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I invite you to open you Bibles or service folders to our second lesson for today, Luke’s account of the first Christian Pentecost. We will focus especially on verses 5-8 as we see another wonderful example of the fact that the Lord provides his people with all they need to carry out their mission.
Do you remember when God asked Abraham to take his son Isaac and sacrifice him? Do you remember the question Isaac asked as they went up the mountain to offer the sacrifice? They had offered sacrifices before because Isaac understood that something was missing. They had wood, and fire, and a knife, but where was the sacrifice itself? Where was the lamb? Do you remember how Abraham responded? He said, “The Lord will provide.” And the Lord did provide. He allowed Abraham to sacrifice a ram caught in a nearby thicket in place of his son.
That emotionally charged account from Abraham’s life pictures for us how the Lord has provided for us. He provided his only son Jesus to be sacrificed in our place. He provided the Lamb, not just for Abraham, but for the whole world. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
The disciples knew this. They heard John the Baptist say it as he pointed to Jesus. They had seen how the sacrifice was carried out. They saw Jesus suffering on the cross. They heard Jesus cry out my God, my God, why have you forsaken me. They saw him buried and then they saw him alive again. They knew that God had provided Jesus as the sacrifice that paid for their sins and the sins of the whole world. They were filled with joy and thankfulness for all that God had done for them, and the privilege of being with Jesus during his ministry on earth. But with that privilege came a great responsibility. Jesus had told them that since they had been with him from the beginning, and witnessed everything he said and did, they were the ones who were going to have to tell everyone else, every creature, to the ends of the earth!
Their joy and excitement must have been mixed with fear and uncertainty. They knew what Jesus was asking of them. They wanted to do it, but how? They weren’t rich. They weren’t practiced public speakers. They weren’t well-known celebrities. How could they reach all of Jerusalem, much less Judea and Samaria and the ends of the earth?
Maybe you can identify with them. Maybe you attended a mission festival, or a LWMS convention, or you read an especially good devotion about sharing the Gospel. You were filled with joy and excitement over what God has done for you and that he has provided eternal salvation for free to the whole world. You want to do everything you can to share that good news! But then the excitement wears off and reality sets in and you begin to feel fear and uncertainty. You want to get the good news of the gospel out to everyone, but how? You aren’t rich. You aren’t a public speaker. Even if you could rent a stadium like Billy Graham, who would come to hear you, you aren’t a celebrity? You’ve been thinking about talking to your neighbor about Jesus, but you haven’t even done that, much less done much to share Jesus with the whole world.
It’s so easy for us to get down and discouraged and just throw up our hands and say, “I can’t do it Lord.” But usually the reason we get discouraged is that we are too focused on ourselves and all the things we think might happen, like Peter walking on the water. As long as he focused on Jesus he walked. As soon as his focus turned to the wind and the waves he sank. We need to stay focused on Jesus and his promise that he will provide what we need to proclaim his gospel both near and far.
The disciples were doing what Jesus had told them to do. After his ascension they were to wait in Jerusalem until he gave them the gift he had promised. His timing for giving that gift was perfect. There were godly Jewish men from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. People from all around the Mediterranean Sea, from Rome to Egypt, and from as far east as Persia had come to celebrate the Old Testament Feast of Pentecost, which was a festival of thanksgiving to God for the harvest. When the disciples were together in one place Jesus sent them the gift he had promised. He sent them the Holy Spirit. But that’s not all. He didn’t do it quietly. He sent the Spirit in connection with the sound of a violent wind. It’s interesting that the Hebrew word for Spirit can also mean breath or wind. When people heard the sound, they gathered around the place where the disciples were. And the Spirit made it easy to identify the disciples so that they could ask them what was going on. Something that looked like fire was resting on the head of each of the disciples. “There’s something different about those guys with the tongues of fire on their head, maybe they can tells us what’s going on?” When they asked the disciples what was happening, the disciples answered each person in their own birth language as they told them that the promises of Scripture were being fulfilled; that Jesus is the Messiah who died and rose again to be their savior from sin. They proclaimed to them the wonders of God, the wonder that instead of punishing us for our sins he punished Jesus in our place.
What seemed to amaze the crowd as much as the sound of the violent wind and the tongues of fire was that all these men who were speaking were Galileans. Then how is it that each of us hears them speaking in his own native language? Galileans were not known for being learned people. None of these men had ever gone to high school, much less college. They were not international businessmen. How could they be conversant in so many different languages?
The sound of the violent wind, the tongues of fire and the ability to speak in many different languages, were all signs from God given to assure those who heard the disciples that everything they were saying to them was true and trustworthy. When they told them that they were responsible for killing the Messiah, but that God raised him from the dead, that Jesus was delivered over to death for their sins and raised to life for their justification, the miracles they were seeing confirmed for them that this message was from God.
Think also about what these things meant for the disciples and what they mean for us. It’s another example of God keeping his promise to provide his people with what they need. He provides for our physical needs richly and daily. He provides for our spiritual needs richly and daily through opportunities to hear and read his word and to receive the sacrament to assure us that our sins are forgiven. He wanted his disciples to share the good news of salvation with every nation. Pentecost offered a perfect opportunity to begin to do just that. And the Lord provided the disciples with exactly what they needed to do it. He presented them with a large crowd of people and then enabled them to communicate the law and the gospel to them clearly. In the future, when they were faced with opportunities to witness about Jesus, they could look back to Pentecost and say, “Look how the Lord provided what we needed to witness to others on that day. Surely he will provide us what we need to witness for this opportunity also.”
You probably have not been given the gift of speaking in a language you never learned so that you could share the gospel with someone. I know I haven’t been given that gift, even when I have had the opportunity to talk about Jesus with Hispanics, or Koreans, or Chinese. But, in the case of those who spoke Spanish, God provided materials that were in both English and Spanish. In the case of Koreans, or Chinese, God granted that they knew enough English to understand what I was telling them about Jesus. As he did on Pentecost, God is brining people from many nations, who need to hear about Jesus, right to our own cities and neighborhoods. International students are coming to our schools and colleges. But the opportunities we have to share the law and the gospel with others usually doesn’t require the ability to speak another language. They simply require a heart that is filled with joy and thankfulness for our own salvation, a heart that is filled with enough love for our neighbor that we want them to be saved too, and confident trust that the Lord will send us the Holy Spirit to give us whatever we need to make use of the many opportunities he brings to us to witness.
All of us can remember times when we have failed to trust that the Lord would provide us with what we needed to witness in a certain situation. As we confess those sins and see our forgiveness in Jesus, we will be moved to trust him to provide what we need in the future.
Search the Scriptures so that you continue to grow in the joy of your salvation. Pray daily that the Lord would provide you with opportunities to share the joy of salvation with those who don’t know him. Trust that he will provide whatever gifts you need to make use of those opportunities when they come.
The Lord will provide. He provided a lamb for Abraham to sacrifice instead of Isaac. He provided his son to be sacrificed in our place to pay for our sins and the sins of the whole world. He provided the disciples the gifts that they needed to proclaim the law and the gospel on the day of Pentecost. Trust that he will provide you with whatever gifts you need to proclaim the law and the gospel to others when he gives you the opportunity to do so.