Series: Next Things: Acts 1,2,4 - Part Four
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
May 25, 2003
Over the last few Sundays we’ve been looking at the Book of Acts - at the lives of the disciples and the events that came after the resurrection -seeing in their lives experiences that are relevant to our lives and ministry today. This morning we’re coming to Acts 2 - to Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit.
There’s a story about a pastor who was going to be teaching on the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordon River. He wanted to make his sermon very graphic and dramatic. So he called the church janitor to help him.
“Sam,” he said, “On Sunday I’m going to preach on Jesus’ baptism. I’m going to ask you to go up into the dome of the church and stay there. When I come to the high point in my sermon and I say, ‘and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him like a dove,’ I want you to drop a pigeon from the dome.” Sam - the janitor - promised to do as he was told.
On Sunday morning the pastor began his sermon. At the point when he said, “...and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him like a dove” he looked up at the dome. But there was no pigeon. So the pastor repeated the phrase a little louder. Still no pigeon. Then he yelled, “Sam, where’s the pigeon?”
Sam yelled back, “Pastor, the cat has eaten the pigeon. Would you like me to throw down the cat?”
When we talk about Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit - the work of the Holy Spirit - there’s often confusion and misunderstanding. This morning I’d like to share about Pentecost from a perspective that hopefully will help us understand more clearly what God is doing - and some of what He desires to do in us.
Before we come to Acts 2 - I’d like to have you turn with me to John 21 - to back up in time a bit. John 21 is a scene that takes place in the period of time between the resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Its evening - the setting is the shore of the Sea of Galilee.
John 21:1 - After these things - after the events of the resurrection - and the first two times Jesus has been with the disciples - after these things Jesus manifested Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias - another name for the Sea of Galilee - and He manifested Himself in this way. Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We will also come with you." They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing.
On the Sea of Galilee fishing was done at night. Fisherman used torches to attract fish to the boat and then caught them nets. That night - even though these were skilled fisherman - that night they caught nothing.
Verse 4: But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. In the twilight of the early morning - about 100 yards from the shore - it was impossible to see who was standing there. So - this unknown person - who was - Jesus - said to them, "Children, you do not have any fish, do you?" They answered Him, "No." And He said to them, "Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch." So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord."
There's a moment of recognition here. The disciple whom Jesus loved - who was John - suddenly realizes who's on the shore. John tells Peter, "Its the Lord."
Verse 7: So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea. But the other disciples came in the little boat, for they were not far from the land, but about one hundred yards away, dragging the net full of fish. So when they got out on the land, they saw a charcoal fire already laid and fish placed on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish which you have now caught." Simon went up and drew the net to land, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." None of the disciples ventured to question Him, "Who are you?" knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and the fish likewise. This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to the disciples, after He was raised from the dead.
Picture this scene with me. The disciples had been through the betrayal - the trial - the crucifixion - Jesus' death. Each of these disciples in their own way struggling within as they went through these events. Their faith put to the test.
Then the disciples met the resurrected Jesus. Imagine - He died and now He's alive. They’d seen the empty tomb - shared a meal together - seen Him pass through walls - seen Thomas worship Jesus when his doubts had been removed. A transforming experience for the disciples. Everything they've hoped and believed and lived for is true and certain.
The response to all that has just taken place comes in verse 3. Seemingly with nothing else to do, Peter says, "I'm going fishing." After all that has happened the disciples go fishing - back to the life they grew up with - the companionship with the others - the memories of past times together - the familiar - the comfortable - the routine.
When the disciples get to shore - the fire is going - the fish are cooking - the bread is ready. Jesus says, "Bring your fish and come to breakfast."
This whole scene is surreal. The disciples sitting on the shore of the Sea of Galilee - a beautiful peaceful morning - having breakfast with God - who just a few days earlier was crucified - now resurrected from death. Now they’re having breakfast by the sea.
We saw Jesus do that crucifixion thing. That was kind of scary. Jesus had us really worried. But now He’s alive again. So its okay. We can go on now. “John could you pass the bread?” “Jesus would you like another fish?” “Pardon me, but do you have any Grey Poupon?”
Ever been where these guys were at? Crisis drives us to Christ. Calm leads us to complacency.
There’s a warning here for us. How easily we can slip back into the familiar - the status quo of life. We did the Resurrection Sunday thing. That was pretty neat. We got a new pastor. Things seem to be okay at church. Summer’s coming - vacation. Personally we’re pretty much okay. We can go down this mental list and feel pretty comfortable.
