” 1 Corinthians 5:20).
- The Holy Spirit arrived on the Feast of Pentecost fifty days later (assurance that God would complete the harvest).
The crucifixion had left the followers of Jesus terrified. His resurrection had left them bewildered. The coming of the Holy Spirit left them empowered. When the 120 believers (Acts 1:15) gathered on the day of Pentecost, they were confused but filled with faith. By the time that day was over, they were convinced and filled with power…and instead of ten dozen, they numbered in the thousands. Life would never be the same, but then neither would the world.
Yes, it was God’s appointed time for the Holy Spirit to arrive on the scene as the promised Comforter. However, it is imperative to notice some crucial facts about the believers who were ready to receive that promise. Who was there? Where were they? What was their response?
The ones who had forsaken all for the Carpenter from Nazareth, the ones who could not deny His touch in their lives, the ones who were heartbroken at the cross and dumbfounded at the empty tomb, where were they? When God was ready to move in a way no one had ever seen, how many were there to be a part of it? They were all there. All of them. Where? In the same place. All together. Together in one place. In spite of all they had been through, in spite of all they did not understand, in spite of all their fears, they were all together in one place (Acts 2.1). It would not be overstating it to say they were all “together together.”
Because they were together physically in one place and together spiritually in their one devotion, when God moved in their midst, they also were together in the historic moment of blessing and wonder when ALL of them were filled with the Holy Spirit. And what was their response to the roar of a wind they could not feel (no reference to a wind, but only to the sound of a wind) and the sight of flames they could not explain? They were together in their obedience. They surrendered themselves to whatever God was doing, and they all began to speak at the Holy Spirit’s direction (Acts 2:4). What if they hadn’t? What if some had held back? What if some had wanted to experience something different? What if Luke could not honestly write that they ALL were filled and ALL began to speak? Some would have missed out on the blessing. That would have been sad. Perhaps some in the audience would not have heard the Gospel in their native tongue. That would have been tragic.
Thankfully, that didn’t happen, and the life-changing moment for the small band of believers became an eternity-changing moment for thousands of new converts. When the group was faithful in surrendering their voices to God, Peter found his voice to proclaim the Gospel with passion, power, and volume. The same man who had argued with Jesus about His crucifixion (Matthew 16:22), misunderstood the mission of Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:4), and ultimately denied even knowing Jesus (Matthew 26:72) at Pentecost became the preacher who unapologetically preached the Gospel of Jesus.
Peter reached back to the prophet Joel to explain to the crowd that they were standing in the center of a history-making, life-altering, eternity-shaping moment. ALL the believers had been filled with the Spirit and had spoken truth because the ancient prophecy was that God’s Kingdom was for “ALL flesh” (Acts 2:17). Young and old, male and female—“everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21).
The same life-changing truth is available in this very day, at this very moment.
Dr. Vicki Vaughn
Richard Jackson Center for Evangelism & Encouragement, Brownwood, Texas
Tags: Pentecost, surrender, obedience, life-changing moments