There were mad men in Jerusalem
At least that was the rumor flying about. It started with Angus, the goldsmith, who was on his way to the temple for the feast of Shavuot, the second of the three major festivals commanded by God to the Jews. It takes place seven Sabbaths after the feast of Passover, just at the onset of the harvest season.
It was around nine am in the morning and the priest was just about finishing with the sacrifices and then it would be time to bless the worshippers following the sprinkling of the blood of atonement.
He had heard a noise coming from the direction of the upper room. He had always wondered about the occupants of the house. From the little information he had heard, they were the disciples of Jesus, the Nazarene, who had been killed at the feast of Passover by the romans. There had been rumors that he had risen from the dead but no one has seen Him except his disciples, the same people who were said to have stolen his body from the tomb just to substantiate their claims.
He hesitated a bit and considered making it to the temple on time for the blessing but curiosity won and he decided to see what was happening. As he walked closer, the noise grew louder. He tried to decipher the words but he couldn’t.
Something strange happened in the upper room that early morning on the feast of Shavuot. The disciples of Jesus were gathered in the upper room, about one hundred and twenty of them cramped together in the little outbuilding located on the mount of Zion, outside the walls of Jerusalem on the north.
They had gathered together for prayers and fellowship, afraid to go to the temple to celebrate the feast according to the demands of the law. They were afraid of the rulers of the Jews. The prayers were being led by Peter.
It was Peter that saw it first and his surprised gasp drew the attention of the others to it. Peter had suddenly felt the hairs of his skin rise up and a strange feeling that someone was whispering in his ears. Then he felt a gentle breeze waft into the room and opened his eyes to see if any of the windows were opened although he was sure nobody had done such.
That was when he saw it. A pillar of fire was hanging from the roof and he thought he saw the face of the Master smiling from the midst of the fire.
Suddenly, the room was filled with a loud noise akin to the sound of a whirlwind or a tempestuous storm at sea, mighty and strong. Then the fire hanging on the roof began to break into smaller ones and take the shape of tongues and sit on the heads of the disciples. Peter watched with mouth agape as one of the cloven tongues of fire wafted towards him and rested on his head. He had expected to be burned but instead he felt like he had been immersed in a warm liquid and the feeling of warmth spread from his head down to his feet. It was soothing and brought about a feeling of immense peace and joy. It felt like a bubbling well inside of him and threatening to overflow.
He opened his mouth and let out a whoop.
“Laudate Dominum, qui ejus hodie impleta promissa” Praise the Lord, who has this day, fulfilled his promise to his servants. He was befuddled, as he could not make out a word of what he has just said. He opened his mouth again and still found out that he was speaking in an unknown language.
Then he noticed that others were speaking in languages he couldn’t understand. It was exciting, the mighty works of God.
If you love me, obey me; and I will ask the Father and he will give you another Comforter, and he will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit who leads into all truth. The world at large cannot receive him, for it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you do, for he lives with you now and someday shall be in you.
He remembered the words of the Master as he spoke to them just before He departed for Jerusalem where he was crucified. It was happening. The Comforter had come!
And now I will send the Holy Spirit upon you, just as my Father promised. Don’t begin telling others yet—stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven
The day had come, he thought as he raised his voice and allowed the warmth engulf him and prayed in a language that was foreign but felt all familiar like he had been speaking it all his life.
There was a crowd outside the upper room. The news of the mad men had spread and worshippers from all parts of the world who had come to observe the feast had gathered to see the men that had been driven mad by sorrows.
They were all Jews, devout men and proselytes from all walks of life and they marveled at what they saw.
A pudgy looking man, with dark brown skin, shouted from the far back “I can hear what they are saying!”
All eyes were turned at him and he quickly made his way to the front and listened some more. “I can hear them, not all but one voice. He is speaking in Arabic, and saying ‘Oh God, creator of the heavens and earth, the only true God, who sent His only begotten Son to the earth to save us from our sins and who has given us His Holy Spirit this day to guide our way back to Him and to show the world the light of His salvation, that men should not perish but have everlasting life’-
He was cut short by another. “I can hear another speaking in Aramaic” the other man shouted excitedly. He was tall and wiry, from the region of Mesopotamia.
Several people began to talk at once as each began to make out the words of the men in their own language, praising God and asking that His kingdom come and rule on earth.
“Are these men not from Galilee?’’ someone asked from among the crowd. It was Angus, the goldsmith “How then are they able to speak in different languages, seeing they are unlearned from what we know about them? Are they not just fishermen and carpenters?’’
“This is the work of God!” it was the pudgy Arab
“these men are drunk and speaking gibberish” replied another as he spat on the floor and turned away muttering under his breath about how people could be so gullible to believe that a bunch of unlearned men could suddenly develop the ability to speak in foreign tongues.
