The grace, mercy, and peace of Christ Jesus rest upon each and every one of you this day.
Minutes before Jesus’ ascension, He commanded His apostles to remain in Jerusalem because He was going to send them the Holy Spirit. Through the working of the Holy Spirit they would receive power to be His witnesses, in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria, and out to the ends of the earth. Ten days later and, like our lesson tells us, these guys are still together in one place in Jerusalem, just like Jesus commanded, when that Word and Promise of Christ comes to fruition. The Holy Spirit rushes in with the sound of a mighty wind, and filled with the Holy Spirit, they begin speaking in different languages. Not surprisingly, this huge commotion draws a crowd. Jews from all over the known world were in town that day for the purpose of worshipping and offering sacrifices at the temple. These Jews, dispersed long ago to foreign countries, were all Jewish by faith, but they were still very different from each other. They all had different languages, cultures, and ethnicities. It’s no different than Lutherans from Kenya, Madagascar, India, Brazil, and China all gathering together in Fort Wayne to worship and study at the seminary. We’re all Lutherans, but we’re still all very different from each other.
But…on this particular day the language barrier was shattered. The Holy Spirit gave the apostles the power to proclaim the Gospel to all these different people. They all heard the Gospel of Christ in their own native tongue; in the language they could understand; language they could hear and believe. I stress this fact because the miracle of Pentecost wasn’t simply about the apostles speaking in different tongues. (They especially weren’t speaking gibberish; a strange tongue that had never been spoken or heard before. No special interpreters were needed that day.) Everyone there, as different as they were, heard the Gospel in their own tongue. They heard the Gospel of Christ for them. Knowing the rest of the story like we do, three-thousand people heard and believed and were baptized that day. The Church grew by three-thousand souls!
And yet…as amazing as all this is, I’m always more amazed at all that is so often overlooked in this account. So often we hear that the Holy Spirit gave these men “power from on high,” and we automatically assume that the power is referring to the ability to speak a different language. While I certainly don’t want to take away from this miracle, there is so much more to it! Your Lord Christ promised these same men on the very night in which He was betrayed that even though He was going away, He was going to send them the Holy Spirit. He was going to leave them with and give to them His peace. To be sure, it wasn’t a peace like the rest of the world gives or understands peace. This wasn’t a peace that simply consisted of everyone getting along or playing nice or feeling “happy” and content. No. He was giving to them His peace; a peace that surpasses all human understanding. And keep in mind: This peace that Christ was giving to them was pointing to and flowing forth from His cross; His all-redeeming sacrifice.
And this takes us back to Pentecost Sunday. These guys are all sitting together in one room. It’s safe to say that they had locked themselves in. After all, this is what they had done immediately following Christ’s death, so it was certainly nothing new. “Yeah, but pastor, they just witnessed Christ ascend ten days earlier.” Yup, and I have no doubt that they were shaken and confused and even a bit scared. They stood atop that ascension mount ten days earlier and asked Jesus if He was now going to finally restore the kingdom—the earthly power and majesty—to Jerusalem. Was He now going to finally pull the trigger and get rid of those wicked Romans? Was He now going to finally pull the trigger and get rid of all those wicked Pharisees and hypocritical priests; the religious establishment? Forty days after the resurrection, and they still didn’t get it. They still didn’t get what Christ’s death and resurrection was all about. Even after they had met with and interacted with Christ over the course of those forty days, they still went fishing…alone. They didn’t know what to do with all this news. They didn’t have a clue. And now He ascends into heaven, disappearing from their sight?! This is it?! What now?! As I said, I have no doubt they were, once again, huddled up behind locked doors out of fear and uncertainty. Nothing was working out the way they had planned or expected.
And this is where the Holy Spirit finds them. This is where the Holy Spirit “gives them power from on high.” Folks: That power from on high wasn’t merely the ability to speak a different language. It was the power of salvation for all who believe. It was the power of the Good News of Christ crucified and resurrected. It was the power of Christ’s peace; peace that knows and holds fast to this cruciform truth. This is why we’re told that Peter and the apostles were “lifting up their voices” and boldly proclaiming the Law/Gospel Truth of Christ. They weren’t afraid anymore. By God’s grace, through the working of the Holy Spirit, they were finally able to understand what the mission and ministry of Christ; what the life, death, and resurrection of Christ was really all about, and what it meant for them and for all children of Adam. Through the God-given gift of faith, they now had a peace that surpasses all understanding. They now had the power to boldly and unashamedly proclaim Christ crucified. What was the worst you could do? Make them wake up in heaven? That’s all you got?!
And here’s the thing for us to remember today: Their peace—the peace of Christ Jesus—is also our peace. “One holy, Christian, apostolic Church….” The very same peace that Christ gave to the apostles He gives to us. The very same Holy Spirit, who brought and bestowed this peace—this confident joy of faith in Christ—comes to us today to do the same exact thing. Now, I know that some of you will disagree with this. After all, the Holy Spirit isn’t working the exact same way today as He did then. Look around. There’s no great rushing tempest of wind. There are no fiery tongues or foreign languages. There aren’t great masses of foreigners among us (although we do have some visitors with us today). I don’t know the future, but it’s safe to say that we won’t be doing three thousand baptisms today.
And yet…the Holy Spirit still comes to us and works in us and on us the peace of Christ. Look no further than right here [the altar]. Behold! The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! Here is Christ, right where He tells you to look; right where He promises to be—in His Word and in His sacraments. His peace—His absolution—is spoken to you. You hear it in your ears. It’s real. Your sins are forgiven in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Look to this rail. Look to these elements. Look and listen. “Take and eat. Take and drink. This is My body. This is My blood. Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of all your sin.” What peace we have as we come before the Lord of heaven and earth, and with angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven, receive these gifts and offer up our sacrifice of thanksgiving to Him. It is beyond all understanding. It’s a peace that is known only in the humility of faith.
But wait…there’s more! Look to your baptism, for it is here in these simple waters that Almighty God Himself brought to you His blood-bought victories over sin, death, and the devil. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.” We already know how the story ends. Christ lives, the victory is won. I’m a baptized child of God! I’ve been baptized into this victory. What's the worst you’re gonna do to me? Thumbs-down me on Facebook? Make fun of me? Fire me? What’s the worst you can do to me? Make me wake up in heaven? That’s all you got?!
Folks: By virtue of your baptism into Christ, this is your reality too. This is your peace, and it’s a peace that can never be taken from you. So, whether you’re getting ready to graduate and head out into the “real world,” (lambs to the slaughter), whether you’re healthy or ill, or suffering, or rich or poor or depressed or lonely…whatever…you belong to Christ. You bear the name of Almighty God on your head and your heart, marking you as one redeemed by Christ the Lord, and nothing and no one can ever take that from you.
May this unwavering, unfailing, and unconditional baptism peace of Christ Jesus guard and keep your hearts and minds in Him, now and into all eternity. Go forth in the powerful Gospel peace of Christ. Go and be unafraid, unashamed, and at peace.
In the name of Jesus…AMEN.
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