Some thoughts of those who were there
I keep thinking when he tried to tell us what was going to happen and how we were deaf to it. We were so afraid, and didn’t know what to think, as he liked to put it; his ‘hour had come’. But now I understand, now we understand: now is that time when he said he’ll speak plainly about the Father and the kingdom. He told us we would be scattered. How strange that the deepest pain I have felt could turn into the deepest joy. This Spirit he speaks of sent by him, how could we be afraid?
So for now, we’ll wait. Wait with him, learn from him. Wait in joy.
It seemed like everything was coming together. We thought, “this must be it: the time when he will restore the kingdom to Israel.” But instead he spoke again of the Spirit, that with it, we would be witnesses to the ends of the earth. And then I still can’t believe what I saw, him lifted up to the heavens. But I do believe in who he is. So we’ll wait in Jerusalem, like he told us. Wait together. Wait in prayer.
We gathered, as all Jews do, to mark the festival of Shavuot, or Pentecost. We are meant to be remembering the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai and when the first fruits were harvested and brought to the Temple. All we can think about, though, is the future. It’s been a week since he left and we’re still here, in Jerusalem, like he ordered. Of course this time we believe that something’s going to happen; that’s what makes it so difficult to think about the past – the promise of the future feels close enough to touch. For now, though, we’ll wait. Wait wherever we find ourselves. Wait in hope.
Reading: Acts 2:14-28
Just as I said last week’s reading is visited at Ascension so too the reading from this morning centres around Pentecost. The thoughts and concerns above cover that previous part of the day in chapter 2 verses 1-13 so we turn out thoughts to what happens next. Peter, as we know he often does, makes reference to Old Testament scriptures as he quotes the prophet Joel and the last days. What or when are these last days? God has poured out his Spirit, does that mean that for them the last days are now? Could that be why some in the church began to question why Jesus had not returned in their time and some going even further and doubting if he will return at all. The reference is the period of Jesus first coming and his returning again but remember Jesus himself said not even the son knows the hour that is for the Father in heaven to know. Therefor we, like those who were there that day, are living in what can be described as the now but the not yet. Jesus has come his Spirit is very much with us but there is a time to come when all the glory of God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit will be revealed without limitations. The quote from Joel goes on to mention signs and wonders and when Peter finished quoting the prophet he reminds the people that many had been witness to the signs and wonders, the miracles that Jesus had performed during his ministry amongst them. He reminds them of how even all of this did not prevent men of evil from putting Jesus to death. God would not be defeated by this evil act and Jesus was raised from the dead. Peter returns once more to the Old Testament as he quotes from the Psalms of David. His explanation of David’s quote lies in the verses that follow our reading and I invite to read on for yourselves after the service. They all know David died and the location of his burial tomb is known them. Peter tells them that because they all know this he speaks with confidence when he says that David writes these things, not of himself, but rather this is a prophecy about Jesus. His suffering turned to joy, his shame to glory and his death to eternal resurrection. David did die and his body was laid in the ground. This one he writes of is a descendent, one who will not be abandoned to the grave nor see decay, this is the descendent foretold throughout scripture, this is the Christ. The new David with the empty tomb, seated now at the Father’s right hand and pouring out his Spirit that the work may continue here on earth. Peter is reminding those who are gathered not only does their scriptures prophesy about the resurrected Christ but Peter and the other disciples had seen him with their own eyes. Peter closes this, the first of the great speeches in the book, by telling them to repent and be baptised. ‘Save yourself from this corrupt generation’ he says. And we are told around three thousand were added to their number that day. Now for them, from this day on in their lives a new journey of mission and discipleship begins.