Acts 2 The Gift of the Holy Spirit
For a minute the air crackled. The hair on the back of my neck stood up and I had the uncanny feeling that something big was about to happen. The whole world seemed to hold its breath. Suddenly the roar of a terrible wind shattered the silence. At least I thought it was wind at first, it was powerful, awesome, frightening. The noise was earth shattering, but a wind of such force should have caused some major damage. Yet nothing was touched. I didn’t know what it was, but I was going to find out. I rushed around the corner to follow the sound and saw a large crowd gathering. This time of year, Jerusalem was very crowded. It was the celebration of Pentecost, one of the yearly festivals that all male Jews were required to attend. Held 50 days after Passover, Pentecost celebrated the time God gave Moses the Law. We had spent the night studying the law and reading the book of Ruth in honor of that day. Now we were getting ready for the feasting and festivities that came with our celebration. Until the mysterious wind came, then all activity was put on hold to satisfy our curiosity.
The strange sound seemed to be heading into a particular dwelling. I recognized the house as the one where Jesus’ apostles were staying. I remembered with sadness his death on the cross at Passover, and felt compassion for their loss. I had also heard rumors of Jesus coming back to life again, but didn’t pay too much attention to them. That was impossible. I knew Jesus had done many miraculous things during his life, but since I was a Jew from Asia, I hadn’t seen anything first hand. I didn’t know how much truth was in the stories. Regardless of what I had missed before, I was about to witness something incredible now. The sound entered the house, filling it up and turning into fire. I felt frozen in place as the fire divided and consumed the men inside. What was happening? Why didn’t anyone do something? Perhaps everyone was as stunned as I was. Shocked at what they were seeing, unable to move. Then I realized that each person was on fire, but nothing was burning up. I could hardly believe my eyes. As I stood there with my mouth hanging open, it filtered through my befuddled brain that the men inside were all talking at once. Slowly I realized that I could understand them! I knew they were Galilean, but they were speaking my language! In amazement, I realized that we could all understand them, each in our own tongue. The crowd represented Jews from all over the world; Egypt, Arabia, Rome, Mesopotamia, Libya and many more. I was a part of the miracle, but I had no idea what was going on. Confusion showed on the faces around me, and I knew I wasn’t alone. Some started making fun of the apostles, accusing them of being drunk, but I knew this was not the result of too much wine. It was just too amazing.
Finally Peter came out and told us what was going on. He told us about Jesus and reminded us of the miracles he had done. He confirmed that Jesus really did rise from the dead and explained how he had fulfilled prophesy. Then Peter explained what we were seeing. Jesus had spoken to them after his resurrection and told them to stay in Jerusalem until he sent them his gift. That gift was what we were witnessing. It was the gift of the Holy Spirit. I knew about the Holy Spirit. It was the Holy Spirit who talked to the prophets in our scriptures. It was the Holy Spirit who gave them the power of God and the ability to prophesy. But the Holy Spirit was only for special people, the great men of faith in our nation. Those men had a special relationship with God that we could never hope for. Was it possible? Could it be true? Was he saying we could all have the Holy Spirit? What an honor that would be, to know God as the prophets knew him, to be able to talk to him and to have him as a part of our lives. I could hardly grasp the concept. My heart burst, I need to know how this could be. Someone asked the questions burning in my mind. “Brothers, what shall we do?” I listened closely as Peter answered. “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off-for all whom the Lord our God will call.” I knew this was what I wanted; I knew this was what I would do. That day three thousand of us were baptized. It was a moment I would never forget. My life has never been the same. I cannot explain the joy we had as we basked in the love of God. Later life got difficult. The Romans and the Jewish leaders were threatened by us and made our lives difficult. But although I would be tortured for my new faith in Christ, I never regretted my decision.
It wasn’t until evening that I realized the significance of that day. Fifty days earlier we had gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, the night the ancient Jews in Egypt sacrificed a lamb to save their firstborn sons from the plague of death that would ravish the land. On our Passover, Jesus, the Son of God, had been sacrificed to save the world from the plague of death brought on by our sins. Today we were celebrating Pentecost, the time when God gave those ancient Jews the gift of his law 50 days after freeing them from Egyptian slavery. On our celebration, 50 days after Christ’s death, we were given the gift of the Holy Spirit. This opened up a whole new relationship with our God. It is a relationship for all the nations, a relationship that confirmed our freedom from the penalty of our sins. From this day forward a new and better way had been given to us. No longer were sacrifices required. Jesus had completed the law and now we were free to accept his sacrifice and have all of our sins forgiven. What a wonderful gift! I couldn’t wait to share the news with everyone I knew in hopes that their lives would be changed as well.