Moving from Amazement to Faith
Reflection by Rev. Richard Jorgensen
14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice and spoke out to them, “You men of Judea and all you who dwell at Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to my words. 15 For these aren’t drunken, as you suppose, seeing it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what has been spoken through the prophet Joel
17 ‘It will be in the last days, says God,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.
Your sons and your daughters will prophesy.
Your young men will see visions.
Your old men will dream dreams.
18 Yes, and on my servants and on my handmaidens in those days,
I will pour out my Spirit, and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the sky above,
and signs on the earth beneath:
blood, and fire, and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned into darkness,
and the moon into blood,
before the great and glorious day of the Lord comes.
21 It will be that whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
22 “Men of Israel, hear these words! Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved by God to you by mighty works and wonders and signs which God did by him among you, even as you yourselves know, 23 him, being delivered up by the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by the hand of lawless men, crucified and killed; 24 whom God raised up, having freed him from the agony of death, because it was not possible that he should be held by it. 25 For David says concerning him,
‘I saw the Lord always before my face,
for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved.
26 Therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced.
Moreover my flesh also will dwell in hope,
27 because you will not leave my soul in Hades,†
neither will you allow your Holy One to see decay.
28 You made known to me the ways of life.
You will make me full of gladness with your presence.’
29 “Brothers, I may tell you freely of the patriarch David, that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, he would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, 31 he foreseeing this, spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that his soul wasn’t left in Hades, and his flesh didn’t see decay. 32 This Jesus God raised up, to which we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted by the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this which you now see and hear. 34 For David didn’t ascend into the heavens, but he says himself,
‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit by my right hand
35 until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”
36 “Let all the house of Israel therefore know certainly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
38 Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are far off, even as many as the Lord our God will call to himself.” 40 With many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation!”
41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized. There were added that day about three thousand souls.
Numerous psychological studies have shown how hard it really is for us to change our mind, even in those moments whenever everything seems to point to the opposite of what we have believed. Elliot Aronson Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) asserts that our brains often work very hard to protect our view of ourselves and our understanding of the world, even when we have evidence to the contrary. One of the reasons why our political system is so polarized and, in many ways, broken, is that many politicians and their supporters have lost the capacity to acknowledge when they have made a mistake, or just had the wrong idea about something or someone.
In some ways, it is this desire to protect our worldview and our assumptions and beliefs, that might explain why on the day of Pentecost, amidst all the signs that were spilling out into the streets of Jerusalem, not the least of which was the strange miracle of xenolalia, the gift of speaking in other languages, there were still some in the crowd who mocked what they were seeing, and simply said that the disciples were drunk with new wine. This was not a new phenomenon, the same thing often happened during Jesus’ earthly ministry: He would perform a sign or miracle, and many people rather than moving toward faith simply found ways to deny what had happened, or questioned Jesus’ motives.
However, while the experience is like what the disciples had seen before, their response is now different. Peter, who had previously been so well known for misspeaking and acting impulsively, is now filled with the Holy Spirit. He responds to the hecklers by offering his first great speech in the book of Acts. He responds to the accusation that they are drunk by saying that it is only the third hour, or nine o’clock in the morning.
Peter says these disciples are not drunk; rather, they are filled with the Holy Spirit. Instead, Peter asserts that what is happening is a fulfilment of what God had promised through the prophet Joel (2:28-32) hundreds of years earlier, and indeed, that day in the streets of Jerusalem, God’s Spirit is being poured out and all sorts of people are now prophesying. And Peter also repeats God’s promise that all “call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Peter’s speech is wasting no time challenging the crowd. He takes an even more challenging turn when he begins speaking directly to the crowd about Jesus as the Messiah, and reminds them of Jesus’ signs and wonders, but also of how they had rejected him. At this point, it is only fifty days since the resurrection and it really is possible that some members of this crowd were the same people who had cried out for Jesus’ death.
Using both Psalm 16:8-11 and Psalm 110:1, Peter shows how Jesus’ resurrection is the fulfillment of all God’s promises and indeed, the fulfillment of all scripture. Added to the testimony of the Hebrew Bible, Peter stands with his fellow apostles and the other disciples and affirms that they are all witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection. He is not merely quoting scripture; he and his companions have seen scripture fulfilled.
Peter’s speech cuts the crowd to the heart, and they ask what they must do in response to Peter’s preaching. The answer is repent and be baptized, and they too will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. We are told that day over 3,000 people came to believe.
After the resurrection and before Pentecost, there were a total of 120 who had gathered to pray and wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Now, with the advent of the Spirit, more people come to faith in one day, than had come to faith in the entire time of Jesus’ ministry. This is only the beginning of how the promise and command of Acts 1:8 will be fulfilled. The disciples are indeed filled with power from on high, and they are now the witnesses to the resurrection, and most remarkable of all, people are listening, and coming to faith.
There are so many signs and wonders described in Acts 2, from the descent of the Holy Spirit, to the powerful wind from heaven, to the tongues of fire, to the speaking in foreign languages. Perhaps the most remarkable miracle of all is that so many who had once hardened their hearts are now moved to not only change their minds, but to fully allow themselves to be changed forever by the mercy and power of God in their midst.
In response to this story, the question we may wish to ask ourselves, is how open are we to being challenged and changed by the Holy Spirit today? In this season of our lives, God is still doing new things, and God is still saving us all. God is still inviting each one of us to be witnesses to the new life that is poured out in Christ through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit among us.
Holy Spirit, you continue to dwell among us today. Allow us to be filled with your power anew. Make of us a new creation, and use us to proclaim your Gospel, and allow others to call on the name of the Lord. Amen.
Spiritual Practice Invitation:
Reflection offered by Deacon Marsha Roscoe
When I graduated seminary, I was gifted with a beautiful picture of a tree with a quote that reads, “There’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path where God leads.” While knowledge is a powerful reality, learning new skills or information does not guarantee that we grow in God’s wisdom. This quote always reminds me that to walk the path where God leads, we are called to remain lifelong learners/disciples who are continually open to the fresh wind of the Holy Spirit.
Teachability and an openness to learn from God, no matter who the teacher or what the experience might be, is precisely the work we see in the disciples. Thirsty for more than Jesus’ knowledge, the disciples wanted to learn how to do Jesus’ work; they desired to be like their rabbi. When we acquire knowledge or information to further solidify our stance or position on things, we are not living with a teachable posture. Teachability calls for listening more and talking less as we refrain from snap judgments.
Jesus is passionate about teaching those who are willing to lay aside prejudices and what we ‘think’ we know to allow the newness of God’s transforming Word to guide our paths. As a spiritual practice of going deeper, I invite us to examine our openness to new or differing ideas, opinions or voices and intentionally curb the know-it-all attitude. When receiving new information, consider asking questions that lead to deeper awareness of God. When engaging any spiritual discipline, consider what it would look like to be teachable in the discipline. You might also enjoy keeping a log or journal of the new things you are learning and experiencing with God. If you are looking for deeper resources on teachability, Adele Ahlberg Calhoun’s Invitations from God and Parker Palmer’s To Know and Be Known are excellent book resources.
May God grant us teachable hearts and ears willing to listen so we may live in freedom from attachment to our opinions, words, authorities to be taught how to live God’s loving path of caring for others.
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