Summary: What does it mean to be on fire for Jesus?
“Burn, Baby, Burn”
If I, with my limited perspective, had written the script for Jesus’ life, a lot of things would have been different. For example, the post-resurrection events – in my scenario Jesus would have spent less time appearing to his disciples and more appearing to those who had condemned him to death. Can’t you see Him standing once again before Pilate and Herod? Confronting the Sanhedrin? Lecturing the angry mob? I even have two versions written – in one, many of these people plead for forgiveness, repent of their wrongs, and come to believe in Jesus as the Son of God, and there is great rejoicing. In the other version, they cower in utter fear, knowing they are doomed to eternal damnation and there is great agony and sorrow – for indeed, they had tried to kill the Son of God. In either case, what better way to let the world know about Jesus the Lord? It would certainly make for some exciting drama. But, fortunately, I did not write the script; God did. So Jesus did not appear to his enemies. God had another plan for letting the world know about Jesus – Jesus turned his ministry over to the Holy Spirit. He would let His Spirit convince the world that He is Lord. More pointedly, He would let His Spirit, through us, convince the world that Jesus is Lord. That’s what this Pentecost Sunday is all about.
Pentecost was a very special day – because GOD SET UP THE DAY. Pentecost was one of the big three pilgrimage festivals along with Passover and the Feast of the Tabernacle. On these days every Jewish male was commanded to worship at the temple in Jerusalem. Pentecost was called the Festival of Weeks because it fell on the first day after the 7 weeks following the Passover celebration. It was also known as the Feast of Harvest, because it was right at the end of the barley harvest and the initial ripening of the wheat harvest. Eventually it became as well the time to celebrate the anniversary of the giving of the law at Mount Sinai.
So the stage was set for this day recorded in Acts 2. God’s people would understand the signs of wind, fire, and sound – their forefathers experienced that when Moses was on Sinai receiving the law. They would come to realize the Holy Spirit would bring them a new law by which to live. They would catch the vision that the harvest was ripe and ready to be harvested. Only God could, over the years, set up this day. To celebrate Pentecost is to acknowledge that God is in control, that He is working out His plan. In fact, God has set up today; even as we celebrate Pentecost God has prepared us for right now. We are part of His ongoing plan.
This morning I want to focus on just one of the symbols GOD PROVIDED FOR THE DAY to communicate His message. Verse 3: “They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.” Just what is the significance of the fire?
First, the fire symbolizes that THERE IS A POWER TO BELIEVE. Fire is the most striking symbol of God’s divine presence. In Exodus 3, God spoke to Moses from a burning bush. Throughout their journey in the wilderness the Israelites were guided and protected by a pillar of fire. When God appeared in the Tabernacle the temple was covered with a fiery cloud, called His Shekinah glory. At the giving of the 10 commandments, God appeared to Moses on the mountain in a constant fire. John the Baptist even said of Jesus, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” (Mt. 3:11)
So JESUS POINTED TO THE POWER. The disciples were constantly in awe of Jesus and the things He did – stilling the storms, raising the dead, healing the sick. But Jesus kept teaching them that it was not Him but the Father who was doing it all. John 14:10 – “…it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. “ John 5:19 – “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does…For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son give life to whom he is pleased to give it.” The Father spoke through Jesus, healed through Jesus, and worked His will through Jesus. That’s why Jesus, as He was preparing to ascend to heaven and leave the disciples here on earth, said (Acts 1:8): “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you…” That’s how they would fulfill the promise of Jesus that they would do even greater works then He had done – they would have the Father’s power! It would take more than enthusiasm and commitment to be a follower of Jesus – it would take divine power!