Happy Birthday, Church!
Today is the 50th day after Easter and that means that today is Pentecost, considered by many theologians and Christians alike as the anniversary of the birth of the church. Way back in Matthew 16, Jesus was talking with the disciples and during the course of the conversation, Jesus said that He would eventually build His church, His “ekklesia”, upon Peter’s proclamation that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of of the Living God.
Originally, the word “ekklesia” was defined as a called out assembly, with everyone gathered together at one place at one time for a common purpose – but eventually it took on a more faith based connotation and it is this word that we now refer to as “church.” Ironically, Jesus used the term “my church” which meant that it would be different from every other “ekklesia” that had ever been assembled. Who could have ever guessed what Jesus had in mind – the church is now more than 2000 years old.
In the beginning the disciples didn’t know what to expect. After all, they had travelled with Jesus for more than 3 years and although they had been told what would happen, including the death of Jesus himself, they didn’t seem to understand it. And who’s to say that any of us today would have been any different that the original apostles? After all, we have the entire Bible, 2000 years of history, the early church fathers and generations of belief, including eyewitness accounts of the messages and parables of Christ, yet there are still people who don’t believe in Jesus, or His Father or the Holy Spirit. It’s just almost impossible to believe, so I can understand how the apostles didn’t know what to expect.
Suffice it to say that Christ died, was buried and rose again on the third day, the event we refer to as Easter. He then announced to the apostles that He would be returning to the Father; but that He would be replaced by another entity, a wonderful Counselor, who would teach them new things as well as remind the apostles of what Jesus had taught them. We have come to know this Counselor as the Holy Spirit.
Bur nobody knew when the Holy Spirit would arrive. It is interesting to note, though, that appearances of Christ, the Father and the Holy Spirit always seemed to happen then people where in prayer. And 50 days after Easter, it was no different. The disciples were in what was believed to be the Upper Room, where Jesus has appeared to them after the resurrection. It is the place where Thomas doubted and where, on this particular day, 120 people were gathered – in prayer. Suddenly, the Holy Spirit descended on the group and they witnessed what appeared to be tongues of fire split and land on each of them. They were filled with the Spirit that day and more than 3000 who heard the message of Peter were baptized and added to their number.
People sold their possessions and everyone shared and shared alike, exhibiting a behavior that I am sure Christ would have been proud of – because they were emulating something that they had experienced with Jesus during His ministry years on earth. It was all good and the church continued to grow. So here we are – 2000 years later and the church is still around; and going strong. Sure, we now have the different denominations, but we haven’t lost sight of the importance of this day – the anniversary of the beginning of Christ’s “ekkklesia.”
The verse for tonight highlights the actually beginning of the church at Pentecost that day in the Upper Room. From Acts 2:1-4, we are told by Luke, the author of the book, “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.”
My encouragement this evening is that Jesus loved you long before you were even born and will love you throughout all eternity. He died for everyone and that includes you. He wants you as a part of His church… My prayer is that you will get to know this Jesus in a more intimate way. Because no matter how well you think you know Him, there is more to observe, to read about, to do and to enter into relationship with. So on this special day, I hope that you will realize how much you are loved by God. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…