This Sunday, Lutheran churches (as well as other churches) will celebrate Pentecost Sunday. It is a day where the church celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit to the Jewish people in the beginning of Acts. It is a familiar passage in the beginning of Acts, but most people do not remember that this is not the only Pentecost that happens in Acts.
Before the Ascension, Jesus’ gives the disciples the charge to go into the world to baptize, teach, and preach from Judea to Jerusalem to the ends of the Earth. The book of Acts moves in the same exact sense, hence multiple Pentecost happenings. The first was for the Jewish people and in Acts 10, we get the Pentecost for the Gentiles with the narrative of Peter and Cornelius.
The fact that Gentiles were to be included into this new church was mind blowing to Peter, so much so that in the vision he receives from God, he argues against what he is to do. Read that again. Peter ARGUES WITH GOD! He doesn’t do this just once and done, but rather 3 times, he argues about what God is commanding him to do. You would think after the last three time questioning, Peter would have learned his lesson. But, Peter has some gusto, you gotta give him that.
Peter learns about Cornelius having a similar vision as he has had and as Peter is teaching about Christ, the Holy Spirit descends choosing Cornelius and his family and household as fellow Christians. What is interesting to note in this passage is that there is no repentance of sin or anything like that in this passage (nor the Eunich passage for that matter), so if you get someone saying you MUST have repentance before Baptism, just show them the Cornelius passage and remind them the Holy Spirit chooses, not man.
Thinking everyone will be excited by the news, Peter heads back to share, but is immediately criticized. Yes, hear that again. Instead of being happy that the church has now reached a whole new population, the Jewish followers are angry at Peter that the Spirit would let them in. How many times as a church do we act more like the ones complaining rather than the ones who rejoice when the Holy Spirit chooses new people to belong to the people of God?
The church continues to spread in spite of the persecution that the church faces. Peter is arrested and then comes one of the funnier passages in Acts in my opinion.
As the church prays for Peter’s release, their prayers are answered with an angel. Peter is released from jail and is on the lamb. He runs to Mark’s mother’s house (the introduction of Mark BTW) and Rhoda is so glad to see Peter that she leaves Peter outside of the gates while those on the inside argue whether or not a miracle has occurred. I always imagine the scene with Peter sneaking through the shadows, ducking in and out of alleys, knocking on the gate, feeling relief, and then realizes he has just been left outside! “Uh guys, this isn’t funny. Romans are trying to KILL me. How about you open the door, NOW.” Funny stuff.
Now comes a passage that people may look over, but Luke is really sticking it to Herod. Luke is known for recording speeches. Acts is full of speeches. Yet, when Herod speaks, nothing. Luke doesn’t even bother to record his words. He is supposed to be the head honcho big time man, but Luke leaves him no honor in his death. Luke chooses to say Herod speak and dies and is eaten by worms. Awesome! No love for Herod because he was a pretender to God and was not God.
As I read these passages, questions that come to mind are:
1. How often does the church argue over miracles rather than just rejoicing in them?
2. Do we see that the Holy Spirit chooses the people of God or do we still think we have a hand in that choice?
3. Are you still surprised by all that God does?