Bible study becomes devotional - if at all. Prayer looses its urgency. Coming to worship together becomes routine - focused on what we want to experience. We tithe and feel free to spend the rest as we choose. We can slip into comfortable patterns of life where we forget the urgency of what we’re involved with. We live in touch with the living almighty God of creation. We’re in the midst of the spiritual battle for the eternal destiny of mankind.
Pentecost is a wake up call to the reality of what it means to live life in the resurrected Jesus Christ. Life on the edge. Life with purpose. Life lived in the hands of the living God. Living out what come next - the reality of His resurrection in us. Live pentecostal and there’s no way to slip into the familiar.
Coming to the book of Acts. In Acts 1:4: Jesus commanded His disciples - "not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father - God - has promised." In Acts 1:8 Jesus says, "You will receive power - the promise - the power to live and do what I've commanded you to do - you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and - then - you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."
Pentecost is the fulfillment of that promise. Pentecost is the Greek word for 50. Pentecost was a major Jewish festival that took place 50 days after the Passover Feast - the feast that Jesus had celebrated with His disciples on the night He was arrested. So Jerusalem is packed with people. In the midst of this large crowd gathered for Pentecost and the festival - are these 120 disciples doing what Jesus commanded them to do - waiting together in Jerusalem.
Acts 2:1: When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting and there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.
This is what Jesus said would happen - the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes with wind - which represents God's power in our lives. He comes with fire - which represents God's purifying of our lives from sin. He comes and gives the use of tongues - which were languages known to those who were around them. Languages - which enabled them to boldly - with clarity and sincerity - proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Verse 5: Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven, and when this sound occurred - the rushing wind - the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them - the disciples - speak in their own language. They were amazed and astonished, saying, "Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans?" - these are uneducated fisherman - from Galilee - "And how is it that we hear them in our own language to which we were born?" - they’re speaking local dialects without any accent - like a native - "Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia - notice this - all four corners of the compass get mentioned - Parthians, Medes, Elamites, residents of Mesopotamia - all to the east of Jerusalem - then to the north - Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phyrgia and Pamphylia - Roman provinces of Asia Minor - then south to - Egypt and the districts of Lybia around Cyrene - in northern Africa - then west - visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and - again south - Arabs - from all over the known world - from every nation they had come to Jerusalem for Pentecost - with the sound of the rushing wind this huge crowd had been attracted to these 120 disciples - and now they said, "We hear them in our own tongues speaking the mighty deeds of God."
The Holy Spirit came - and He took these 120 disciples - gathered together - held together only by a mutual experience with Jesus Christ - and He baptizes them into one Body - infills them - empowers them - transforms them into the Church of Jesus Christ - to boldly proclaim the Gospel - and transform the world of men.
A couple of years ago a number of pest control companies from California to Florida put microscopic bar codes on 350 cockroaches and set them free in 14 cities in 13 states. If someone actually caught one of these cockroaches - depending on the bar code - a person could win anywhere from $100 to a Volkswagen Bug to the grand prize of $1,000.000. Aside from how bazaar that was - thinking about the size of the US - what chance would anyone have of finding the million dollar cockroach? Its impossible. (1)
Which is often how we feel about the Christian life. Its hard - knowing where most of us live our lives - its hard to get a grip on Pentecost - on pentecostal living. God empowering His people to transform the world of men - compelling us to move beyond the familiar - the ordinary. Most of us are just trying to reach ordinary. We hear the wake up call - the alarm goes off - but we hesitate. Its easy to slip into the familiar because the familiar is where we live our lives.
Yet, the Bible never assumes that the Christian life is impossible or out of touch with the reality of where we live our lives. The Bible never instructs us to go backwards to the familiar. Thinking about Pentecost - about Next Things - about what God desires to do in us and through us -many of us need to answer the wake up call.
Turn to the person next to you and tell them to “wake up!”
There’s a truth here that we need to consider this morning - that is the challenge to each one of us to be open to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Say that, “We need to be open.”
We've all see the extremes that some people have gone to in the name of being "pentecostal" - the abuse of being filled with the Holy Spirit - to the point where the extreme makes us wonder if these people are really Christian. Are they really submissive to the authority of the Bible? Are they genuinely being led by the Holy Spirit. We wonder - if we trust ourselves to the Holy Spirit will we become some type of "charismaniac" - rolling around on the floor and babbling incoherently?
