The first three chapters of Acts makes me laugh. Not in a “oh, this is so funny!” way, but in a “there’s so much going on, and things keep happening!” way. In just three chapters, there’s Jesus promising the coming of the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ ascension to heaven, Matthias replacing Judas as one of the apostles, Pentecost—when the apostles receive the Holy Spirit, Peter’s explanation to the crowd, the baptism of 3,000 converts, a description of the believers’ community, Peter healing a beggar, and Peter’s explanation of the healing. Whew! And things just pick up from there.
Luke, the writer of the Gospel of the same name, is also the author of Acts– and there is not much time for breathing from the end of the Gospel of Luke to the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles. It’s like Luke was on a role with inspiration from the Holy Spirit, and he just HAD to keep writing.
The first few chapters of Acts certainly support this renaming. The book starts with Jesus telling the disciples not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father has promised: the Holy Spirit (1:4-5). After Jesus’ ascension and even before Pentecost, God guides the choosing of Matthias (1:24-26). Right away, we see the apostle’s insistence that prayer and God’s actions be the basis for all they do.
And then Pentecost happens. The passage that’s read on every Pentecost Sunday, that we’ll read on May 27th this year. The disciples are gathered together. Suddenly, there’s a rush of violent wind. Tongues of fire appear over the disciples’ heads. They are filled with the Holy Spirit and the Spirit gives them the ability to speak in different languages. And some of the Jews that are gathered in Jerusalem for the festival of Pentecost crowd around, amazed that these disciples from Galilee are speaking in the different dialects and languages that the other Jews speak. And not just speaking, but telling about God and God’s powerful actions. Some of the crowd wonder what it all means, while others dismiss it all saying that the disciples are drunk. (2:1-13)
But Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, explains what has happened, using words from the Prophets—God has promised to pour out the Holy Spirit on all people, and that has happened. And Jesus, who was crucified and rose from the dead, is the Messiah, the one everyone has been waiting for. After Peter speaks, about 3,000 hearers are “cut to the heart” and become baptized, and then live in a community together in harmony. (2:14-47)
So, what does chapter 2 of Acts mean for us today?
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