Pentecost and the Resurrection

June 1, 2009

bible / church / spirituality

On a different note from my earlier post, I want to look at Pentecost from a different perspective. Yesterday, Brian McLaren wrote a great post that alluded to the connection of Pentecost to the Resurrection. I had started thinking something along those lines, but seeing his thoughts helped me develop mine in a different direction. Feel free to read his first. I’ll wait.

At The Living Room, we briefly discussed the idea that all of the people who initially experienced the first Pentecost were “in one accord,” and what that meant and why it was the case. I didn’t think of it at the time, but I think the reason for this is that these were the people who had witnessed the Resurrection.

Consider this:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared to me also.

Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:3-8

Acts 1:15 indicates that at some point in between the Ascension and Pentecost, there were one hundred and twenty believers gathered together. My belief is that these were there because they were among the five hundred witnesses of the Resurrection, and that is why they were in such unity when Pentecost did arrive.

The serious, physical Resurrection of Jesus created a community. People had been utterly shaken by the reality of what they had seen, and banded together around it. But why only one hundred and twenty?

Before we fault the other three hundred and eighty, we should consider that it is very possible that they returned to Jerusalem for Pentecost, and experienced what happened there. Yet again before we fault them, can you imagine the conversations as the days and weeks went by?

First, everyone was pumped, I’m sure. Super excited. Jesus had told them to wait for something that meant absolutely nothing to them. Then, as nothing happened, I’m sure they began to wonder if anything would. Maybe someone ran out of money to hang around Jerusalem. Maybe someone else received word from a family member of some situation. Maybe some people got married.

Any countless number of normal things could have happened – and the fact is that we as humans return to normalcy fairly quickly after we have abnormal experiences. We don’t know how much time passed between the Ascension and Pentecost, but it was enough time for people to go back to normalcy.

But still there was a community of people, desperately hoping for something they didn’t understand. Maybe they were eating and drinking together every day, remembering the things Jesus had said over bread and wine. Maybe they didn’t have anything to go back to. Maybe nothing they had was valuable enough to shake the power of Resurrection.

But regardless: these one hundred and twenty or so people were the ones upon whom the Spirit fell. They had a tangible, powerful encounter with the Other, and it shook them. It is no wonder that they ran out into the streets in ecstasy, convincing people they were drunk. But it doesn’t matter: the Spirit of God was in the streets, expanding the community of Resurrection. Without the Resurrection, there is no Pentecost. Without Pentecost, the Resurrection never raises us.