Acts 2:42-47 Common English Bible (CEB)
Community of believers
42 The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers. 43 A sense of awe came over everyone. God performed many wonders and signs through the apostles. 44 All the believers were united and shared everything. 45 They would sell pieces of property and possessions and distribute the proceeds to everyone who needed them. 46 Every day, they met together in the temple and ate in their homes. They shared food with gladness and simplicity. 47 They praised God and demonstrated God’s goodness to everyone. The Lord added daily to the community those who were being saved.
Matthew 28:16-20 Common English Bible (CEB)
Commissioning of the disciples
16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted. 18 Jesus came near and spoke to them, “I’ve received all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.”
When I was in college, I went on a Young Life Retreat. Young Life was a Christian group I first encountered in High School. It was a very inspirational group. This retreat was in Monte Vista, CO area at a secluded camp. I left the event with such spiritual enthusiasm I could hardly contain myself. In the afterglow of the retreat I decided to copy the New Testament in my own hand! It felt like an investment in my faith. About 6 chapters in I seemed to lose my enthusiasm. I quit. Maybe it was not a worthwhile endeavor but illustrates waning enthusiasm.
The setting of our passage this morning is this: The Pentecost experience, recorded in Acts 2:1-4, has happened. As the text says, “All were surprised and bewildered.” The experience had people amazed. After all, hearing a group speak, and a diverse group each hearing the message in their own language was amazing! Then Peter addresses the crowd gathered, and his sermon opens to them the life and work of Jesus Christ. Finally, the simple report is made, “Those who accepted Peter’s message were baptized. God brought about three thousand people to the community on that day.” (Acts 2:41). The disciples had the experience, witnessed the impact, and were enthusiastic about what was next. That brings us to this morning’s passage, verses 42-47. There was an immediate embodiment of the experience in what the community did. Immediately following our passage, after healing a crippled man, Peter was in the Temple preaching – he was out to do the work. There was an immediate embodiment of the Pentecost enthusiasm.
Any story, whether fictional or historical, is told with certain elements in mind. There will be a protagonist, a principle antagonist, and then the situation, complete with conflicts and resolution. Frequently Acts is referred to as “The Acts of the Apostles”. That presumes that the Apostles are the protagonist. Really they are only supporting characters. Peter, Stephen, Barnabas, Paul … they are only vessels for the story. Truly the Holy Spirit is the protagonist. It is the Holy Spirit enlivening and driving the young church.
The Holy Spirit is working powerfully in the disciples and everyone who is touched by the message of the Gospel. What is so important about that work is that people are immediately different. They begin to live their lives in a different way.
So, what is this “embodiment of Pentecost enthusiasm?” What is this different way of life? In our passage it is four-fold. Hear once again 2:42. “The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers.” One short verse describes the scope of the changes.
For me, the very next question becomes “To what end?” Isn’t salvation just a personal transformation? In the words of Max Lucado, “It’s not about me!” Yes, salvation comes to an individual, but it is to be lived out through action. Jesus makes that abundantly clear in Matthew 28:16-20 – the Great Commission. Remember that this text is not just a reporting of what Jesus said to the disciples way back then. It is a clarion call to each of us to spread the news.
How on earth do we maintain the effort? Pentecost enthusiasm stays alive due to Holy Spirit. Our connection with God through the Holy Spirit needs to be a priority for us. I invite us to hear personally and powerfully what Jesus says at the conclusion of the great commission. “Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.” Every day! All the way. The protagonist of our story needs to be God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – not us. What unfolds in our lives needs to be the story of God and his influence on us. What happens after the power of Pentecost? The movement of the church, in power, begins to transform the world, one person (or 3,000!) at a time. Amen!
Pastor Paul Grossman