50 Days Past Easter…
It’s fifty days past the Easter celebration, that is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead – overcoming Satan and death to live in eternal glory with the Father. But before Jesus returned to heaven, at the completion of His earthly existence, He visited the disciples and gave them instructions about what was to happen. He told His apostles that He would return to the Father and that the Father would send the Holy Spirit to take the place of Jesus. We have come to call this the day of Pentecost – the day that the Holy Spirit came in miraculous fashion to the people of God to fulfill the promise of Jesus before His ascension.
The disciples were charged with the responsibility to have faith and to wait for the Spirit. Peter and the others waited with the expectation that something would happen in the timing of Jesus. And sure enough, we are told in Acts 2 that fifty days after the resurrection, the Holy Spirit came upon the crowd in a very unusual way. This was the first time that the apostles, or anyone else, experienced the kind of miracle that occurred that day.
And while most of us have heard the story of the first day of the church, where people were baptized and came to know Jesus, very few of us realize that this event is the book-end for another event that happened in the very distant past. If you remember your Old Testament stories, you may have heard of the Tower of Babel. The people built what is referred to as a ziggernaut, a tower that became a monument to themselves even though some of the people believed that this tower would allow them to get closer to God.
God, realizing the zeal of the people to accomplish these monuments to themselves, confused their language and scattered the people to the various corners of the earth. It is believed that this event marked the advent of different languages and that the people could no longer communicate easily. Of course, this divided them and life became much more difficult. There were disagreements and conflicts of all kinds and the world stayed this way until the day of Pentecost.
When the Holy Spirit descended on the crowd at Pentecost, we are told that each person understood spoken words in their own languages. In other words, this was the reversal of what happened at the Tower of Babel. Instead of scattering the people and confusing them, the Holy Spirit gathered the people and they were once again able to understand one another. This was the first time that this had occurred in a very long time – since the incident at Babel. Theologically, this is called a chiasm – or chiastic story. It occurs when an event opens a section of the story of the people of God and sometime later in the Bible, the end of the event marks a new chapter in the lives of God’s people.
Another example would be the exodus of Moses and the Israelites crossing the Red Sea when the water parted and let them pass. Years later, the people of God entered the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua – once again the waters stopped to let the people of God pass by. The first time into the desert – the second time out of the desert into their own land. It’s a great chiastic story.
Or how about Genesis 1 describing the creation of the heavens and the earth and God’s desire to dwell with His people in the Garden of Eden. All the way at the end of the Bible, in the book of Revelation, we are told that there will be a new garden and that God will once again be among His people – just as he intended to do in the Garden of Eden. It’s the longest chiastic story in the Bible – starting in a garden and ending in a garden – both times with God and His intention to be with His people.
There are many other chiastic stories throughout the Scripture and it is quite interesting to figure out why those stories are there. Obviously, God is trying to teach us something through these miracles. On this particular day, Pentecost, it seems that God is trying to teach us that we are all important and that we are now meant to work together for the betterment of the kingdom. Peter reached the first sermon on this first day of Pentecost and we have been celebrating each year since.
Our verse for this evening highlights the events announcing the coming of the Holy Spirit on this miraculous day. Luke, the author of Acts, tells us in Acts 2:1-6, “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.”
My encouragement this evening is that God wants us to work together and advance the kingdom of God on earth. My prayer is that you will continue to be amazed by the miraculous life of Jesus and all that He commands for the mission of His church. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…