15/5/05 Acts 2 United Service
On the first Pentecost Sunday there were two groups of people featured in our reading.
There were the disciples and the crowd.
The disciples had been following Jesus for three years. They had an intimate knowledge of him, but failed to realise who he really was and what his mission was about until after the resurrection. In the forty days after the resurrection Jesus had appeared to them and taught them about how his life, death and resurrection fulfilled the plan of God to save the world that was contained in the Jewish Scriptures.
Jesus had told them to wait in Jerusalem for the gift promised by God the Father, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit , 1:4f.
There they were, waiting. Probably very uncertain about what was to happen, especially as they had not seen the risen Jesus for ten days.
Then there was the crowd. Jews from all over the Mediterranean world who had converged on Jerusalem for the Pentecost festival. It was one of three important, pilgrim festivals in the Jewish religion. It was called the Feast of Weeks because it came after a period of seven weeks of harvesting that began with the offering of the first barley sheaf during the Passover celebration and ended with the wheat harvest. By the time of the first Christian century, however, it was considered the anniversary of the giving of the law at Mount Sinai.
These Jews would have revered the Old Testament law and lived their life according to a strict moral code. They would have been very religious, not only travelling to Jerusalem for important festivals but praying daily, giving a proportion of their income to God, and going to the local synagogue. They would have come from religious families, most of them would have been able to trace their family history back to Abraham, the founder of their religion.
Each group had a problem.
The disciples had the good news of Jesus to share but they could not do it in their own strength. They wanted to follow Jesus' moral teaching but didn't have the ability to adhere to them. They needed power, fruit and gifts to do this. They needed God to prepare the hearts of people to receive their message.
The crowd held the law in high regard. But they didn't have the ability to keep all of it. Some of them were religious because their parents and grandparents had been. It was the done thing. It was part of what it meant to be a Jew.
They needed the power to follow God's ways. They needed the fruit in their lives to make them more like Jesus. They needed God to break through the safety of their religion and open their hearts, minds and wills to see that they were not good enough for God. That Jesus was the only person ever to have met God's perfect standard and that he had