Read through the lesson below (if you are in a group take turns reading). Then have a discussion, possible questions are included at the end. If you are alone, try to pair up with others in a small group though texting or even a phone call.
Pentecost Lesson 3
Recap: This year Pentecost will be on the 31st of May, only a few weeks away. In simple terms we are celebrating the start of the Church. The day of Pentecost, when the Spirit came upon the disciples and they were transformed, was the beginning of the Church.
The significance this year is that it is to be the first Sunday that we will be all together again. What a fitting and special day this will be.
First, we covered the Spirit Himself and what He did. Second, we covered the speech that Peter made declaring Jesus Savior and Lord. This week we will cover the why. Why did God do this?
Acts 2:1-42 (NRSV)
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
Peter Addresses the Crowd
But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
‘In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
‘You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know— this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.
For David says concerning him,
‘I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken;
therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
moreover my flesh will live in hope.
For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One experience corruption.
You have made known to me the ways of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’
‘Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne.
Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying,
‘He was not abandoned to Hades,
nor did his flesh experience corruption.’
This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you both see and hear.
For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,
‘The Lord said to my Lord,
‘Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.’’
Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
The First Converts
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what should we do?’ Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.’ And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’ So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
The important parts that I would like to highlight this week (scripture in underlined type above) is what came about in the First Church, what many call the Acts 2:42 church.
The Spirit filled Peter and the other disciples, and they spoke in languages that they had no way of knowing and Peter even stood up and gave the first sermon of the first church, but why? Why did God do this, and what can we learn from it to apply to our own lives?
First, let’s look at the apostles just before this happened. Where were they and what were they doing? First, remember that they had all abandoned and ran from Jesus when He was arrested. Only some women and maybe John were at the execution. In addition, each time Jesus appeared to them shortly after the resurrection what is it that is different about them than when they were with Jesus?
John 20:19 (NRSV)
“When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”
John 20:26-27 (NRSV)
“A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”
Other than the two on the road and the women, the disciples were in hiding. They had run in fear, and no one had heard from them. No one had preached about Jesus. No one had taught about Jesus. To the rest of the world (other than His followers) Jesus was a thing of the past. He was just another one in a long line of those claiming some sort of prophetic knowledge about salvation from the Romans, the Greeks, and even back to the Babylonians.
God however had other plans; He has always had plans different than our own. He uses the weak and shows His strength. Frightened fishermen and sinners that had no political or cultural standing in the Jewish culture were about to start a religious and cultural revolution, the likes of which no one had ever seen. Who are these sinners and uneducated laborers? Why are they now speaking in other languages? Are these not the dregs of the Jewish culture, are they not Galileans? How can this be?
What has happened? What was that loud noise and fire above them and now they speak with eloquence and understanding and authority? Out of the shadows and fear come the Apostles, no longer are they called just disciples (followers), now they are leading and standing boldly in front of others preaching. Even in the Jewish courts. The question of “what has changed”? That is the why!
Brilliant orations from the educated and trained speakers would have not gotten the attention of so many, but a simple fisherman known for his denial, known for his fear is so out of place here and they are speaking in languages that are impossible; can it be, it must be, it has to be, can it really be God’s work?
Who was this Jesus? Did we do right by demanding Barabbas? Oh no, what have we done? Can it be that He was? Were we wrong? Could He have been the One, the Messiah?
It was precisely their weakness and out of character cultural abnormalities that God wanted to use. It was their weakness that became God’s strength seen. It was their character, even into death as martyrs, that brought about the question, the millions of questions, asking Could He be, Is He the One, The Son of God.
What weaknesses and cultural abnormalities of yours does He want to use?
What weaknesses are you holding back that could become God’s work seen?
Can you see “the whole” like God? Can you see how He is planning to use you?
What will your answer to God be today?