By Jim Hatherly
An anonymous disciple and witness to the first Pentecost tells their story.
Acts 2: 1-21
An anonymous witness to the first Pentecost
We were just hanging around in the house. That house was our escape, you know. It was where we went to get away from things - all those crazy and frightening things that had been happening to us over the last days.
We had the doors shut, the windows covered. We were holed up in there - waiting, I suppose - for something to happen. Waiting for someone to tell us what to do next.
We were glad to come back together, to be in each other's company. It was a time to regroup, to begin again.
Peter had assumed the role of leader, of course. We could hardly stop him from doing that - and we didn't really want to. But Peter had his shortcomings. He was awfully emotional and irrational. You never knew what he was going to say or do - and when he did do something it was often so impulsive that we wondered if it was always the best thing.
We never questioned Peter's place as our leader. After all, Jesus had called him "Rocky" - a play on his name Petros which meant rock. So Jesus knew he could be trusted. But still, you know!
Peter was so human, and Jesus had been more than that. We had come to wonder about human leadership. What Jesus had given us was wisdom such as humans seldom had - and confidence and courage.
But now Jesus was gone, and the one thing we had counted on so constantly for three years he was with us was not there any more. Just Peter.
And Peter, for all his gifts and even all his bluster - didn't know what to do with us. He was in a kind of funk. Like he was waiting for directions and inspiration as well, and didn't know where to find it.
Everything that Jesus had done was so public - so bold - so much in touch with the everyday lives of people. He was out in the fields preaching, he was in the marketplace healing people - even on the Sabbath! He was debating with the Pharisees, having heated arguments over the laws of God. He was out there, man! Talking with women in public, hugging the unclean in public, calling people to find God - in public, and not just in sanctuaries.
So what were we doing? Hanging out in private. Afraid of the public. Afraid of betrayal. Afraid of the Pharisees. Afraid of the Romans. Afraid of our own shadows.
I think even Peter was afraid. We wondered if what had happened to Jesus might happen to us. We knew the soldiers were looking for us, asking around, probably paying off informers to search us out.
What kind of disciples were we? Even Peter didn't know how to get us out the door and into the streets where we could talk about God.
Don't get me wrong. We had faith. But we needed courage. Courage to come out of the room and out of ourselves. Courage to let that profound feeling of God's love make its way out of our hearts and through our lips.
We needed more than Peter. We needed what Jesus had given us in the first place. As we sat around we worshipped, we ate and prayed, talked and listened. From time to time the conversation turned to what Jesus had said on the night before he was arrested.
That evening as we sat in the upper room he had prayed to God that we would be united. That God would bless us and keep us together. and to us he had made a promise. The promise was that he would not leave us alone - orphaned was the word he used. At the time we didn't know what to make of all that. We didn't know what he knew about his arrest and death. And so those words didn't mean much to us.
But now we went over them and over them. And the thing that he said which we wondered about the most was this promise "If you love me you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever. This is the Holy Spirit.
So we ate and talked some more - and wondered what it was that Jesus really meant by that. How could he unite us now that he was gone? How could he tell us what to do - even through Peter? How could he give us the courage to get out of that room and share the love of God?
And then it happened - Maybe you are better with words than I am. Even years later we could hardly find words to describe it. It was like a fireball, really. With a wind that seemed to blow among us and even through us.
Some of us started to dance. Others to sing. We prayed in a way we had never prayed before.
We danced out the pent-up frustration and confusion. We danced out the hope, the tiny, fragile hope we still had in spite of all that had happened.
Even Peter got out of his funk. Big flat-footed Peter danced an awkward, joyful kind of dance and sang loudly off-key.
And the wind picked up and blew hard through the room. We opened the door and took the shades off the windows.
Something was happening. Something crackling with energy. Something had taken hold of our spirits and was moving them, motivating them.
Faces appeared at the door and windows. Curious neighbors looked in - neighbors who had gathered from all over for the feast of Pentecost. They saw the singing and dancing, and the ecstatic laughter and the feeble attempts to explain what was happening.
There were tears and there was laughter and the dancing got faster and the singing got louder until everyone collapsed into an exhausted, happy heap.
"They're drunk", sneered one of the neighbors at the door.
"Ooo, no! Not drunk. Not drunk at all," laughed Peter. At least, not drunk on wine. Sit down, folks, and I'll tell you what's going on."
"Do you remember the prophet Joel," he asked. The neighbors nodded. "Joel prophesied that the Spirit of God would be poured out on all people. 'Your sons and your daughters shall prophecy,' Joel said. And that's what you saw.
Jesus of Nazareth. Do you remember him? He was killed. He was crucified. But he promised he would send the Spirit again in a new way. Well, this is it, folks. This is IT!"
From that moment onward we lost our fear. The promise had come true. We went into the streets. We went public.
We tried many times to describe what happened that Pentecost day. Some say they saw tongues of flame dancing over their heads. Others remembered speaking in strange tongues which everyone seemed to understand.
Sometimes we would even get to arguing about what happened that day.
People have been debating, discussing, celebrating and scratching their heads over the ways of God and the power of the Spirit ever since. You probably have, too. Have you encountered the Spirit in your life? If so, you know that words fail to describe the experience.
But what matters is not how the Spirit works, or who she comes to. We know the Spirit comes to us and fills us with excitement and love and passion. That's the part that's important. The Holy Spirit can come in a hundred different ways to many different people. It doesn't matter how. It only matters that we're open to the Spirit, and that we respond with our lives.
Copyright Jim Hatherly, all rights reserved.
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