About six weeks after the crucifixion, Jesus led his followers out of the city of Jerusalem, towards the town of Bethany, and up to the top of the Mount of Olives. Often, in the days before this, He had told them that the Father had promised His Holy Spirit would come to them. He told them that He would not leave them without comfort. He used phrases that reminded them of what John the Baptist told them, that one would come that would baptize them “with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.”
The disciples thought that surely, now was the time to establish the kingdom of God on the earth. Not only was Christ popular, but also multitudes had seen him crucified and now he was alive. Why wouldn’t the Jews follow a conqueror that could be killed by the Romans and then come back to life? But Jesus informed them that these events were on the Father’s time table, and they should just wait for the promise of the Father, the gift of the Holy Spirit, who would come with a display of great power. And then, before their very eyes, he ascended to heaven, right out of their very sight. As they stared in unbelief and awe, two men appeared, and they told them that Christ himself would return from heaven in the same way that they had seen Him ascend to heaven. They returned to Jerusalem and went to one of their houses – probably John Mark’s mother, Mary’s house.
After Jesus left them, the disciples met everyday to pray. Normally, this was at the temple in one of the large areas set aside for this. Sometimes they met at one of their houses. The houses of that time had large courtyards where many people could gather, and there was a good number of them – somewhere around one hundred twenty. Of course, there were the eleven remaining disciples; there were the faithful women who had ministered to them before the crucifixion; there was Jesus’ own mother, Mary; and Jesus’ brothers had now joined the group. Jesus had made it a point to see all his family following Him before he left the earth. These, in particular, and others would meet in the morning around 9:00 a.m. One day, Peter stood up in the middle of them and said that they needed to have a vote on who would take Judas’ place. It’s interesting that Peter is the one to bring this up, and it must have been humbling to him, because he also had denied the Lord during His trial and crucifixion. Anyway, some one of them needed to be named as Judas’ successor, and so they cast lots, and Jesus picked Matthias.
The feast of Pentecost had come to also be known as the feast of the joy of the Law. Now everyone new that the feast was approaching, and as they thought on Jesus’ words that they should expect some gift from the Father and wait for some special anointing from the Holy Ghost, and then recognized the significance of the upcoming feast, they probably were praying that a new glory of the new covenant would be revealed at this feast.
There were many devout Jews in Jerusalem for the feast. They were from all over the Roman Empire. There were people from as far east as Media, as far north as the Caspian Sea, as far south as Egypt and Libya, and as far west as Rome. On the day of Pentecost, the disciples may have been in the temple praying when the sound of a great wind swept through them and attracted many people’s attention. They also saw tongues of fire descend upon each other’s heads. This reminded them of the baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire. These things got their own attention and that of the multitudes around them. They could have gone from the temple to one of their houses where they quickly realized what had happened. Then they went out to the streets where the multitudes had gathered and they began explaining what had happened. As they spoke about this spiritual event, they used their own language; they did not speak in the “holy” (Hebrew) language that the devout Jews would have expected. All those that heard, from many different countries and several languages, distinguished their own language from the speaking of the disciples. The multitude wondered what could be happening. Most were amazed and wondered what all this could mean, but some mockingly said they were drunk.
Then Peter stood up and took the opportunity to explain to them: no one was drunk; it was only nine in the morning. Rather, this was Joel the prophet had said would happen, no more would a prophet here or a priest there be anointed with the power of the Holy Ghost as in old times. This was a new covenant and in these days the Holy Ghost would anoint all. Their sons and their daughters would all prophesy. And whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
“Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.
“For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance.
“Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Until I make thy foes thy footstool. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
“Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.
“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” (Acts 2:22-47)