Fifty days later ....
Mike Claridge - 25th May 2014
Roundabout - June 2014
St Andrew's, West Bromwich
This month sees the great celebration of Pentecost (8th June). It marks the end of the great Easter season with dramatic symbolism of wind and fire.
Pentecost means “Fifty days”, and is a Jewish Harvest Festival known as the Feast of Weeks held fifty days after Passover. In the first century was a time crowds gathered in Jerusalem from around the Mediterranean and Middle East. Jews speaking many different languages, as cosmopolitan as any town today.
The first disciples the seven weeks after Jesus’ crucifixion had been full of both wonder and of fear. The Gospels tell us that they had spent time in the temple praising God (Luke 24 .53), made a return to their “day jobs” (John 21 .1 - 14), had been terrified out of their wits (Mark 16 .8) to the extent that they spent time locked away out of fear of arrest (John 20. 19 - 23). The horrors of Jesus’ arrest, torture and execution were fresh in their minds, but there was something else just as unsettling in it’s own way. Jesus had been seen! Alive!
Those who had encountered the Risen Christ sometimes struggled to recognise him (John 21 .4 and Luke 24 .13 - 32). He behaved in strange ways appearing through locked doors (John 20 .19) but being flesh and blood enough to eat broiled fish (John 24 .42) and with wounds that could be touched by Thomas (John 20 .24 - 29) The Risen Jesus also had a habit of disappearing as quickly as he appeared (Luke 24 .31).
Small wonder then that the disciples were a confused and frightened bunch as they gathered in Jerusalem. The hubbub of Jerusalem at festival time would have been a reassurance, almost as if nothing had changed since the last year they were there. But it had, and things were about to change even more. Luke is our reporter, who tells us:
“The disciples were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent and, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages”.
(Acts 2 .1 - 4)
It certainly turned heads! A crowd gathered to see what was going on and were astonished that they heard these uneducated Galileans speaking in a multitude of languages. Such was a babble that many assumed the disciples were drunk. Soon however Peter took the lead and began to talk about the life death and resurrection of Jesus - and of God’s love revealed for all people.
Pentecost was a transformation in the lives of disciples. From timid, frightened individuals, lacking the ability to convey the Good News, they became the nucleus of a movement that would change the world. Within a generation the message of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, had spread from north Africa to south India, from Spain to Iraq and all around the Mediterranean.
At Pentecost we give thanks for the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church today. There are incredible stories of lives being turned around, people doing amazing things, God’s love being revealed in the most unlikely places and through the most unlikely individuals. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will unlock the barred doors of our own lives that we will be sent out renewed in hope, inspired by love and with the courage to live and proclaim the faith of Jesus Christ in word and deed.