On the day of Christian Pentecost, 120 believers were together in one place (Acts 2:1). Let us assume they were in the large outer courts of the temple. Suddenly miraculous signs from heaven manifested themselves – the sound like the blowing of a violent wind, and what appeared to be tongues of fire revealed above their heads.
These were no mere hallucinations of a few emotionally impressionable souls. The sound was heard by many others well beyond their meeting place and in no time a crowd of curious but bewildered people numbering into the thousands had gathered.
The bewilderment would grow when people from “every nation under heaven” began to hear themselves addressed in their own languages, but languages unknown by their speakers, the Apostles from Galilee.
As Peter rose to speak, a hush fell upon the crowd, but a few scornful men mocked. They shouted that the Apostles’ boldness and apparent joy were signs they were drunk! Peter did not let this go unchallenged.
Addressing the people as “fellow Jews and all you who live in Jerusalem” he reminded them that it was nine in the morning and Jews would not be drinking wine at that hour.
Instead, he told them, the signs they were seeing had been foretold by the prophet, Joel — “wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below” … and as a result, Joel promised, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:19 – 21).
He then reminded them of the “miracles, wonders and signs” done by Jesus whom God had sent among them, and, he fearlessly faced them with the part they had played in encouraging wicked men to nail him to a cross. However, with joy he said “But God raised him from the dead.”
Again he turned to the Old Testament Scriptures and quoted from one of its major figures, King David. The king had prophesied about God’s expected Messiah that, “(God) will not abandon me [the Messiah, Christ Jesus] to the grave” (Psalm 16:8—11).
This Messiah is alive, Peter preached. He is exalted to the right hand of God. Then, he proclaimed, the exalted Christ “has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out [on us] what you now see and hear.”
Then comes his summary word: “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).
The listeners were deeply convicted of their wrong. What shall we do? they asked Peter and the other Apostles. The answer was crystal clear: “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” (Acts 2:38).
He then warned them and pleaded with them to save themselves from this corrupt generation. Those who accepted his message were baptized. About three thousand were added to their number that day. We might say “these” were the charter members of the Christian Church.
Preaching was central in the early church. One of several New Testament words for preaching is “to herald forth.” A herald is one assigned to carry and deliver a special message. During his life on earth, Jesus proclaimed good news. On the first Christian Pentecost Peter did the same: He proclaimed the good news of salvation from God, and called his listeners to repentance and faith.
Today, as we anticipate another anniversary for Pentecost, on June 8, let us pray for the Holy Spirit to call forth from Christian ranks everywhere young men and women who will be heralds of good news to a new generation. They will be heralds to a world that does not know him, that is at odds with him, and that needs to repent and put faith in Jesus, as did those crowds in Jerusalem.
Image info: Titian, c.1545 (via wikipaintings.org)