In the second chapter Acts, Saint Luke records an astounding miracle. As you may well know, Acts 2 records the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. As they prayed in the upper room, the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and then went out into the streets to preach, each one in a language that he had never learned or studied. Usually when we think of miracles in Acts 2 this is the one that comes to mind. But there is another. If you keep reading to the end of the chapter you will find that Luke records another miracle.
44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (ESV)
When you stop to think about it, this is an astounding miracle. It was only a matter of weeks before that these very same people, the residents of Jerusalem, were gathered together at the trial and execution of Jesus. They were threatening to riot if Pontius Pilate did not hand Jesus over to them so that they could murder him. And now, only about a month and a half later they have been transformed from murders into philanthropists. They have opened their hearts and their hands to share what they had in common with all those who had need. This is nothing short of a miracle.
So, one must ask, what changed?
The best answer, the only answer, is Jesus. Jesus changed everything. To begin with, Jesus died. Not for his own crimes but for theirs. And even though they were murderers, he did not hold their crimes against them. Secondly, Jesus rose. Following his death, he demonstrated his authority over death by defeating it. Death had to let him go because he fulfilled death's penalty. Thirdly, he ascended. Jesus, the God-man ascended into heaven to sit on heaven's throne and to send His Holy Spirit. Fourthly, Pentecost came. The Spirit came. He came to the Apostles and then he came into the hearts and lives of those murdering Jerusalemites through the preaching of Peter and the apostles.
Luke tells us they were cut to the heart. The Holy Spirit convicted them of their sin. Luke tells us they asked the apostles what they should do. They were told to repent and to be baptized. The murderers repented. The sinners were baptized. They received the gift of the Holy Spirit. And then, they were filled with the love of God for one another so that they gave of themselves generously and saw to it that no one was hungry and that no one had a need.
This community of Christians in Acts was truly a Spirit directed community. They were moved in their love for God to love each other. There was no need for taxes or dues or fees because they willingly gave as each one was able to each one who had need.
For us who are Christians 2000 years and a few thousand miles removed we might ask if the same miracle happened here? Yes it has. The same Spirit has come to us as we have gathered together to break the Bread of Christ's Body. The same Spirit flows through the living waters of Baptism. The same Spirit is alive and active in the preaching and hearing of the Word. This Spirit turns us from murderers and sinners and idolaters to lovers of God and one another.
Has the miracle of Pentecost moved us to the same works and gifts of love? Yes. Consider the gifts that are given each Sunday as Spirit filled Christians open their hearts and their hands to give their offerings so that they might be used to offer gifts of love to the families in our church and local community? Is that Holy Spirit who would prompt us to these gifts ever resisted through sins of greed and selfishness? Yes. Are these sins that we need to repent of? Yes. Does the Holy Spirit bring us to forgiveness? Yes.
We are baptized Christians. In our baptism the Spirit has united us to the death and resurrection of Jesus. This gift continues to be given to us brand new each day. Every night we go to bed confessing the sins of that day and every morning we wake up completely new with a clean slate. Every day we live in the knowledge and assurance that we are redeemed sinners, loved by God.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:11)