“They are not speaking gibberish!” the Arabian fired back. “Every man here is from a different part of the world and they have heard this men speak fluently in their native tongue. This is not an ordinary event, it is a sign from God”
A debate broke out among the crowd and several people huddled in groups and talked animatedly.
From where he knelt in the upper room, Peter could hear the debates going on amongst the men and his heart was heavy within Him. How could the Jews be so ignorant of the workings of God and not be able to identify the supernatural event staring them in the face? He was outraged that they were accusing them of being drunk!
The time is now
It was a whisper but he recognized the voice. It was that of the Master.
When the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will receive power to testify about me with great effect, to the people in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth, about my death and resurrection.
The very last words of Jesus as He ascended up to heaven washed over him and he knew that this was the time that the Master had been talking about. It was now time to witness about the life and death of the Lord Jesus Christ and to tell the world of His mission to earth.
He rose up and signaled to the other apostles who followed him to the door of the upper room
The time had come
A hush fell on the crowd as they sighted one of the men come out of the upper room, and when they saw that he was speaking, a deathly silence followed. Everybody was interested in what he had to say.
“Men of Jerusalem and all you visitors” His voice bellowed, there was a spark in his eyes and there was a zing of electricity in the air as his voice cut through the silence “these men you see here are not drunk as some of you insinuate. It is much too early for that! What you see here is what God had foretold hundreds of years ago through the prophet Joel”
There was an air of authority around him as he recited the words of Joel about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the latter days and taking them through the scriptures, he preached to them about Christ. Not one soul moved while he spoke, they were held spellbound and hung on his every word.
“Repent and be baptized for the remission of your sins, save yourself from this unwholesome generation!” he concluded. His eyes moved across the crowd and he stared them in the eye, urging them to make a decision.
Peter’s eyes rested on the pudgy Arab and held them for what seemed like eternity. The Arab blinked and looked away, staring at his dusty shoes. What he had seen in Peter’s eyes had unsettled him. He thought about his life and how he had always wanted to serve the Lord and had kept all the laws and commandments and yet he had not been able to silence the yearning of his heart. Day after day he had become accustomed to the stirring of his heart for something deeper. There was a constant longing and thirst that he couldn’t quench. Over the past five years he had immersed himself deeply in Judaism and could recite the Torah by heart but even in all these he hadn’t been able to find that peace that he longed for.
In those few seconds that he had stared into Peter’s eyes, he had seen that quiet contentment that he had sought for and that was elusive. He had seen peace and tranquil and the warmth of those hazel eyes had drawn at his heart strings. His heart beat picked up beat and his palms became sweaty. His heart darted right and left to see if anybody was moving. There was no one. He hesitated for a bit.
What is wrong with you? His mind screamed. You can’t possibly believe what this man is saying now, can you? You are a devout Jew and you obey the law and prophets, you do not need any forgiveness.
Even as these thoughts ran wild and cascaded through his mind, he knew they were not true. He had never truly felt free in all his life and he had begun to give up on religion. It had made his burden worse and heavier. There was no harm in trying. He made up his mind.
He stepped out and walked towards the front where the apostles stood. With each step he took, he felt lighter, like load after load were being lifted from off his shoulders. When he got to where Peter was standing, he knelt down and looked up at him “I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God”
Peter smiled down at him and placed a hand on his shoulder.
“Welcome home” he said softly
Several more people came forward to renounce their sins and confess Jesus as their Savior and were baptized the same day. When the apostles returned to the upper room around midnight, they had counted about three thousand new converts.
They were excited and they couldn’t stop talking about the great works of God. While they talked, Peter sat down in a corner and mulled over the day’s event. He could not believe that he had preached a sermon in front of the whole inhabitants of Jerusalem and visitors from all parts of the world and his mind reeled. He knew he could not have been able to do it without the power of the Holy Spirit.
For the first time, he understood the words of Jesus at the garden of gethsemane
Without me, you can do nothing
He had felt a current of electricity pulsing through him as he witnessed about Jesus and he had had a certain form of boldness not like any he had experienced before. There was an air of authority about him much like there had been around the Master whenever he preached or healed.
The last thought as he drifted off to sleep that night was “Thank you Holy Spirit”
And thus entered the era of the Holy Spirit……
images courtesy http://www.flickr.com
This is a work of fiction based on the biblical account of the day of Pentecost when the disciples were baptized with the Holy Spirit. Detailed account can be found in Acts of the Apostles chapter 2.
Other scriptures quoted in this work are John 14:16; Acts 1:8; Luke 24:49 from The Living Bible version
Feast of Shavuot is also known as the Feast of weeks or Feast of Pentecost.
This work is dedicated to Laura, a ‘secret disciple’ and one in whom I am well pleased.