Writing these notes near the end of Eastertide, I am now looking towards the Ascension of Jesus and the Day of Pentecost, writes Rev Sydney Maitland. They are linked in that first of all the church was celebrating the ascension of Jesus to His place in heaven where He would be accessible to all believers in the world and yet would be at the right side of God, presenting their needs to Him.
From being the carpenter’s son from Galilee, Jesus was now the risen and glorious Son of God, Saviour of the world, who had just entrusted the gospel message to the church with the same urgency and authority as His own mission from God. In Him therefore the body of disciples was now looking forward to a new kind of life and mission.
On the day of Pentecost, they gathered – presumably to pray and read the scriptures. It was as they were doing this that God intervened directly and personally for each of them. Now a mixed group of Galileans had become an articulate and powerful voice for the thing that God had done among His people, and they were there to tell of it.
But more than that, if the inward preparation was a sense of expectancy, then its outward expression was their willingness to allow the Holy Spirit to speak through them. The ecstatic speech was the first demonstration of this but not the only one and more would follow. But the real point was that they had been willing to allow God to use them and speak through them as He saw fit. They spoke out as the Spirit gave utterance and when the inspiration of the Holy Spirit ceased then so did their speech.
But there is something else for Pentecost is the festival of the first fruits: the beginning of the harvest. It points to a work that would continue until all peoples on the earth, or their ancestors, had heard the gospel and had the opportunity to respond to it. This task is not yet complete but there are now not that many peoples and tribes who have not heard the gospel message at some stage in their history. When all have heard it then this work has been done and a new era will be ready to commence.
At the moment, we are looking at drought and famine, much of it in the light of the invasion of Ukraine and the interruption of the harvest and the production of fertilizers. But there is also a spiritual drought in progress in which much of the church finds its daily confidence in the gospel message weakened by adversity and opposition in the world.
Part of our task is to regather before God in the confidence that He will never fail us or forsake us, especially as we seek to pursue this mission. It is not about our resources – far more it is about His provision and empowerment. That is what the first disciples were doing – and this is the task facing us as well. Perhaps there is the sense that He will supply and support us – if we are willing to rely on that supply and support as we trust in Him.