As dawn was breaking, Simon Peter rose from his sleeping palette in the upper room in Jerusalem where he had been restless most of the night. It was the Day of Pentecost, fifty days after Christ had risen from the dead and ten days after his ascension into heaven. His last words seemed to promise a short absence before he returned in glory to establish his kingdom on earth. Why hadnt he returned?
Peter remembered the time when he had uttered the words of faith on the Mount of Transfiguration, You are the Christ, Son of the living God. Immediately afterwards, the Master had expressed his joy with a special commission to him, You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed it to you. Now I say: you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. I will give you keys to the kingdom of heaven.
Now the apostle was discouraged that the kingdom might not be established soon. He kept asking himself what he might do that he had not done, and left the city to seek help in the only place he knew to lookthe place where he had last seen the Savior.
Only a few people were stirring this early and no one noticed Peter as he left the upper room and went to the Garden of Gethsemane. He paused for a moment at the spot where he had experienced the worst fear of his lifethe arrest of his Master! There was no fear now; what had happened there was part of Gods foreordained plan. In humility and conviction of his own unworthiness, he paused to pray in this sacred place.
He remained for a while in prayer, hoping to see a familiar figure emerge from the shadows in the depths of the garden. None came, although he did feel an unseen presence in his heart. Finally, the tall apostle left the garden and climbed to the top of the mount where he had last seen the Son of God ascend into the clouds. Impatiently, he looked up into the cloudless sky, hoping to find some direction, but no sign from heaven appeared.
Reluctantly, Peter left this sacred spot to return to the upper room and his responsibilities as the leader of the church. The congregation had already begun to gather for the festival. Besides Marks family and the eleven apostles, about 120 believers were present including: Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers; Mary Magdalene, Mary Clopas, Salome, Susanna, Joanna and other the women who had supported his ministry; Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea; Mary of Bethany, Martha, and Lazarus; Cleopas and companion; Jairus, Zacchaeus, and many others whose lives he had restored with his healing touch.
Peters mood changed and he felt a rising sense of excitement at the thought of his commission to tell large numbers of people the thrilling story of Jesus death and resurrection. Eager to fulfill his commission, he began pacing back and forth, each time looking out the window at the growing multitude of pilgrims.
His brother Andrew attempted to calm him, Come sit with us.
I cant stand this idleness!
John assured him, Surely something will happen during the festival.
He had run out of patience, but finally stopped pacing and sat down. As usual, impetuous Peter raced ahead of the Lords timing. But a spectacular life-changing event was soon to occur that would give new meaning to the word Pentecost for all time to come, and put an end to the old Simon.
Fire and Power
All of a sudden a roaring noise descended out of the sky! It resembled the blast of a violent gale. The sound filled the entire house where they were sitting and shocked them out of their human thoughts and into the spiritual realm. What looked like tongues of fire appeared and began distributing themselves, so that they touched every person present, coming to rest on each one. The believers became aflame with excitement. In that instant they received the Spirit of Christ and were born from above. There was no doubt about it; Jesus presence in the form of the Holy Spirit indwelt every believer in the room and they were immediately filled with his power!
The Lord was faithful to his promise, On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me and I am in you. All doubt and uncertainty, all depression and discouragement were swept away instantly. This magnificent gift of Gods presence was to the whole church, and yet to each individual; a precious possession that was to be guarded as an eternal flame within, to be loved and adored.
Roar of the wind, ecstatic shouts of those in the upper room, and excited stares of onlookers created a sensation in the narrow streets of the city. As word of the miraculous events taking place in the congregation of the Nazarenes raced through Jerusalem, people from all directions poured into the area, eager to see what was responsible for such strange and mysterious occurrences. They were even more bewildered when they heard their own languages being spoken by the unlearned believers.
How can this be? they exclaimed. These people are from Galilee, and yet we hear them speaking the languages of the lands where we were born!
Some of the onlookers said Jesus of Nazareth had returned and was in the upper room with his followers; others reported that the Galileans had been seized by an unseen presence, perhaps even by the very Spirit of God. A few laughed derisively and accused them of being drunk with the new wine that was traditionally the favorite beverage during the Feast of Pentecost.
But of them all, only Simon Peter fully understood what was actually happening. The former fisherman was not the same man now. The old headstrong unreliable Simon of the days before Pentecost became the strong and resolute Peter who was the foundation stone of the church. The gift of the Holy Spirit transformed shifting sand to solid rock!
The Spirit urged Peter to speak to the huge crowd that was gathered outside the house. He stepped forward with the ten other apostles onto a small balcony at the top of the outside stairway, and lifted his hands for silence. As far as he could see, in either direction a sea of faces looked up at him. Calm and certain, he waited until the noise and confusion died down.
When all was quiet, he spoke boldly and with authority, Listen carefully, all of you, fellow Jews and residents of Jerusalem! Make no mistake about this. Some of you are saying these people are drunk. It is not true! It is much too early for that. People do not get drunk by nine oclock in the morning. No, what you see this morning was predicted centuries ago by the prophet Joel:
In the last days, God said
I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
young men will see visions,
and old men will dream dreams.
In those days I will pour out my Spirit
upon all my servants, men and women alike,
and they will prophesy.
And I will cause wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below
blood and fire and clouds of smoke.
The sun will be turned into darkness,
and the moon will turn blood red,
before that great and glorious day of the Lord arrives.
And anyone who calls on the name of the Lord
will be saved.
People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus of Nazareth by doing wonderful miracles and signs through him, as you well know. But you followed Gods prearranged plan with the help of lawless Gentiles, and murdered your Messiah by nailing him to the cross. However, God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life again, for death could not keep him in its grip. King David said this about him:
I know the Lord is always with me.
I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.
No wonder my heart is filled with joy,
and my mouth shouts his praises!
My body rests in hope,
For you will not leave my soul among the dead
or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave.
You have shown me the way of life,
and you will give me wonderful joy in your presence.
Dear brothers, consider this! David was not referring to himself when he spoke these words I have quoted, for he died and was buried, and his tomb is still here among us. But he was a prophet and knew God had promised with an oath that one of Davids own descendants would sit on his throne as Messiah. David was looking into the future and predicting the Messiahs resurrection, saying that the Messiah would not be left among the dead and his body would not rot in the grave.
This prophecy was speaking of Jesus, whom God raised from the dead, and we all are witnesses of this. Now he sits on the throne of highest honor in heaven, at Gods right hand. And the Father, as he had promised, gave him the Holy Spirit to pour out upon us, just as you see and hear today.
So let it be clearly known by everyone in Israel that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!
The apostles words convicted them deeply, and they said to him and to the other apostles, Brothers, what should we do?
Peter replied, Each of you must repent, turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is to you and to your children, and even to the Gentilesall who have been called by the Lord our God.
He continued preaching from the balcony for hours, strongly urging all his listeners, Save yourselves from this generation that has gone astray!
Calling to the rest of the disciples to follow him, Peter descended the steps into the street. There the Eleven fanned out through the crowd, repeatedly telling the story of the Christ who had been sent by God to free all people of all nations, not only from sin but from the burden of death itself, and in its placeeverlasting life!
All that day, word of what happened at the upper room of the Nazarenes spread through the city. Crowds flocked to hear Peter and the others fearlessly give testimony to the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, without regard for what might happen to them because of their boldness. When this first great day of the Spirits outpouring in Jerusalem had ended, those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the churchabout three thousand in all.
So the promise was all true, all real. The New Covenant (Testament) was now in effect, and the Age of the Holy Spirit had begun!