Today: Thursday, November 21, 2019

After Easter 3: Pentecost    (4/21/2013 )

Do you know someone with a burning passion for something or someone? Football perhaps; music the environment, maybe a lover — or God? Perhaps you have such a passion yourself. What do we mean by it? ‘Passion’ is such a strong emotion, but we add this word ‘burning’ to show that we feel it very, very strongly. We are on fire with emotion; so much that it affects other people.

Fire is like that. It's a powerful thing. Of course, it can be threatening; think of the forest fire raging out of control. Or it can be comforting, warming. Sometimes it purifies. Sometimes it aids the craftsman (think of the blacksmith).

There was fire on the day of Pentecost, 6 weeks after Jesus was crucified and rose again from the dead. It was visible and it was powerful. Did the disciples and followers of Jesus know what to expect that day when they huddled together in a house, waiting? I don’t think so.

What went through their minds in the 6 weeks they met with Jesus after his resurrection? What did they expect? Life had changed. Jesus was alive; he was truly God and he kept appearing to groups of followers. But Jesus wasn’t teaching the crowds any more. He wasn’t healing anyone. No one was raised from the dead. What was it all about?

And then he left, suddenly, and ascended back to heaven to sit at the right hand of Father God. What did they expect then? He told them to wait in Jerusalem for the power of the Holy Spirit to come on to enable them to witness to Jesus to the ends of the earth? What did they expect?

I doubt that they expected what happened. I doubt that they foresaw the sound of the rushing, mighty wind and the fire, the tongues of fire that appeared and sat on each person. And the power! Praise to God bursting out of their lips in languages they did not know but which were understood by the many foreigners in Jerusalem; power that instilled a burning passion to go out into the market place to share the good news; power that made previously timid and frightened men bold.

No wonder the people in Jerusalem were astounded. No wonder they wanted to know more. Peter told them that what they were seeing was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that the prophet Joel had foretold in Joel (OT) chapter 2 verses 28-32. The people had crucified Jesus, but God had raised him from the dead and exalted him to his right hand in heaven. As a result the Holy Spirit had been poured out on them. And it was available to anyone who repented of their sins and was baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.

The burning passion was contagious. About 3,000 people were baptised, and the Church was born, on that Pentecost day. The Church, the embodiment of Jesus, the body of Christ, is still present on earth; by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Church is still teaching, healing and (sometimes) raising people from the dead. Millions today have that same burning passion for God and his kingdom – and the Holy Spirit.

Pray: Lord, I want to be passionate about the right things in life. Help me to burn with a passion to know you. Amen.

Thank about: If you had been around at the time of Christ's return from the dead, and had witnessed or heard about events like Pentecost, what do you think you would have made of it all?

Challenge: Read the short description inthe book of Acts about the tongues of fire at Pentecost. Consider from how far and wide the visitors to Jerusalem had come. Is this where we start to see the beginning of an international church?

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