The Spark in the Dark

Acts 2:1-21

It is one of those beautiful mornings when everyone’s outside:

mobs of children chasing balls and each other,

housewives hanging laundry and inspecting gardens,

men sitting on the porch chatting about the weather.

It is one of those beautiful mornings when everyone’s outside —

everyone, that is, except those who ought to be.

Jesus disciples were told,

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19 ESV).

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8 ESV).

But they don’t know how to make disciples,

they don’t know exactly where to go,

they don’t know exactly who to talk to,

they don’t know exactly what to say.

But Jesus had told them to wait (Acts 1:4), and so instead of going and doing they labeled what the are doing as waiting.

Of course, they knew then, as well as you and I know now, the real reason they aren’t going out — their leader was labeled a heretic, a traitor, a turncoat, and he was killed. And it was grizzly. Anyone associated with him could expect the same outcome.

And so while the sun shines they make sure the curtains cover the windows, and while the children’s laughter outside beckons, they bar the door. Sitting in front of the door is the biggest guy in the room with his hand massaging the hilt of a sword.

And yet, though the windows are sealed, and though the door is shut tight, they suddenly get slammed by an onslaught of wind: Robes twirling, cracks whistling, papers dancing. What entered the room? Who entered the room?

The only thing they see is sparks — a little flame burning on each person’s forehead — burning, but not hurting, not charring. But it’s not what they see that’s important — it’s what they feel.

They no longer feel afraid. They no longer feel alone. They feel Jesus.

It’s as if their old self and Jesus had a baby and that child is what they feel now.

And so the curtains are ripped open, “Hey, do you know Jesus?”

And the door is whipped open, “Can I tell you about Jesus?

And the room is emptied, not only of people, but also of fear.

Now the streets are filled with conversation, invitation, and laughter. Lots of laughter.

So much so, that the old men on the porch stop chatting about the weather, and point to the crowd, shake their heads, and mutter, “Kids they days. Drunk before noon. When I was a young man we waited till lunchtime to get plastered.”

Suddenly one voice emerges out of the laughter and the potluck of languages, and the crowd is silenced. Believe it or not, it’s Peter.

The same Peter who three times denied even knowing Jesus,

the same Peter who just wanted to stay on the mountain away from the crowds,

the same Peter who was quick to pull out a sword and lop off the ear of a stranger. This same Peter, former fisherman, becomes the church’s first preacher:

without taking any classes,

without reading any books,

without polishing his speech,

Peter just bellows out the church’s first sermon,

“Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” (Acts 2:22-24 ESV)

“This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.” (Acts 2:32-33 ESV)

“Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:36 ESV)

It doesn’t include any scholarly citations. It doesn’t included any folksy stories. It’s only one minute long.

Now, if nobody responded, nobody would have felt bad for him — I mean, it is his first sermon after all. It is the first sermon after all. No one would be surprised if the crowd gave a polite “Good sermon” and then headed back home to fix lunch.

But not this day.

This day, before he can even say ‘Amen,’ before he can even say a prayer, one man yells out, “What should we do?” (Acts 2:37)

And Peter responds plainly, “Repent. Get baptized. Receive the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)

It’s a short list, but a big one: “Repent. Get baptized. Receive the Holy Spirit.”
Repent – turn from all your sin, all that holds you back from loving the Lord.

Get baptized – acknowledge that your old self is only fit to go down the drain.

Receive the Holy Spirit. Invite Jesus to heal your broken heart.

It’s a short list, but a big one:

And yet the person who asked what to do steps forward.

Then another.

And another.

And the crowd swells.

And prayers are finally said.

And by the end of the day, three thousand people stand together with wet foreheads shining in the sun.

Adults with children. Men with women. Locals with foreigners. Rich with poor.

All of them acknowledging the wreck they made of their lives, and yearning God’s guidance moving forward.

They used to treat people from a different town as a little less;

they will no longer.

They used to treat people from a different faith as a little less;

they will no longer.

They used to treat the poor as forever poor and the sick as forever sick and the grieving as forever grieving;

they will no longer.

From now on, they will treat all people in one way: as beloved children of God for whom Jesus gave his life.

What started as one spark in the dark spreads into a wildfire,

it spreads throughout Jerusalem.

It spreads throughout Judea.

It spreads throughout Samaria.

It spreads throughout the ends of the earth.

It even makes its way here. To this town. To this room. To you.

Thanks be to God.

Amen.