We might feel we have had a busy 8 weeks since Holy Week and if you’re anything like me you’re wondering quite where the time goes. But the first disciples of Jesus had had a positively torrid time.
First they suffered the trauma of seeing Jesus arrested straight after their Last Supper and almost immediately executed. Then the utterly amazing events of Easter Sunday – the empty tomb, the appearance of the resurrected Jesus in the upper room, the Emmaus road story. A week later there was a second appearance in the upper room, to Thomas. The gospels speak of ‘other times’ that Jesus shows himself to people, including the appearance on the beach when he forgives Peter, and finally the events of Jesus’ ascension, when he blesses the disciples and his resurrection body disappears into heaven.
And the final things Jesus says to his friends were ‘wait here in the city’ and ‘you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’.
And so they have waited – for 10 days. In this time, Luke tells us in the first chapter of Acts, they have prayed together, worshipped God, chosen a new disciple, Matthias, to replace Judas.
They have waited and thought and prayed… and finally the Holy Spirit comes.
However many times I read it, it seems like a strange story. A loud rushing wind, tongues of fire resting on each one, the gift of other languages.
It’s a strange story and we might wonder quite how this thing happened. But perhaps instead of getting side-tracked into how the Spirit comes, we should look at what the Spirit does to these disciples.
Jesus said ‘you will be my disciples in Jerusalem, throughout Judea & Samaria and to the ends of the earth’.
It’s a bit like Jesus saying to us ‘You will be my witnesses in Pampisford/Duxford, throughout South Cambridgeshire & the city of Cambridge.. and to the ends of the earth’.
Jesus tells his disciples to go back to all the places that he traveled with them, but then he hints that they will need to go much, much further, to be much bolder and even to encounter strange and unknown people – in his name.
So when the Spirit comes the disciples are given the ability to speak in many languages.
There are people gathered in Jerusalem from the four corners of the known world: they have come from the North (Cappodocia), South (Egypt), East (Mesopotamia) and West (Rome) – and they can all understand the disciples telling them about ‘God’s deeds of power’.
The Spirit demonstrates to the disciples that Jesus sends them to be his witnesses to all corners of the world.
And more than that, the Spirit does not just send them to spread good news to all people, everywhere; but the Spirit gives them the power they need to be able to do that work of witnessing.
The Spirit gives the disciples the energy, the power, the words and even the language they need to tell the world what God has done in coming in Jesus Christ.
So what the Spirit does to Jesus’ disciples is to send them out into the world, way beyond where they are comfortable, with the power to spread the Good News.
How will the Spirit come to us, this Pentecost?
Rushing wind, tongues of fire, new languages…we don’t know. But surely Jesus tells us to wait, to pray, to gather and to trust that the Spirit will come.
And when it comes, it does to us what the Spirit did to the first disciples.
It challenges us to think about new people and new places into which we should speak the good news of God’s love – perhaps way beyond where we are comfortable.
And through the mercy of God, the Spirit gives us the power and the ability and the energy to be witnesses to what Jesus has done.
So come and receive this bread and wine today, and pray that through it Jesus will send the Spirit to empower you to be his witness.
To God’s praise and glory.