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Few to Many

3 changes in the way Jesus worked after Pentecost.


In April 2013, an article in the USA Today Money section reported that Apple's stock has been struggling. According to the article, "The Apple stock crash is reaching a historic order of magnitude, shaking the faith of investors who piled on in large part on Jobs' showmanship." Shares were down 44 percent and the crash has obliterated $291.2 billion in shareholder wealth.

What precipitated Apple's stock crash at that time? The causes may be complex, but the article focused on one primary factor—the death of co-founder Steve Jobs on October 5, 2011. Apple isn't the only company that has struggled in the absence of a successful CEO. Research has shown "the fact that a sick or dying CEO is generally a big problem right away for stocks." The article noted that when a CEO leaves a company the "short-term shock" turns into "long-term disappointment."

In contrast, the last time Apple was in serious trouble Jobs was there to move the company forward with fresh energy and vision. But without Jobs, as one prominent stock analyst contends, Apple is "becoming just another stock" and that "the phenomenon [of Apple] is unwinding."

When Jesus ascended to heaven, the disciples might have been excused for seeing it as a crisis. Yes, they had been commissioned, yes, they had been taught, yes, they had spent every day for three years in the presence of the One from heaven. He had taught them, practically and theologically.

But, like the Apple crisis, one might have thought they did not have much hope without their leader. However, Jesus was well-prepared for this seeming crisis. It was simply the next stage in the journey of New Creation.

He had commissioned them to preach to the world, but he had also said, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about .

The radical change was that Jesus himself, in the person of the Spirit, would inhabit their ordinary lives. Ordinary fishermen and tax collectors would be indwelt by the very Spirit of Jesus himself. Something that no Apple employee could achieve with their founder!

So, why was Pentecost such a world-changing event? What changed at Pentecost? Here are three changes in the way Jesus worked .

(Read Acts 2:1-8)

From Few to Many

In the Old Testament, God worked in the lives of special men and women, on special occasions. Sometimes it was for a season, sometimes it was a permanent anointing. But it was only for special leaders and prophets.

  • … The Spirit of the LORD came on Gideon. (Judges 6)
  • … The Spirit of the LORD came on Othniel (Judges 3:10)
  • …The Spirit of the LORD came on Jephthah (Judges 11:29)
  • …The Spirit of God came powerfully upon Saul (1 Sam. 11:6)

People were healed, fire fell from heaven, prophets spoke the very words from God. But when the day of Pentecost came, the Spirit fell on all who were gathered. Peter’s sermon quoting Joel explains what will happen.

(Read Joel 2:28-32)

In the Book of Acts, there are three “outpourings” of the Holy Spirit, to three different people groups at three different times. The first was to Jews and proselytes in Jerusalem (Acts 2). The second was to a group of believing Samaritans (Acts 8). The third was to a group of believing Gentiles (Acts 10). Significantly, Peter was present at all three outpourings. In a world where we constantly fight race discrimination, the Gospel has a powerful word to say at Pentecost.

The Spirit was poured out regardless of gender. From the day of resurrection, when Mary was commissioned to go and share the message of resurrection with the disciples, women had a special place in the ministry of Jesus. He treated them with respect, and as disciples on an equal standing with the men.

A young Rastafarian walked into our church one Sunday. I remember thinking, “I wish you had come next week to our guest service. We will have all sorts of trendy things going on. There will be a band playing, and a special speaker.” That week was a fairly traditional service, with communion, with an elder who had chosen to speak about the tabernacle . Even I found it boring . But this young man was touched by the Spirit and was in tears from start to finish. That night I led him to Christ.

Fast forward two weeks and we were all having coffee after the service. I looked across the room to see the young Rasta in animated conversation with the chairman of the local conservative party (Equivalent to the Republican party), one of our regular members. They were talking about Jesus. I nudged one of our elders and said, “That’s the Kingdom. That’s the work of the Spirit. Two different cultures united!

From Outside to Inside

John 16:7 says, “it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” And just before that it says in John 14:17 “… you know him, for he lives with you and he will be in you.”

Pentecost was the anniversary of the giving of the law on Sinai. The two tablets of stone were exchanged for the 120 tablets of flesh – the hearts of the disciples. The law was written on human hearts.

It was also the fulfilment of Ezekiel’s prophecy in Ezekiel 36:26, “I'm going to give you a new heart, and I'm going to give you a new spirit within all of your deepest parts. I'll remove that rock-hard heart of yours and replace it with one that's sensitive to me.”

Let’s see what else the New Testament has to say:

  • 1 Cor. 6:19: your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit,
  • Rom 8:9: Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
  • Eph. 1:13: you are sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,
  • Rom 8:14: all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
  • Matt 10:20: it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
  • Rom 8:16: The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

Benjamin West, the great painter, speaking of Gilbert Stuart, another artist famed for his beautiful colouring, used to say to his pupils, "It's no use to steal Stuart's colours; if you want to paint as he does, you must steal his eyes."

The Christian would say, “It’s no use trying to steal Christ’s words, values, actions, you need to steal his eyes / hands / tongue / heart.” Pentecost says “Christ lives in us! We speak with his tongue, see with his eyes.” That was what Martin Luther meant when he described Christians as “little Christs”

From Temple to Marketplace

In his ministry, Jesus didn’t just stand in synagogues waiting for the crowds to come and listen to his teachings. He went to parties, weddings, funerals, had conversations with people in the street. Since God no longer “lived in temples made by human hands,” and lived in the temple of the human heart, wherever they went, the disciples took Christ’s presence with them.

We, too should go out into the highways and byways, the places of work, the places of joy, the places of sadness, and bring something of Christ’s presence with us.

The interesting feature of Peter’s preaching on the day of Pentecost was that his sermon was given in answer to questions raised by the life of the church. The Spirit exploded in praise and witness in the lives of the disciples. They drew a crowd, filled with wonder, asking questions.

Sadly, today, the church often locks itself away, expecting people to come. At Pentecost the lives of the Christians were so different, they required an explanation.

We, today, should live lives that are so different – loving, caring, creative, transformed, that our friends come to us and say, “Why are you different?”


Tony Campolo tells the story of one of his students, Elias Santana, who graduated from medical school in the US. Once a month he would go to Puerto Rico and make large amounts of money, with the intention of offering free treatment to the poor in the Dominican Republic where he grew up. He would come back to his own country and work among the poorest of the poor feeding, them clothing them and giving them medical attention.

One day when he had finished his healing, serving the poor, giving of his own money, he climbed onto a lorry to preach the gospel. They all gathered round as he told them about the love of Christ. Tony Campolo was on the edge of the crowd and he saw a student Marxist leader listening to the doctor preaching. Campolo knew him and he went over and shoved him playfully and said "You'll have to watch he's winning people to Jesus. Your movement's in trouble if you let him on the loose."

Without flinching he said, "What am I supposed to say? Elias Santana has earned the right to be heard"

Perhaps, today, when the church has “earned the right” through transformed lives, spent for others, we will be heard as we tell them about Jesus. Are we prepared for that life-changing transformation, inviting the Holy Spirit to come as on the day of Pentecost?

C.H. Spurgeon warns: “We ask, but we do not expect to receive. We pray, but probably nothing would so alarm us as the answer to our prayers. If after having pleaded with God to send his Holy Spirit the Holy Spirit did come, there are many who would not believe it, there are others who would think it a mere excitement, and there are multitudes who would shut their eyes to it altogether. Oh Spirit of God! …. wilt thou come to do thy mighty deeds once more.”

Andy Scarcliffe is a retired Baptist minister from Scotland.

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