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The Work of Miracles May 24, 2015

Posted by sandhandrews in Sermons.
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Acts 2:1-21

Pentecost

May 24, 2015

 

Focus:  God is working through us to share the good news.

Function:  That the hearers proclaim the good news with confidence.

Structure:  Walking through the text.

 

The Work of Miracles

 

I don’t think we do it justice.  Sure, we’ve given it its own day on the church calendar.  But I don’t think that fully expresses just what a day this is.  Here we are, some fifty days after the resurrection, celebrating Pentecost.

I just don’t think the disciples get enough credit here.  I don’t think God gets enough credit here.  All too often, this is seen as just another day, just another Sunday morning, just another chapter in Scripture.  But it’s not.  Pentecost is one of the greatest miracles in all of Scripture.  So let’s set the stage.

It was just about two months ago.  In His last days with His disciples, knowing that death was imminent, Jesus began to teach them the big picture.  No longer did they only discuss miracles, prayer, and love, but now they began to discuss the end times.  Things like, there will be wars and rumors of wars (Matthew 24:6) and you will be persecuted for your faith.

And then there’s the betrayal, the Last Supper, the arrest, the trials, the mockery, the torture, and the death of Christ.  And where are the disciples to be found, but scared, fearing the Jews to the point that they had locked themselves in a house.

And that’s where the resurrected Lord finds them.  Hiding, hiding in fear of persecution and death.  The church, as small as it was, had scattered.  The others who were following Jesus before have either abandoned the new faith at the sign of His death, or they’ve fled to other neighboring countries to avoid facing the same fate.

But not the eleven.  I can’t tell you why.  I’m not sure if they were so dumbfounded by recent events that they felt lost, confused, and without purpose.  I’m not sure if they felt that they somehow had to remain close to Christ, even though they thought He was dead and gone.  Or maybe God just did His thing and persuaded them to stick around.

However it was that it happened, on the third day, Christ rose from the dead.  And where did He go?  He appeared in that home, despite the locked doors.  He greeted them, He ate with them.  And before He departed, He left them with this message:  “And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you.  But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” – Luke 24:49

That’s just peachy.  Remain in Jerusalem?  Remain in the city where everyone wants us dead, crucified just like You were?  Here we are, hiding in fear of the Jews, and you want us to stay?

And then we come to our text from last week, from the ascension.  Just before departing from them again, Jesus says to them: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  -Acts 1:8

Now that’s a mission statement.  You’re going to start right here in Jerusalem, with the very Jews that you fear.  And then you’ll work your way outward to the surrounding communities and you’ll keep going until the whole earth has heard My good news.

Shortly thereafter, they cast lots and replaced Judas among the disciples with Matthias, so they numbered twelve again.  And then we come to our text, we arrive at the celebration of Pentecost, which was an Old Testament holiday known as the Feast of Weeks.  This feast, celebrated fifty days after the Passover, was originally a harvest festival, but became a celebration of God giving the law to Moses on Mount Sinai.

And so here we are, at Pentecost, and we find the disciples together again, in a house, by themselves.  Sound familiar?  But then we get a miracle, the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, just as Christ had promised.

A mighty wind filled the house, and tongues of fire came to rest upon their heads.  That’s a hard sight to imagine isn’t it?  And even though this connects to John the Baptist saying that “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Matthew 3:11), that wasn’t even the best part.

“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”  This is one of the spots that this miracle is downplayed today.  There are some who simply discredit it, but there are others, like the Pentecostal church, who connect this to the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues.

But this isn’t that.  Speaking in tongues is a true gift of the Holy Spirit, you’ll find it in the New Testament, but it required another gift from another person, the interpretation of tongues.  If that gift was missing, then your gift of speaking was worthless, because no one could understand you.

But this isn’t that.  We have at least fifteen different nationalities represented among the group.  Bear in mind, this is a major Jewish holiday, just like the Passover, and so surrounding Jews flocked to Jerusalem.  And they’re here, and they all hear.  Each of them hears the disciples speaking in their own native tongue.  This isn’t speaking in tongues.  Nor can we can’t simply downplay this by saying the disciples each knew another language.

This is a miracle.  The Spirit has enabled these men to speak a universal tongue, to speak in a way that each person hears and understands in their own language.  No such event has happened before or since.  This is truly a unique miracle in the history of the church.

And while many were amazed, while many marveled at this miracle, others still sat there and said, “they are filled with new wine.”  That’s probably the dumbest excuse they could’ve come up with.  Let’s discredit them by saying they’re a bunch of drunkards.  But how many people do you know that when they get drunk actually start making perfect sense?

And so Peter takes advantage, he starts to speak for the group, ensuring them they aren’t drunk since it’s only nine o’clock in the morning.  And he begins with the Old Testament, he shares with them from the prophet Joel and then going beyond our text for today and into next week, he tells them about Jesus.  He tells them of Christ and what He has done for them by dying and rising again.  And he concludes by saying that “the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.” (Acts 2:39)  And Luke tells us that about three thousand were baptized that day.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, Pentecost marks the day when the Christian church began.  And I want you to look back on this day, to reflect on this day and take heart, be confident because of it.

So often, fear overcomes us, too.  Those disciples who had locked themselves in a house because they were afraid, those disciples were the founding fathers of the church.  We’re talking about the early church leaders.  They, too, had moments of being overwhelmed with fear.  And yet Christ comes, the Spirit comes, and they grant us comfort.

They feared persecution.  Yet, when they overcame that fear in Christ and stepped outside, miracles started happening in their very midst.  The gospel was preached and the church flourished.  It’s ironic, Satan actually uses our feeling of comfort, of being comfortable, to hinder sharing the good news.  And when that comfort’s removed, when the church realizes that all she actually has is the good news of a Savior, and believe me that’s enough, she wants to share it.

So even in the midst of one of the greatest miracles in church history performed by the apostles themselves, there was opposition, foolish as it was.  So we can only expect that when we go out, when we share the good news of a Savior and His love with our neighbors, with our friends, with our coworkers, with people in Rochester, the Twin Cities and around the world, we can rest assured, we will meet opposition.

But we may also rest assured knowing that it is indeed God who does the work.  It is by your baptism that you can share God’s love with others.  And even then, it’s God working through you.  Because even this, one of the greatest miracles ever, was done by God.  The disciples didn’t have to be perfect.  They weren’t.  They were afraid.  And yet it was God who gave them courage.  It was God who gave them strength.  It was God who gave them the gift of speech and told them what to say.

Take heart, brothers and sisters in Christ.  This is a day we celebrate.  It is the Feast of Weeks, a harvest festival and the celebration of the giving of the law.  It is the very beginning of the Christian Church.  But it’s also great comfort and reassurance to us, that God is indeed at work among us.  That His gifts, His love, His sacrifice, His forgiveness, and His salvation are overflowing all around us.

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