Bearing Witness to the Holy Spirit's Power
Dear Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,
Today is my tenth wedding anniversary. Robin and I had a bit of a special dinner last night with our children and parents to mark this anniversary, to remember God’s grace and care over the years.
The church celebrates anniversaries as well. There are a whole series of anniversaries that the church marks every year: Christmas, Epiphany, Good Friday, and Resurrection Sunday. On May 5th we marked Ascension Day –remembering Christ’s Ascension into heaven and celebrating that Christ is Lord and head of the church and enthroned in heaven.
In my congregation, we looked at Jesus’ ascension as described in Acts 1. Studying that passage, I was struck by the emphasis on the Holy Spirit and on the power he would bring. Jesus gave them a command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised.”
Further it says, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.”
Have you ever been on a roller coaster?
The disciples are on the steep incline, moving ahead slowly, waiting nervously for the adventure to begin… As they waited and prayed, they selected Matthias to take Judas’ place in the apostolic ministry – so he could “become a witness with us of Jesus’ resurrection.”
You see what’s going on here? I like building campfires. Setting it up is an art-form – tinder, kindling and logs need to be in place and ready before it can be ignited.
At the feast of Pentecost, Jews from around the world flocked to the temple to celebrate the harvest.
· They gathered to worship God and celebrate his providence.
· To celebrate the way that God supplied food.
With the Pentecost festivities underway, the last elements were in place and God poured out the Holy Spirit in power upon his people.
But notice the reason for the power – the apostles received power in order to bear witness to the resurrection of Christ – that is their message.
Peter’s sermon gives the heart of the message they shared:
Jesus was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you with the help of wicked men put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him form the dead, freeing him form the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
That was the heart of the testimony the apostles were given the power to proclaim. The Holy Spirit supplied the power and the ability for Peter and the other apostles to preach – to bear witness to the resurrection.
In fact, the Holy Spirit made it possible to bear witness to all the people gathered in Jerusalem. And there were a lot of people there from around the known world:
Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11(both Jews and converts to Judaism) Cretans and Arabs.
As Jews and converts from around the world, the visitors to Jerusalem probably had some troubles understanding the Aramaic which was most common in Jerusalem, or Hebrew, the language of Scripture – they might have had difficulty with Greek as well. Like the people scattered from the tower of Babel, their languages were all confused – they weren’t able to understand much of the language.
I’m the first generation in my family to be born in Canada, and as most of you know I hardly understand Dutch or Frisian at all – certainly not enough to listen to a sermon.
Although most of those visitors probably knew more languages than most Canadians do, it would be easiest for them to understand the sermon in their own language.
This is the grace of this scene: the apostles were sent to bear witness to the resurrection, but they were not left to do it alone, they were given the power of the Holy Spirit.
4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
The believers were given the ability to speak to people in their own language, bearing witness to the resurrection. The visitors were amazed and perplexed that they could hear the apostles declaring the wonders of God in their own tongues.
It rather boggles, the mind doesn’t it?
Jesus wanted the message to get through, and in the power of the Holy Spirit it happened in an amazing way.