Jesus is Risen! Now what? Can you just imagine the Apostles thinking that as they watched Jesus ascending into Heaven? Stepping out into the uncharted waters of evangelization is an understated way of saying they were going to change the world.
During Lent, we did penance, denied ourselves, turned away from our sins and followed Jesus through His sorrowful passion to the Cross. Lent was about us turning inward and cleaning house to prepare ourselves for the Resurrection. We are in the Easter Season now and in Her wisdom, the Church reads from Acts of the Apostles about the early Christians and the movement of the Holy Spirit in the foundling Church. Turning outward to share the Good News is the “Now what?” we are also called to after the Resurrection. We read from Acts all the way to Pentecost on May 31st. As we journey with the early Church let’s see how we can turn outward and step out in faith to change the world.
After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to the Apostles many times in the Upper Room, on the road to Emmaus, at the Sea of Tiberius and He promised them a baptism with the Holy Spirit. Just as He ascended into heaven, He promises power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them and that they would be His witnesses.
Some Jewish feasts required a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Pentecost was one of those. “Pente” means fifty and it celebrated the giving of the Ten Commandments to Moses fifty days after the Passover. Christianity has its roots in Judaism and the Apostles were all practicing Jews as Jesus was, so at Pentecost they were gathered for the feast. A sudden sound like a mighty rushing wind filled the house, tongues of fire rested upon each of them, and they began to speak in languages they had never spoken before. Bystanders chalked it up to them being drunk.
Now what? There were Jews from all over the world in Jerusalem for Pentecost and the Apostles could now speak their languages, so they proclaimed the Good News and brought people together. Another place in scripture talks about different languages; the story of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9). At Babel, God confused everyone’s language so people could no longer communicate, and they scattered. At Pentecost, He gave them the gift of speaking new tongues and it gathers the new believers in.
Remember Peter on Good Friday? He denied even knew who Jesus was …” Man, I do not know what you are saying.” (Luke 22:60) After Peter receives the power of the Holy Spirit, he steps out in boldness preaching about Jesus…of course after he clarifies that the Apostles were indeed not drunk. Transforming from frightened, uneducated fisherman to our passionate, evangelizing first Pope is this incredible part of Peter’s story that unfolds in Acts. The fruit of Peter’s speech leads to 3,000 baptisms that first day.
Now what? The first converts to the faith begin to live in community, they sell what they own and lay the proceeds at the feet of the Apostles. They hold to the teachings of the Apostles, the fellowship of the believers, the breaking of the bread and to the prayers. (Acts 2:42) Sound familiar? We do that now. Signs and wonders, the miracles that Jesus performed when He was still on earth, they don’t stop. The Apostles continue the work that Jesus started. In fact, Peter and John heal a lame beggar who then leapt and praised God and everyone was amazed. They gathered around Peter for yet another inspired witness to the death and resurrection of Jesus. And just like that, there were 5,000 believers.
Everyone except the Sadducees and the Jewish priests of the Temple were amazed that is. These guys were more like annoyed… annoyed that they had just gotten rid of that problematic Jesus and here come His Apostles preaching in His name. Peter and John are arrested and questioned on whose authority they healed the beggar. To the surprise of the elders of Israel, these “uneducated, common men” (Acts 3:13) spoke eloquently and boldly. To avoid a disturbance among the people, the chief priest and elders release Peter and John with a warning not to preach in Jesus’ name ever again. Do you think they stopped? No way, instead, they prayed with so much fervor that the house shook, and the Holy Spirit came and filled them again.
Now what? You’ll have to wait and see.
Written By: Birgitt Hacker