Acts 2 : 1‑14 – A reflection by Rev Ajay Singh
Dear Friends, this Sunday we celebrate Pentecost or the birthday of the Church. On this day, with the descent of the Holy Spirit, Christ’s mission is completed and the New Covenant is inaugurated. This first happened nearly 2000 years ago, done by God himself, through the power of sending down the Holy Spirit upon 120 believers (Acts 1 : 15). It was known, in addition, as the fulfilment of Jesus’ promise, the omnipresence of God, when Jesus promised to His disciples that He would ask God to send the helper / assistant / comforter (as translated in various versions of The Bible).
If we consider the history of it – it was the day of Shovuot (shovu – ot) which means ‘fiftieth’ in Hebrew. In Jewish tradition the fiftieth day after the Passover was observed as Shovuot. Shovuot is known as the ‘festival of weeks’ (Deuteronomy 16 : 9‑10) and also the ‘festival of harvest’ where the offering of the first fruit was brought. It has a double significance, agriculturally and spiritually. Agriculturally, it marks the all-important wheat harvest in the land of Israel (Exodus 34 : 22), and spiritually it commemorates the anniversary of the day when God gave the ‘Torah’ to the nation of Israel assembled at Mount Sinai – although in the Biblical text the association is not explicit between the giving of the Torah and Shovuot. Shovuot was also the first day on which individuals could bring the Bikkurim (first fruit). The Bikkurim comprised the seven varieties for which the land of Israel is praised: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates.
As we ponder upon the last phase of Jesus’ ministry, from His triumphal entry into Jerusalem until His Ascension to heaven, we note that He was preparing and showing His authority and what He was intending to do next. It leads us to understand how He transformed the whole set-up of the Jewish tradition. In his Passover meal, he transformed it into a Sacrament of ‘Holy Communion’, or what we call the ‘Lord’s Supper’. He himself became the High Priest anointed by God on His Baptism at the River Jordan. Therefore, He assigned the priesthood to all – and that is what we believe as Methodists. Let us see how it worked:
Firstly, according to Mark 14 : 63 / Matthew 26 : 62‑65, Caiaphas, the high priest tore his garment in order to construct a false case against Jesus before he was sent to Pilate. Here, the priest loses his priesthood according to Leviticus 21 : 10: ‘The priest who is exalted above his fellows, on whose head the anointing oil has been poured and who has been consecrated to wear the Vestments, shall not dishevel his hair, nor tear his Vestments’.
Secondly, the curtain of the temple becoming torn apart at the time Jesus died (Matthew 27 : 51) means, ‘no more sacrifice’, and this place, which was restricted for some has become open now for everyone.
Thirdly, Jesus’ promise that he will ask his Father to send the Holy Spirit is fulfilled on the day of Pentecost when anointment came in the form of the Spirit of Fire and transformed the lives of 120 people who had been asked to assemble in a room at Jerusalem. Three thousand people believed on that day and were baptised. This is what happens when you encounter the Holy Spirit. Your life transforms and you have no way of stopping yourself from going where the Spirit leads you. May we too experience that encounter with the Holy Spirit and transform ourselves to go out by being in the mission of Jesus and taking his words to the ends of the world.
Rev Ajay Singh