You knew we’d get there eventually. Day 29 on our journey through the Spirit in the Bible and, yes, we’ve finally got to the passage that you might have thought we’d cover on Day 1: Pentecost, the pouring out of the Spirit in a new and glorious way: on all people, for all time.
There’s so much we could say about this wonderful passage. How the manifest presence of God came to Jesus’ friends in wind and fire. How it ignited mission, and fulfilled what we looked at yesterday, as the gospel could now reach ‘to the ends of the earth’. How it came at just the right moment, when multitudes of nations were gathered and could take this good news back to their homes and neighbourhoods. How it was mistaken for drunken behaviour and ridiculed, as sadly it sometimes still is today. How it represented a ‘new law’ for God’s people, which is what Pentecost had traditionally celebrated. How it brought Joel’s famous prophecy (day 17) to life….
And we can celebrate all of those things. But today, I feel drawn to sharing what it meant for the disciples, and how that might speak to us. I’ve been reminded recently of something profound written about St. Peter by the great Christian writer, G.K. Chesterton (and please forgive the non-inclusive language, Chesterton was of his time):
“When Christ at a symbolic moment was establishing His great society, He chose for its cornerstone neither the brilliant Paul nor the mystic John, but a shuffler, a snob, a coward – in a word, a man. And upon this rock He has built His Church, and the gates of Hell have not prevailed against it. All the empires and the kingdoms have failed, because of this inherent and continual weakness, that they were founded by strong men and upon strong men. But this one thing, the historic Christian Church, was founded on a weak man, and for that reason it is indestructible. For no chain is stronger than its weakest link.”
At the heart of our story today is Peter, who stands up before the crowds as a person transformed. Chesterton is right to note that Peter is essentially someone like us, and that this is why he proved such a great choice to lead in the upside-down kingdom of Jesus.
But this Peter has a new power inside him. He is no longer operating solely out of his human weakness, but in the power of Christ, which fills and equips Peter by His Spirit. Which means we can now look at Chesterton’s insight two ways: not just celebrating that God uses weak people (like us) to achieve His purposes. But also, since Christ indwells every Christian, then in fact every ‘weakest link’ is now far stronger than we could ever dare to imagine. Not our strength, but Jesus’.
Pentecost may have been a unique occasion, an unparalleled experience. But it speaks to a deeper truth for each of us: that the Spirit enables us to do things we could never have imagined possible. The Spirit is still enabling us today. What does – or might – that beautiful truth look like for you?