Sunday 27th June 2021
by Nigel Malka
Acts from Chapter 1 to chapter 2 verse 4
Between Easter and Pentecost Jesus met with his followers a number of times
On the first day Mary, then with Cleopas and his friend on the way to Emmaus,
Followed by meetings with the disciples in Jerusalem then by the sea of Galilee,
And the last time on the Mount of Olives outside in Jerusalem
It is all outlined at the end of the four gospels and the beginning of Acts
These 40 days would have been a rollercoaster of emotions for Jesus’ followers
In Jerusalem they saw him hailed him as Messiah
Loved for his preaching & healings, yet hated by priests for usurping their authority
The trials, the crucifixion, his resurrection the disciples future was uncertainty
We are going to look at the information given to us by Luke in Acts.
In that waiting time after the resurrection and before the coming of God’s Spirit
This is quite a long passage so rather than have it as a reading
I’m going to paraphrasing the readings within the talk.
Your homework, is to read the full text Acts chapter 1 to verse 4 of Chapter 2
Luke finishes his gospel with Jesus telling the disciples the Holy Spirit would come
Giving them power directly from God, then he left them and rose to heaven.
In Acts he describes the ascension again but gives a little more detail:-
Then continues with the formation and growth of the church
For 40 days after Jesus rose from the dead he taught his disciples. Then when Jesus rose to heaven two men dressed in white stood beside them.“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go.”
Luke first confirms Jesus, lived, died, rose and taught the disciple until his ascension
Proving beyond doubt that he was and is The Son of God worthy to be made Lord
How important is it to us there is life after death, that Jesus will come again?
How are we living our lives to reflect this? How does our church reflect it?
The Christian church story starts at the Ascension when Jesus left them
And go and do what Jesus taught them
Luke continues:- When they arrive back at the room, the eleven disciple joined together constantly in prayer, along with others making a group of about 120.
This would be a difficult time, Jesus has now left them, they were on their own
They don’t know when he is coming back but given comfort that one day he will
They had been told to wait for God’s Spirit to come in power on them
The gift of knowing God’s mind enabling his followers to carry out his work
We find that in this early time for the church that group prayer time is important
Right at that start the whole group joined together constantly in prayer
We’re assured Jesus is with us when 2 or more are gather together in his name
Community prayer is vital to the heath and direction of the church
There needs to be a purpose and a oneness of mind to the prayer
This of course needs to be in line with what God would want to happen
Luke now goes on to the business part of the meeting
Peter addressed the followers, “Brothers and sisters, Judas betrayed Jesus, his evil allowed his arrest, Judas killed himself and now another needs to take his place of leadership all of which fulfils the Scriptures written by David.
Calling themselves brothers & sisters the group already think of themselves as family
Why Judas went to the temple to betray Jesus will never be known
Whatever it was he must have felt he knew better than Jesus
Maybe it was a build up over a number of things
He knew he wasn’t liked by the other followers
He was at odds with Jesus’ ways and disputed his actions
When Jesus contradicted him about the anointing he felt isolated & revengeful
Exacerbated and the last supper when Jesus told everyone he was the betrayer
It was then he went to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver about £6,000.00
Fulfilling scripture or prophesies leads us down the path of fate and predestination.
Which seems to go against the gift of freewill
Simply, prophesies are well informed predictions of what will happen
God who has that ability is then able to tell his prophets what will happen
He not an interfering God but a loving intervening God,
Trying to guide his creation along a right path, which is why Jesus came
Luke tells us what needed to be decided at the meeting; Peter decided to replace Judas with someone who’d been living among them from seeing John baptise Jesus to witnessed the resurrection. Joseph and Matthias were nominated. Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart, show us which of these you have chosen to take over this ministry, they cast lots and Matthias was added as the twelfth apostle.
Peter now takes on his role of leader and is accepted as such
Jesus had set up the model of the leadership team Peter with James and John
The disciples accepted Peter as leader and started working together as a team
Willingly taking on whatever role was needed to be done
When decisions need to be made they came together first in prayer
But without the Holy Spirit they left the choice to chance
Why didn’t they ask Jesus who should fill the vacant spot before he ascended?
Wait for The Holy Spirit to come or put a ‘No-one yet’ in the casting of the lots.
Lastly we move on to the first 4 verses of chapter 2 At Pentecost they were all together when suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire separating out and coming to rest on each of them. They were all filled with The Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
The Jewish religion celebrates the Feast of Harvest 50 days after Passover
Also they celebrate Moses being given of the law at Mount Sinai
When there was thundering, lightings, and God came in fire.
That sounds rather similar, to God’s Spirit coming upon the followers at Pentecost
As well as God revealing himself to Moses in the fire of the burning bush
These 120 followers heard a violent wind and saw what seemed to be tongues of fire
It’s imagery is thought that the wind was to cleanse the house of any evil
And in make it clean so it was then fit to welcome God’s Holy Spirit
The tongues of fire to denote God’s Spirit being present,
As in that burning bush and the pillar of fire leading the Israelites out of Egypt
Fire will give light so we can think of it as being given the light of God’s Word
This is such a powerful image, the promised to us of God’s own Spirit had come
Before it had happen to very special people given for particular tasks to carry out
One problem with this image of tongues of fire in that some Christians feel
That unless people have a similar special awe occurring experience
They can’t really have God’s Spirit and therefore are not really Christian
This is nonsense, as Jesus tells us that all we need do is to make him our Lord
Then we are giving four gifts, Faith, Forgiveness, Eternal Life and The Holy Spirit
People may not use them or even be aware of having them, but they have been given.
The disciple were told not to witness Jesus until they had received God’s Spirit,
They were well able to, having lived with him during his ministry
They could have witnessed his healing, his teachings and his miracles
So why were they told to wait until they had received The Holy Spirit
Followers are given God’s Spirit for guidance so what is done is in God’s name
Without The Holy Spirit then what is done is often for one’s own self advancement
Having God’s Spirit ensures one is putting God first not oneself.
When accepting Jesus as Lord, people are given The Holy Spirit
We have God’s Spirit and we can accept or decline his help, that is up to us
On my birthday one daughter gave me a book, the other a box of dates
After 5 months I still haven’t started book but ate the dates within a few days
My choice to use them or not. On our birth as Christians we are given gifts
We have the choice to we use them, and in Acts we see them all used:-
Faith Certainty of God’s Love and encouragement in using it
Discerning Spirits To know good from evil
Knowledge Ability to learn about God’s Word
Wisdom How we apply God’s Love in our life
Healing The ability to make the body, mind and spirit whole again
Miracles To do things greater than Jesus
Prophecy To speak of things to come
Tongues To speak the words of God in a language we don’t know
Interpretation of TonguesTo understand and tell what has been said in Tongues
These gifts are key to living as a Christian, the more we use them the more we grow
When we rely on using God’s Spirit, the more we are likely to live to our purpose
That is to do and say those things that pleases God
In everything we do, we need to do it in a way that puts a smile on God’s face
It’s simple without difficult theology, a follower of Jesus has the aim of pleasing God
I have little time for theologies who complicate Jesus’ teachings
We have direct access to the teaching of Jesus, his words are easy to understand
He says that by becoming his followers we have Him in us
We have The Father in us and we have God’s Spirit in us
The Holy Spirit will guide us in doing those things that will please God
We need to have faith, a faith that enables us to be confident in our love of God
Then we learn to love ourselves and to love our neighbour Amen.