And so the miracle of Pentecost continues.
Pentecost was not only a day of God’s visitation but also the ongoing reality of the spread of His kingdom. In this passage, Peter connects what the Father has done through the Son with what the Son has done through the Spirit and what the Son continues to do through the Spirit. To Peter, all of these aspects are essential and should be presented as part of the gospel. Though undoubtedly Peter’s sermon is truncated, his message is not. He says more than just, “Believe on Jesus and you’ll be saved,” though he does say that.
He begins with the work of Jesus Christ. God anointed this Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power. Jesus went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.
This word, the preaching of peace through Jesus Christ, was proclaimed in all Judea and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached. You could even say that it was proclaimed through the Old Testament prophets, but with John the Baptist this word from God was much clearer and was clearly about Jesus of Nazareth.
God appointed or chose certain witnesses of all the things Jesus did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. I like Peter’s style, for he adds: “whom they killed by hanging on a tree.” That bit might have been seen as “hate speech” or politically incorrect, but bold Peter is unafraid to speak the truth. From the Day of Pentecost, he had this boldness and made special reference to the murder of Christ by the Jews. “Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death” (Acts 2:23-24).
Again, he writes: “But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses” (Acts 3:14-15). Stephen, in Acts 7, speaks in a similar way.
These witnesses, such as Peter, witnessed all that Jesus did while on the earth, and to these chosen witnesses the Lord revealed Himself after He was raised on the third day. With these witnesses, Jesus ate and drank. These witnesses are commanded by Jesus to preach to the people and testify that it is He who is ordained by God to be the Judge of the living and the dead.
Even as Peter says all these things, even as he preaches to the people as Jesus commanded him and testifies that Jesus is the Judge of the living and the dead and is the One by whom the remission of sins occurs, something miraculous happens. A mini-Pentecost! The Holy Spirit, sent by Jesus, falls upon this small group of Gentiles, as they speak with tongues and magnify God. Immediately, they are baptized.
Since that day, the world has experienced a steady stream of mini-Pentecosts, as those who are appointed as witnesses of Jesus Christ faithfully proclaim the gospel and the Holy Spirit is given to those who have faith. Don’t look for these mini-Pentecosts to look just like the one in Acts 10 looked.
The work of the Holy Spirit is written in very large letters in the book of Acts, just as it is in the Gospels. But in our lives, God often writes between the lines. Even while we pay attention to the “scripts” that we or others write, God happens. Pentecost happens. The Spirit may come a little on this day and a little more the next. He may come invisibly in moments in which we don’t even realize He was working with us and on us.
But how can Pentecost be only a dead, past event, if the Holy Spirit is still active because Jesus Christ is still active? And how can the work and ministry of Jesus Christ continue today unless there is a whole new generation of those who have witnessed Him and go and preach Him to others?
We stand, therefore, in a long and unbroken line of succession from Jesus himself. Jesus performed the will of the Father, died to pay for the sins of the world, rose to defeat death, and breathed life through the Spirit into His Body. That Body, once inspired and living, continued the things that Jesus both taught and did. And that Body also preached to others and saw the Spirit enter into their lives.
And here, two millennia later, we are all the recipients of God’s Word through His holy messengers that He has chosen and sent into the world. Here you are, currently at the end of the line and filled with the blessing of God.
Now it’s your turn. Now you must be a witness to what Jesus Christ both did and taught and what He is still doing and teaching through His Church. You are the chosen instrument of God’s grace in someone’s life. You are the next Peter, and you are the one who God will use to initiate or fan into life another mini-Pentecost in someone’s life.
If you don’t know where to look to see God working in this miraculous way, look closest to home. The vast majority of people who become Christians become Christians before they’re 18. The vast majority of people who become Christians become Christians because their parents have been faithful witnesses and evangelists and teachers.
Prayer: Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Points for Meditation:
1. How did Jesus Christ come to you? How does the Holy Spirit come to you?
2. How might Jesus Christ be calling you to be a witness of Him to others?
Resolution: I resolve to fine one way to specifically proclaim Jesus Christ to someone today.
© 2014 Fr. Charles Erlandson