Please hear this. If we are believers in Jesus Christ - then we are pentecostal. The Church of Jesus Christ was born on Pentecost. We shouldn’t let the abuse or misuse, by some, of being pentecostal, keep us from trusting the Holy Spirit in our lives and experiencing the blessing and joy of being pentecostal.
Remember winter - just a couple weeks ago - the hail and tornados? We've either seen it first hand or seen the pictures - the destructive effects of powerful wind. Its violent - untamed - scary.
At Pentecost the Holy Spirit came rushing in like a mighty powerful wind. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit - like the wind - blows where it wills - and we hear the sound of it. (John 3:8) That can be frightening. What will the Holy Spirit do in our lives?
In the Bible we read that the Holy Spirit blew into people's lives and they were empowered to lead armies - to defy ungodly leadership - to perform superhuman feats of strength and courage - to speak boldly for God - to write Scripture - to change the course of history. All of that is a little beyond the comfort zone of where most of us live our lives.
So we need to keep in mind that this same Holy Spirit is God who also speaks in a gentle whisper - lovingly to our hearts. He knows our hearts - our struggles - our cares - our concerns.
The Bible tells us that when we come to salvation in Jesus Christ - the Holy Spirit is the one who creates the new life of God within us. (John 3:5,6) When we come to Christ, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us. (John 14:16,17) He puts a seal on us - a post mark - that says that our final destination is Heaven - which means that He protects us from Satan while we live here on earth. (Ephesians 1:13,14)
The Holy Spirit is the one who works in our lives to help us to grow as Christians (2 Thessalonians 2:13) and to grow in our relationship with Jesus. (John 15:26) He gives us a place of service in the Church. (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4:4-13) The Holy Spirit carries our prayers and deepest concerns to the heart of God. (Romans 8:26) He leads us (Acts 8:29; Romans 8:14) - guides us. (John 16:13)
The point being that we need to think of all of the blessed and wonderful and loving things that the Holy Spirit does in our lives - and not be afraid. Even when He speaks with the sound of a mighty rushing wind its with love.
Try that together, “We don’t need to be afraid.”
Speaking practically - I'd like to go one step further with this. Trusting is hard for us - because it means completely surrendering ourselves to the Holy Spirit - yielding to His authority over our lives - to do and serve as He commands. That goes against every fiber of our pride and what naturally makes us comfortable. But its the only way to live as God calls us to live.
Jack London's masterpiece, "The Call of The Wild" is a story about a magnificent dog named Buck. Buck was half Saint Bernard, half Shepherd. He was 150 pounds of pure muscle. Because he was such an impressive animal, he was stolen, kidnapped from his home in the Santa Clara Valley and taken to Alaska where there was a tremendous need for powerful dogs to pull sleds through the wilderness snow.
Buck was treated so cruelly by his kidnappers and then by his first owners that he was nearly broken in spirit by the time he fell into the kind hands of John Thornton. Thornton was so humane in his treatment of Buck that Buck developed an undying loyalty to Thornton.
One evening during a conversation in the Eldorado Saloon, Thornton was lured into making a $1,000 wager that Buck could break a sled loaded with 1,000 pounds on it - from a frozen standstill and move the sled 100 yards. Some dogs had been known to break 500 pound loads - maybe 600 pounds - but 1,000 pounds seemed impossible. It was a foolish wager, but Thornton believed that if any dog could do it, Buck could.
Several hundred men spilled out into the streets of Dawson to see if Buck could perform the impossible. The odds were 2 to 1 - then 3 to 1 against Buck. A sled holding twenty 50 pound bags of flour was standing frozen in the snow. The ten dog team that had been pulling it was released and Buck was harnessed in their place.
John Thornton put his face against the face of his great dog. This time he didn't playfully shake him as was he normally did. Instead he knelt down by Buck's side and whispered in his ear these unforgettable words, "As you love me, Buck. As you love me." Then he stepped back and allowed Buck to do the rest. And of course Buck did. "As you love me, Buck. As you love me." (2)
You and I face a task and a life that the world says is impossible - claiming the world for Jesus Christ. And yet, we hear a voice that calls to our hearts, "As you love Me. As you love Me."
Do we love Him? If we're willing to completely love Him - passionately - devotedly - surrender to Him everything that we are - His Spirit will have the freedom to work in our lives and do in us and through us what we could never do or imagine on our own.
1. AP Broadcast Publication date: 2000-05-03 - KCBS web site
2. Jack London, The Call of the Wild, pages 104 -111
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible®, © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.