A Real Relationship
- Tuesday, July 26, 2005
For the earliest Christians, a tangible relationship with Jesus was not a problem. If He said, “Let's go to Jerusalem,” they went to Jerusalem. If Peter needed to ask Him something, he could say, “Lord, can we talk?” The disciples could sit down with Him and talk, face to face, and know immediately what He wanted them to know.
But after Jesus was resurrected and spent forty days walking and talking with the disciples, teaching and doing all sorts of signs and miracles, He was taken up into heaven. He just disappeared straight up into the clouds. From that point on, His disciples couldn't speak with Him, hear Him teach, or observe Him as they had before.
That's our situation, too. We can't walk along the beach with Jesus like Peter and John did. We can't ask Him for a few minutes of His time to talk face to face. Yet we know that God has told this world, “Draw near to Me, and I will draw near to you. If you seek Me, you will find Me.” (see James 4:8 and Jeremiah 29:13).
How can we have this personal, intimate relationship with Jesus that He promised His disciples? How can we draw near to Him? When we need to know who to marry, where to live, what to do with our lives, how to raise children, how to solve this or that problem, or how to live joyfully, how can we hear from Him? How does a relationship work with a Lord Who ascended into heaven and is no longer physically present for us to relate to?
If we do a quick survey of what happened after Jesus went to heaven, we'll find the secret of a close, personal relationship with God. We'll discover what it means for us when He sent His Spirit to dwell inside human bodies and manifest the presence and person of Jesus.
A New Kind of Harvest
Acts 1 records Jesus' instructions for His disciples to remain in Jerusalem after He ascended. They were told simply to wait. They didn't know what was going to happen. For about a week, 120 of them gathered to pray and to wait. They even figured that with all the teaching Jesus had given about twelve apostles ruling twelve tribes of Israel when the kingdom comes, they would need to replace Judas. So they picked a replacement, the old-fashioned, Old Testament way: by casting lots. That was the extent of the guidance they had.
A few days later, the feast of Pentecost came. Pentecost was the third major Jewish festival, always coming fifty days after the Feast of Firstfruits, which immediately followed Passover. That festival of firstfruits celebrated the first wheat or barley of the season. The priest would take the sheaf and wave it before the Lord in the temple, saying in effect, “We want to bring the first and best of everything to You, because You're the only One who can make things grow. We worship You and honor You for that.” Then at Pentecost, seven weeks and a day later, when the grain had ripened and was harvested, they would bring two loaves to the temple and offer them to God with a sacrifice. Pentecost, along with Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, was one of three times the Israelites were commanded to assemble each year.
That celebration - the time when firstfruits had been offered and the harvest had come - was when God chose to send His Spirit to dwell in His people. Because of the festival going on, Jews from all over Israel and the Roman empire had gathered in Jerusalem. Little did they know they were about to witness a different kind of firstfruits and a new sort of harvest.
At Pentecost, the 120 disciples were still gathered, praying and waiting, as Jesus had instructed. Luke, the writer of Acts, described what happened next: a sound like the blowing wind came from heaven, and a vision of what seemed like tongues of fire rested on each of the disciples. They began to speak in other languages.
This, of course, drew the attention of the people gathered from the nations for the feast of Pentecost. They, too, had heard the wind and the diversity of languages spoken by this group of Galileans. Some wondered how the disciples were able to speak the tongues of distant lands, and others simply assumed they were drunk. What was going on? Jesus' promise was being fulfilled. The very Spirit of God was coming to dwell in human hearts.
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