Summary: Growing the Church
Story: There is an ancient legend about Jesus’ ascension into heaven.
He is met by the angel Gabriel who asks him,
"Now that your work is finished, what plans have you made to ensure that the truth that you brought to earth will spread throughout the world?"
Jesus answered, "I have called some fishermen and tax-collectors to walk along with me as I did my Father’s will."
"Yes, I know about them," said Gabriel, "but what other plans have you made? "
Jesus replied, "I taught Peter, James and John about the kingdom of God; I taught Thomas about faith; and all of them were with me as I healed and preached to the multitudes."
Gabriel replied. "But you know how unreliable that lot was. Surely you must have other plans to make sure your work was not in vain."
Jesus quietly replied to Gabriel "I have no other plans. I am depending on them!! "
And the Book of Acts records just how the early Church spread the Gospel throughout the known world - so much so that within 300 years they had turned the world upside down
The Book of Acts is one of the most exciting stories in the Bible.
It tells of how the Church grew from a band of dis-spirited men and women at the time of Jesus’ Crucifixion to a powerful body that reached Rome itself.
Jesus gave his Church a simple yet impossible task – and as a result of their obedience to it - we are here today.
In Mt. 28:19 and 20 just before he left this earth, he told them
“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations baptising them in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you till the end of the age”
When the first disciples first heard this – it must have been very daunting.
Yet Jesus gave them very clear instructions how they were to go about it. He didn’t allow them to just go off and do – he told them to wait
In Acts 1:8 Jesus said
But you shall receive Power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be my witnessses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1 v.8)
In other words, Jesus himself would enable them to fulfill the Great Commission – how by giving them the Power of the Holy Spirit
You might be wondering – how on earth this spectacular Event in Acts 2 at Pentecost could have given birth to the Church?
So what was so special about Pentecost
It might help to start with considering what the Festival of PENTECOST was.
Pentecost was the second major festival of the Jewish year – after Passover.
The name was derived from the Greek Pentecostos meaning 50 and was fifty days after the Passover.
It was the time of offering the first fruits of the Wheat Harvest to God.
Harvest Festival in our parlance today
And it was also the time when the Jews celebrated the giving of the Law to Moses at Mount Sinai.
And as an aside - you can read about that in Ex 19 and 20 and you will see that when God appeared - He did so in fire – Ex 19:18 – a prefiguring in the Old Testament of the “tongues of fire” that came on the disciples in Acts 2 at Pentecost
And at Pentecost in Acts 2 we see two things happening that reflect the nature of the Feast of Pentecost –
The symbolism of the Harvest and
The symbolism of the Law Giving
1. If we consider the first aspect of Pentecost – that of the harvest we see a wonderful harvest of souls
When the power of the Holy Spirit came down on the disciples – there was a revival
As St John Chrys- os- tom put it:
“the time was come to put in the sickle of the word; for here as the sickle, keen edged came the Spirit down.
As the Jews in Jerusalem at Pentecost remembered the Harvest, so God gave to his church a harvest of souls that day - 3000 men not counting the women and children as well.
People were changed at Pentecost and it was the beginning of the world wide mission of the Church.
The disciples shared the good news of those around them – and a small revival broke out.
And interestingly with such a mix of people – in language that they could understand:
Parthians, Medes and Elamites.
Those living in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia.
Those from Pontus, Asia, Phrygia and Pamphilia.
Others from Egypt and parts of Libya near Cyrene and still others from Rome as well as Cretans and Arabs(Acts 2:9-12)