Summary: Why Christianity spread.
Acts 2:1-13: Witnesses to the Power of God
Story: A man was arraigned for murder in Los Angeles about 70 years ago.
The case against him looked pretty good, but his lawyer thought of an ingenious ploy.
In his summing up speech, he said: “Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, you must find my client not guilty of murder if there is the slightest doubt in your minds that he is the murderer. And now I have one final witness. The true murderer is about to walk through the door.”
All eyes swung towards the door but no one came in.
“ You see” the lawyer continued: “there is doubt in your minds about my client’s guilt, otherwise you would not have looked towards the door.”
The jury retired to deliberate and came back after an hour with a “Guilty” verdict. The lawyer was beside himself.
Before the judge could pass sentence, he sprang up and said “But I proved beyond doubt - that you had a doubt about my client’s guilt.
A shrewd old man in the jury stood up and replied:
“As everyone looked towards the door, I watched your client’s eyes. He didn’t look towards the door because he knew no one was coming through. Why? Because he was the guilty one.”
Today is Pentecost Sunday - the Sunday when we remember how the Early Church were able to become EFFECTIVE WITNESSES to the life and resurrection of Jesus.
Our reading from Acts this morning recalls how the Power of the Holy Spirit fell on the 120 members of the Early Church - empowering them to go out and share their faith.
And as a result of that one sermon of Peter’s three thousand people became Christians. I wish I could preach like that!!
I think it is easy to make the mistake of thinking that this is just an interesting story in the history of the Christian church.
God’s Holy Spirit is still available to his church today in the same way – to enable us to share our Christian story with others.
Some of the fastest growing churches in the world have rediscovered the power of the Holy Spirit in their preaching of the Gospel today.
They have discovered dynamism, which is reminiscent of that first Pentecost.
Indeed in one church in Seoul, South Korea has ¾ of a million church turn up to church on Sunday (though not all at once!).
If the Power of the Holy Spirit had not fallen at Pentecost, the Christian faith would at best be a little sect of Judaism, which none of us would ever have heard about.
We are sitting here this morning because of the effective and faithful witness of the Early Church – which was only possible through the mighty power of God’s Holy Spirit.
When Jesus died on Good Friday almost two thousand years ago, conventional wisdom said that this was not a great way to start a world religion.
So how did an obscure carpenter from Nazareth, who
never wrote a book,
never held high office,
never led an army and
died an ignoble death on a Cross
become the man to have affected civilization more profoundly than any other?
I think there are two main reasons:
1.1 His Death and Resurrection
The first reason for the spread of Christianity lies in the fact that after Jesus died, He rose again from the dead – an event that we remember at Easter every year. Jesus said he would rise from the dead and indeed made it a test for the veracity of his teaching.
None of the other great religions make this claim about their founder.
Mohammed is dead, the Buddha dies, and Confucius is dead.
None of their followers claim to have seen them alive after death.
But St Paul tells us that at least 514 people saw Jesus after his Resurrection, including Paul himself.
The late Lord Darling, a judge in the English House of Lords once said that:
……there exists such overwhelming evidence, positive and negative, factual and circumstantial, that no intelligent jury in the world could fail to bring in a verdict that the resurrection story is true“.
1.2. The Power of the Holy Spirit
The second reason for the spread of Christianity is that the disciples shared their faith with others.
However, they would not have been able to do so, if Jesus had not given his disciples the Power of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost
Story: Look at the change in Peter after Pentecost.
Before that Pentecost experience, Peter was a wimp. Although he didn’t want to when challenged by a servant girl fo the High Priest he denied his Master – out of fear for his life
Luke in his Gospel put it like this: