Stephen, Peter and the other disciples were following Jesus' instructions in going out to preach and heal. But it was not only after Jesus' death and resurrection, and the empowerment of Pentecost, that the disciples began to go out to fulfill the gospel command.
They got some practice while Jesus was alive. In Luke 10 Jesus sent out 72 of his followers to preach and to heal. (Perhaps Stephen had been one of the 72.) He sent them out two by two as his advance men to prepare the people where he would be going. You could say they went into the towns to stir up interest and get the people excited about Jesus' arrival. Jesus authorized them to do this. The disciples were operating under his authority. And in his name great things happened: not only were people healed but even the demons submitted to the name of Jesus.
What is the difference between the 72 who were sent out while Jesus was alive and the many disciples who went out after his death and resurrection? Jesus had told them to wait until they were baptized with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5). They received the power of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and were authorized and empowered to pass that on to all who would come to believe. They are not acting solely under the deputed authority of Jesus, who was acting on the authority of his Father (John 5:19-23). The entire Trinity is now backing them up.
For reflection: If the Trinity has my back, what can I do to preach, to heal, to defeat demons, to bring the kingdom of God on earth?
Let us pray. Father, thank you for creating me in your image and likeness. Thank you for adopting me into your family through baptism. Thank you for saving me through Jesus' death on the cross and authorizing me to do your work with the power of the Holy Spirit. May I always be a good ambassador for you.
Yesterday at Church we sang the song in the YouTube feature below. It summarizes much of what we have been considering and praying about for the last month - the disciples earliest attempts to live out the commands of Jesus after they were empowered at the Ascension and Pentecost. For a Scripture to meditate on with it, I suggest Luke 4:18-19
There are several versions of this song on YouTube. I liked the pictures with this one the best.
Song and lyrics of 'The Summons', or 'Will you come and follow Me'. Words, John L. Bell & Graham Maule, copyright (c) 1987 WGRG, Iona Community, Glasgow G2 3DH, Scotland. Website:
"What must we do?" This was the question asked by those who heard Peter preach on the feast of Pentecost. His answer? "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). Peter knew immediately that what Jesus had given them was for everyone. "The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off - for all whom the Lord our God will call" (2:39).
The prescription seems simple enough: repent, be baptized in the name of Jesus to have your sins forgiven, receive the Holy Spirit. Repent - turn away from sin. Be baptized - turn toward Jesus. In return receive a part of God himself. Not a bad exchange: give up your sin and get a share of the Divinity. The reward that God promises us for giving up our sins is so tremendous, so mind-boggling, how can we resist, how can we hesitate? What a deal God offers us!
For reflection: What sins do I need to give up?
Let us pray. Jesus, I want to give you my sins. I give you . . . . I'm sorry for hanging on to these sins for so long. They hurt you and others. Thank you for taking them from me and forgiving me.
I ask now for the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Righteousness, the Spirit of Healing, the Spirit of Comfort. Come, Holy Spirit.
On fire with the Holy Spirit, on the day of Pentecost, Peter begins to preach to the multitude of Jews who have gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Weeks. Finally all doubt seems to be gone from the disciples about the meaning of Jesus' life, death and resurrection, and what they are now supposed to do about it. Peter, the fisherman, the guy who constantly puts his foot in his mouth, begins to preach (Acts 2:1-41).
These "God-fearing Jews" (verse 5) who were gathered in Jerusalem were from many nations (Egypt, Libya and Italy among others). The disciples baptized about 3000 of them that day (verse 41). When they returned home, no doubt they told their family and friends what had happened in Jerusalem. And so the news that the long-promised Jewish Messiah had finally come spread quickly. What joy there must have been. Was there dancing in the streets? Were celebrations held? Feasting and drinking and toasting?
For reflection: Many Christians experience great joy when they first come to know Jesus, but after a while it fades. Do I still have my first joy? If not, what is keeping me from it?
Let us pray. "Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the people of Zion be glad in their King. Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with tambourine and harp. For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation. Let the saints rejoice in this honor and sing for joy on their beds." (Psalm 149:2-5)
What are we to make of the image of fire in Luke's account of the coming of the Holy Spirit? Wind and fire appear together frequently in the Jewish tradition to signify an appearance of God. In Exodus 19:14-19 Moses and the people experience thunder and lightening, a thick cloud, a trumpet blast, billowing smoke and fire. The whole mountain trembled. Of course, we have the pillar of fire by night and cloud by day to lead the Hebrew people in the desert. In Psalm 50:3, God "comes and will not be silent; a fire devours before him, and around him a tempest rages." Speaking of the last judgment, Isaiah (66:15) proclaims, "See, the Lord is coming with fire, and his chariots are like a whirlwind; he will bring down his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire." (See also Isaiah 4:4, 2 Samuel 22:16 and Jeremiah 30:23.) In these images the fire is the purifying fire of judgment. But that does not appear to be the case for Luke in the Pentecost account. It is not a time of judgment on the disciples.
Luke speaks of "tongues of fire" in Acts 2:3 and "other tongues" in 2:4. These other tongues are enabled by the Holy Spirit. There is Jewish tradition for God speaking visibly, speaking from fire also. Recall Moses and the burning bush (Exodus 3). We also have Deuteronomy 4:36, "From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you his great fire, and you heard his words from out of the fire". (See also Habakkuk 2:1.) People could "see" God's voice. In Acts chapter 2 then, Luke really means some visible appearance of the voice of God manifesting to others through the disciples speaking in other tongues.
For reflection: Have I seen the voice of God? Have I experienced the fire of Holy Spirit?
Let us pray. "Summon your power, O God; show us your strength, O God, as you have done before. . . . Proclaim the power of God, whose majesty is over Israel, whose power in in the skies. You are awesome, O God, in your sanctuary; the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people. Praise be to God!" (Psalm 68:28-35).
In my last post I compared Pentecost to being hit by a freight train or a tornado. I wasn't trying to be prophetic, but this week in the U.S. we have a graphic example of what being hit by a tornado means. If you have been watching the news reports, the people of Oklahoma realize that what is gone is their "stuff" their "things". Those things can be replaced. What they mourn, of course, is the loss of life.
Let's return to the disciples at Pentecost. Their normal, everyday lives are now gone. Peter doesn't go back to fishing; Matthew doesn't go back to being a tax collector. Instead, they can now speak in other languages as needed, preach to great effect, work miracles, and heal people. But the price is being hounded, whipped, imprisoned and killed. These are not normal lives for the likes of fishermen and tax collectors. They are now, as Paul says, ". . . a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17). That is the power of the Holy Spirit, the power of Pentecost.
For reflection: Do I want that sort of change in my life? Am I willing to let go of the old in order to have the new? If I were one of the people in Oklahoma who lost their home, what would be most important to me now?
Let us pray. Lord Jesus, inspire us to be whatever help we can to the people who have lost everything or to other people around us who are in need. Bring the people of Oklahoma consolation and peace and the energy to begin again.
Open me to change. Open me to more of the Holy Spirit's work in my life.
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.