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  • Writer's pictureRev. Gerald (Jerry) Reiter, Emeritus

Three Kinds Of People

Pentecost


When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.


Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”


Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”


Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:


“‘In the last days, God says,

    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.

Your sons and daughters will prophesy,

    your young men will see visions,

    your old men will dream dreams.

Even on my servants, both men and women,

    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,

    and they will prophesy.

I will show wonders in the heavens above

    and signs on the earth below,

    blood and fire and billows of smoke.

The sun will be turned to darkness

    and the moon to blood

    before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.

And everyone who calls

    on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

 

“Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. David said about him:


“‘I saw the Lord always before me.

    Because he is at my right hand,

    I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;

    my body also will rest in hope,,

because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,

    you will not let your holy one see decay.

You have made known to me the paths of life;

    you will fill me with joy in your presence.’


“Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,


“‘The Lord said to my Lord:

    “Sit at my right hand

until I make your enemies

    a footstool for your feet.”’


“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

Acts 2:1-36

 

A pastor was teaching a class about the festivals and seasons of the Christian church year. Coming to the discussion of Pentecost, he asked if anyone knew what the celebration of Pentecost was all about. No one knew, so he proceeded to inform them that Pentecost was when the church was gathered together, and all of a sudden a sound like a violent wind filled the place, and what looked like tongues of fire landed on them, and they all began to speak in all kinds of different languages. The class listened in amazement, and one of them said, “My goodness, pastor, we must have been absent that Sunday!” 

 

Well, in case you were absent that Sunday, here’s how the story goes: Jesus’ disciples were gathered together in one place when the Holy Spirit came upon them and they began to speak in foreign languages. And a great crowd gathered to hear what was going on. The crowd was made up of people from all over the known world who had come to Jerusalem for the celebration of the Jewish festival of Pentecost. The people in the crowd were amazed to hear these Christians speaking in languages that they could understand.

 

Then Peter preached a great sermon in which he proclaimed Christ’s coming into the world, His death on a cross, and His resurrection from the dead. And about 3,000 were added to the Church that day.

 

That, in a nutshell, is what happened on that day that we celebrate today. But not everybody who heard the Apostles’ testimony that day were touched by it. In the crowd there were at least three kinds of people…

 

Some were just spectators. We read that 3,000 people were added to the Church. There was probably twice that number that paused for a few minutes and then moved on. They were attracted by the spectacle, but they weren’t moved by the Holy Spirit. Some people are like that – just not ready to take the plunge.

 

Some people just aren’t ready to move into action. Actually, the majority of people are in this category. That’s why change – even positive change – is so difficult. Whether it’s in society or in the Church. Most people don’t want to change. Most people are comfortable just as they are. They’d rather stick with what they know – even if they’re not all that happy – than take a risk with a change.

 

In the eyes of some of the spectators at that Pentecost celebration, these disciples were a bunch of wild-eyed extremists. They were letting things get out of hand. Fanatics – that’s what they were. If you look at the root of the word “fanatic” you see that it comes from the Latin word “fanum”, which means “temple.” It referred to someone so devoted to their particular God that they practically lived in the temple. Those people were called “fanatics” – temple dwellers. There aren’t many people who want to be thought of as fanatics. Some people shy away from making a commitment to Christ and His Church for just this reason. Church is okay – but they don’t want to live there.

 

But we aren’t supposed to live in the church, anyway. Jesus loved the synagogue, but He didn’t live there. He lived out in the world, where the people were. He’s not asking us to become fanatics, but He’s sure asking us to be a lot more than just spectators! And that was one group that was there at Pentecost – the spectators.

 

Then there were the scoffers. These were people who weren’t afraid to get involved – they just jumped in on the wrong side. These were the ones that ridiculed the disciples and said they were drunk. Peter pointed out that it was too early in the day for them to be drunk. He said this was the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy that God’s Spirit would be poured out. I don’t know if Peter made any headway with these people or not. There are always people who mock others’ faith – try to break believers through ridicule. And God knows we give them plenty of ammunition. And I believe that most of the ammunition we give them to use against us, are the things we’re doing or saying that are right!

 

If we say that we don’t believe that we evolved by chance out of some primordial ooze, but that God created us, and all there is, we’re called “Biblical literalists.”

 

If we believe Jesus when He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me,” and so Jesus is the only way of salvation, we’re told we’re “narrow-minded.”

 

If we believe that physical relations are proper only within the covenant of marriage, we’re called “unrealistic moralists.”

 

If we believe that we’re to love the sinner but hate the sin – and that homosexual acts are sin – we’re called “hateful homophobes.”

 

If we believe in the sanctity of human life rather than snuffing it out at will, we’re called “radical Christians” or “Christian extremists.”

 

But we shouldn’t be discouraged by scoffers. We should pray for them, realizing that there will always be spectators, and there will always be scoffers.

 

Fortunately there was also a third group of people at that Pentecost Day. There were those who responded to the disciples’ testimony and committed themselves to a life of faith. 3,000 of them received Jesus’ offer of salvation and eternal life. It was a move that would estrange many of them from their families and friends, and eventually cost many of them their lives.

 

But that’s what commitment is all about – giving our lives to Jesus Christ. After all, He made the supreme commitment when He literally gave His life for us. He took the punishment we deserve when He took our sins upon Himself, literally going to Hell as God the Father forsook Him, hanging there on the cross.

 

And because of absolutely nothing we have done, or can do, to make ourselves right with God, but because of His love and sacrifice for us, we have eternal life with Him. We get to spend eternity – forever! – in Heaven instead of in Hell! That’s a gift of infinite worth!

 

So how do we respond? How do you respond? By worshipping our Lord as faithfully and as regularly as possible? By being faithful in studying His Word and meditating on it? By talking to Him in prayer frequently? By returning to Him the first-fruits of the monetary blessings He gives to you? By giving of your time and talents to His Church? By witnessing to others of the gift and blessings you’ve received from Him? You do all these things, and more – if you’re one of those who have committed their lives to Jesus Christ.

 

Or are you among the spectators? Some members of churches are! They go to church once in a while, mostly on special occasions. They’re good people, but they’ve never made a real commitment to Christ and His work. They must not understand what Jesus did for them.

 

Scoffers include those who tend to criticize the people who are doing their best to serve Christ.

 

Where are you today? To which group do you belong? It’s a very important question. And we all need to answer it! If we’re not in the group of committed, may God help us to get into it!

 

Amen

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