Pastor Edward Brouwer 9-3-17 “Feast, Fire, Freedom” Acts 2
Feast, Fire, Freedom
Introduction—the story of Pentecost in Acts lists Jews from all the known world from Spain to the Indus Valley. Northern Africa, Italy, Iraq and Iran, Turkey and Greece. Jews and God fearing Gentiles. This was the Jewish diaspora, Jews who had been either forcibly displaced during the Babylonian Exile and never returned, or people who moved for reasons of employment. Archeology shows synagogues from this community in all these areas. God gave these uneducated Galileans the ability to speak in the languages of all these folks—a true miracle that is the reversal of Babel.
Reading Acts 2:1-24
The Feast of Pentecost is one of the 3 high holy festivals of the people of Israel. Otherwise known as the Feast of Weeks because it occurred seven weeks after Passover and the Feast of Unleavened bread. In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the OT, the word is Pentecost. You will recall that Israel left slavery in Egypt in a rush after the 10th plague. The Jewish people were instructed by Moses to slaughter a lamb without blemish, place the blood on the doorposts so the Angel of Death would “Passover” their homes. Judgment for the cruel taskmasters and mercy for the slaves. The final plague was the one to convince Pharaoh to let “my people go”. They hurried out of Egypt with no time even to let their bread for the journey rise, in fact they were instructed to not put yeast in the bread. They celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread as they fled, and would commemorate this great emancipation every year after until it was fulfilled by the Messiah. Exactly 7 weeks later on the 50th day, the people of Israel find themselves at the foot of Mount Sinai. God is making a covenant with His people. In Jewish tradition this feast of weeks celebrates the giving of the Law. This is why there were Jews in Jerusalem that day 2000 years ago for Pentecost. They had gathered to celebrate the feast.
The Fire—at Sinai and throughout the OT fire is a symbol of God’s holy presence and his purity. The tongues that appeared on the disciples heads looked like fire. A further connection between the giving of the Law (the first Pentecost) and this new one in Jerusalem is the fire and sounds. There was a loud sounding trumpet like noise at Sinai, and the upper room was filled with the sound of a mighty rushing wind (think the sound of a locomotive in a hurricane or tornado). On the occasion of the Giving of the Law, when Moses came down and saw that the people were reveling, the Angel of the Lord struck down 3000 people that day. On Pentecost in Acts 3000 joined the church!
The Freedom—We are free now from slaveryto be HIS people because of Pentecost. At Sinai God said that if the people agree to the covenant and follow the Law that they would be for him a treasured possession, a kingdom of priests, a holy nation. That is what Peter now calls US, the church. But obedience to the Law could never be attained by the people. Because in a very real sense it was a “school master” as Paul says until the coming of the Messiah. The Messiah would truly fulfill the just requirements of the Law. Only in Him could we perfectly keep the law.
Free now, by the Spirit living within us not to be ruled by our flesh, but to be ruled in ever increasing ways by the Spirit…he is making us perfect as we conform to the image of Christ. Here’s a letter (addressed to his mom) from a friend named Andrew who is in jail–to illustrate the point of humble conformity to God’s will : “… Every day I am fighting to focus myself on God as I go through the day. I am reading Joyner’s 50 day vision book, Andrew Murray’s 30 day Abiding in Christ book, also doing the 40 days of Steve Backlund. As I walk I pray in tongues, as well as for specific people. This is also when I go through the things I try to re-focus on each day: I am suffering for the sake of Jesus – I need to remember this. I work on surrendering to whatever he has for me. I am declaring I am willing to suffer for his sake. I am asking that he show me what it means to share in the fellowship of his suffering – that I may embrace what he has for me. Oh, if he would share with me his heart, open my eyes, give to me in my suffering what he has so freely given to others (encounters). I also make my declarations that God is good, loving, trustworthy, and faithful – a decision with my will to declare what God says about himself even though I have many questions, and am wounded. And as I read the Bible, I am trying to sit quietly and pray over what I read. I really do want to be God-focused, I want to know him. I keep asking that he teach me what he wants – that he show me anything that by omission or commission is keeping me here – that this time not be lost or wasted but that I leave with some measure of victory. So I am trying to make my time…. as God-oriented as I can. I don’t sense my deepening. I am asking for songs he wants me to sing…. but I also have to fight the fear of long-term prison every day. I struggle with this terrible loneliness. Oh, to have a believer alongside. I am also afraid that God will continue to take me from one crushing event to another….”
We are not suffering for Jesus, BUT may I give you a challenge? Imagine a scenario where you were suffering unjustly for Jesus. Persecuted at your job, reviled by your friend group, unjustly accused or mistreated in some way. How would you respond?
Today we celebrate communion. It represents the release from slavery—the individual salvation that we all need. It also represents the community of being in Christ in his people, the holy nation, the royal priesthood. How about asking God to make you less critical and more compassionate about your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. A little more tenderness, a little less judgment.
Freedom to evangelize. Paul tells us that WE are the first fruits! The harvest is plenty Jesus said, pray for workers! That’s US! Let’s share the hope within us with boldness every chance we get.