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All Along

May 31, 2020
By Rev. Peter Heckert

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our meditation for this Pentecost weekend comes from our Gospel text, wherein Luke records the crowd’s amazement as they say, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? … we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” Here ends our text; dear Christian friends …

This had been the plan all along, and nobody had seen it coming. Of course, in hindsight, the plan was obvious, but before the events that occurred in our reading from Acts, no one had the slightest idea of what to expect. Then, on that fateful day of Pentecost, as the apostles were gathered and suddenly began speaking in languages they had never been schooled in, things started to click. They began to make sense, and as Peter got up to preach his infamous Pentecost sermon, things became very clear, indeed. This had been God’s plan all along.

And it wasn’t a new plan; even as the tower of Babel toppled, and the peoples were dispersed across the face of the earth in a haze of confusion and misunderstanding, God knew what He was going to do. Actually, the plan stretched back even further than that, all the way back to a garden, once free of corruption. Even before God spoke all of creation into existence, He knew what would happen. He knew how the Woman would be beguiled by the smooth-talking, fork-tongued serpent. He knew how the Man, like a dope, would stand by, not fulfilling his duty as a husband to protect his wife and, instead, went with the flow and ate the fruit his wife offered him. He knew how all of this would transpire, and He already knew how He would restore the creation that was, in that moment, broken by Man’s rebellion and sin. He pronounces His intention to the snake in the aftermath of mankind’s fall: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

This plan included a people, descendants of a man and woman who, for all intents and purposes, shouldn’t have had children, as they were well into their 70s. Nevertheless, God made a promise to the man Abram (later named Abraham) that he would become a “great nation” and that he would have offspring as numerous as the stars. True to His word, God opened the womb of Abraham’s wife Sarah, and she gave birth to a bouncing baby boy, the child of promise, Isaac, when she was nearly a century old.

Isaac and his descendants would become a great people, Israel by name, with twelve different tribes and millions of members, and it was from one of these tribes that the promised offspring of woman would come to crush the seed of the serpent. What’s more, the people knew this. They were the chosen people, elected by God to be the people from whom the Messiah would come, but throughout time, they would often forget that fact. They weren’t chosen because there was something inherently special about them, nor did their special designation make them any better than the peoples around them. They were chosen and special because God chose them, and for no other reason. They were part of His plan to redeem the entire world.

The promise had always been that, though the one special Son, the one seed of woman who would come from this people, God would bless all nations of the world! “It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’” This had always been the plan! God’s plan to send One born from the tribe of Judah, descended from David and Abraham and Adam would be the reason all the nations of the world would come to the house of the Lord!

And by the time of our text, His work was accomplished. Jesus of Nazareth, who is rightly called the Christ, had done His earthly ministry, healing the sick and deformed, casting out demons, raising the dead, and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom of God to the poor. He’d been welcomed into the city of Jerusalem as a conquering king, and by the end of that week, the same crowds who had lauded Him as the “son of David” would call for His execution by crucifixion. The religious and political authorities assented, and He was marched up to a hill outside the city walls. There, bleeding and weak, His hands and feet were nailed to a cross and He was lifted up, put on display for all to see. He died, uttering His final words, “It is finished.” Rocks split, the earth quaked, the temple curtain was torn asunder. Dead saints were raised from their graves, and a Roman centurion – not a descendent of Abraham – cried out, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” That was God’s plan all along – to send His only-begotten Son to die in our place … to pay for our sin with His own life … to put to death sin in His own body. This was the His plan.

But that wasn’t the end of the plan! That Sunday morning, He who is both fully God and fully man showed His lordship over all things, even death, by rising from the dead! Not merely surviving His crucifixion ordeal, but having once been dead, was now alive again! He appeared to His disciples numerous times over the subsequent 40 days, reminding them of His promise to send them a Helper who would help them recall all things He had told them and to give them power from on high. Now, in our text, that time has finally come. The Helper – the Holy Spirit – came, doing precisely what Jesus had said He would do. As the sound like a mighty rushing wind filled the house … as the tongues as of fire separated and rested on the disciples … as they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in foreign languages as He gave them utterance, proclaiming the mighty deeds of God … it had been the plan all along.

The plan was that the Gospel of Jesus would be told in every nation to every tribe in every tongue. The plan was to make the redemption found only in Christ Jesus known near and far, from Argentina to Zimbabwe. The apostles, the “sent ones,” proclaimed this Jesus, crucified and resurrected for our salvation, to all Jerusalem that day, and would go on from there to proclaim it to all of Judea and Samaria. Some would cross the seas and proclaim it in the Gentile strongholds of Greece and Rome and Hispania. Some would go east, making it through modern-day Iraq and Iran, all the way to India and perhaps beyond. Through the centuries, those who received this Word have likewise taken the message to further places like the New World and Oceania. It was all part of His plan, that various tribes and tongues would hear the Good News of Jesus Christ, and thanks be to God, many believed … and that includes us.

We’re part of this plan, too. God gave us the gift of faith in the waters of Holy Baptism! He has included us in His story, to bring His gospel message of Christ, the crucified and resurrected Lord, to those around us, and what better time to do so than on the heels of a pandemic that drove home our frail and mortal nature? Your friends, your neighbors, your loved ones … they need the Seed of Woman! They need the descendant of David and Abraham and Adam! They need to hear that, in Christ Jesus, their sins are forgiven, just as we need to hear that message every week, as well! God will use us to spread this Word, and He will rescue those who hear His voice, and nothing in all creation will be able to snatch them from His hand. After all … that was, and is, His plan!

+ In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Tags: Acts 2:1-21