Acts 1:8 (NKJV)
“When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance…. 41 Then those who gladly[g] received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.”
Acts 2:1-4, 41 (NKJV)
After His resurrection, Jesus revealed Himself to more than 500 believers (1 Corinthians 15:6) and so there were more than just a few followers who knew He was alive. Before Jesus ascended to heaven (Mark 16:19; Acts 1:9) He commanded them to wait in Jerusalem until they received the empowering of the Holy Spirit to fulfil the mission He gave them (Luke 24: 46-49; Acts 1:4-5, 8). Out of the hundreds of believers who saw the risen Christ, only 120 made it to the Upper Room to wait for the empowering (Acts 1:15).
There are probably many reasons why there weren’t more than 120 who responded to Jesus’ command. At that time it was dangerous to be a believer in Christ and so it’s possible that many decided not to go and wait because it was too risky. Whatever their reasons, a couple hundred believers chose not to obey Jesus’ command and chose to value something else more. I’m sure they were good people and that they loved Jesus; they just valued their lives more than obeying Jesus and thought that whatever else they had to do was more important – and they all missed out! A great lesson to learn here is that when we’re obedient to do what God calls us to do we will always be positioning ourselves to experience His blessings. (It’s important to note that the blessing isn’t the result of your obedience – it’s yours by grace – but you experience the blessing most when you, by faith, do what God leads you to do.)
Jesus knew that His followers needed supernatural empowering to live supernaturally. He knew that they wouldn’t be able to reign in life, and especially over persecution, without the empowering of the Holy Spirit. And the fruit is evident. Before Pentecost (the day when the Holy Spirit came) there were only a couple hundred believers, and only 120 made it to the Upper Room to wait for the empowering. And let me add that the gathering in the Upper Room wasn’t a public meeting – it wasn’t advertised. It was more like they were hiding out somewhere because being a follower of Jesus was dangerous and could easily get you killed! But after the Holy Spirit came they received “power”; they received boldness and became courageous; they received divine (godly) enablement to be witnesses (something public) of Jesus in all the world. And so the 120 received the Holy Spirit and began speaking in tongues (supernaturally proclaiming the good news of God in languages that they had never learned) so loudly that it attracted the attention of more than 3000 people. Then with boldness, formerly fearful Peter (who had forsaken Jesus when He was arrested and denied knowing Christ three times) stood up and boldly preached the first sermon of the New Covenant to all that would listen (see the whole of Acts 2). He was even so bold as to say:
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
Acts 2:36 (NKJV)
That’s boldness! Peter supernaturally transformed from a coward to a bold proclaimer of the truth, and he was even so bold that he was willing to die for what He believed in. Peter was sentenced to be crucified for his faith, and it is said that he didn’t consider himself worthy to be crucified in the same way as Jesus, and so he requested that he be crucified upside down. He wasn’t worried about dying anymore!
Even Stephen, when he was experiencing great opposition from the religious folks, had the boldness of the Holy Spirit to proclaim the truth and good news that Jesus was the Son of God (Acts 7:54-60). He was even courageous enough to shout out and ask God to have mercy upon them while they were throwing rocks at him to kill him. The empowering of the Holy Spirit made Stephen a bold, fearless witness of Jesus; and gave him courage to face death with courage.
Before Pentecost there were only 120 Christians gathered together, but after being empowered with the Holy Spirit they began to experience supernatural fruitfulness, and in one day 3000 people received Christ, became Christians and were bold enough to make a public display of their faith through water baptism. (Acts 2:41)
The Christian life isn’t difficult – it’s impossible. Trying to live the abundant life in Christ without the Holy Spirit is like trying to drive a car without petrol, or trying to attack hell with a water-pistol.
Thought to focus on for the day:
PS… Learn more about the empowering of the Holy Spirit and the Gift of Tongues when you download this short study guide.