Joachin could hardly believe his ears! He had known the streets would be crowded for this joyful festival of Shavuot, but when he got to the central district the babble was deafening. It seemed everyone was shouting in a different language. And yet, when he listened, he could make out his own dialect and understand it perfectly! That was very strange, because he had never heard his native dialect spoken in public, only at home among family.
Several years ago his family had come from Palmyra, far to the north above the Arabian Desert. Joachin remembered the long journey south when it took several days to reach Damascus with their train of donkeys and their few possessions. They continued the journey through the lush Galilee, through Tiberias, and on down the Jordan Valley until they turned west to Jerusalem. There they settled and by now had got used to the customs and language of this intriguing city.
Like all the others today, his father’s carpet stall at the Jerusalem market was closed for the Festival. Joachin knew about the Jewish Festivals. Fifty days ago the whole community had been celebrating Passover, when they remembered the great deliverance God had brought to the nation when he saved them from the slavery of Egypt. Then came the grain harvests, and now it was Shavuot, sometimes called Pentecost, which reminded the people of when God gave the law to Moses on Mount Sinai.
“Come quickly,” he cried to his father and brothers as he raced home to tell them the news. The smell of freshly baked bread filled the house. Together the men raced back to the extraordinary scene.
“What’s going on?” they asked.
“It’s very strange,” a bystander replied. “These men are all ignorant Galileans, and yet each of us can hear them speaking in our own dialects, our own languages to which we were born!”
“They are telling of the mighty works of God,” another said, astonished and bewildered. “What can this mean?”
“Hush, Peter is going to talk.”
Peter was well known by the devout in Jerusalem. Weren’t the stories about him circulated regularly in the streets? How he had been a fisherman and then a follower of that prophet, Jesus, who was killed at Passover, and how he had sworn he didn’t know Jesus when he was being tried in the Sanhedrin? What would he have to say?
“Let me explain,” shouted Peter, and the people hushed to listen. “These men are not drunk as you think, but today we see what was spoken through the prophet Joel: In those days, God declares, I will pour out my Spirit upon all mankind, and you will prophesy, and I will show wonders, and whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Listen to what I say! Jesus of Nazareth, who was accredited by God among you, was delivered up to death by God’s plan. But God raised him from the dead and those of us here before you are witnesses of that fact. Now he is lifted to God’s right hand, and has sent the Holy Spirit of promise, who has made this outpouring which you yourselves both see and hear. Now know for sure that this Jesus, whom you crucified, God has made both Lord and Christ.”
The people stood in stunned silence; what were they to make of this amazing news?
“What should we do?” they asked at length.
“Repent, change your views, accept the will of God and be baptized, and you will receive forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Peter spoke with authority.
Joachin looked around in wonder. What was this message that Peter was bringing? He watched some people sneer and walk away. He watched others fall on their faces and cry to God for mercy. What would he do? The chattering groups around him were discussing recent events in an upper room with a frightening noise, and terrifying tongues of fire settling on each person’s head and then being filled with incredible power and joy! Could he, too, have this power and joy?
He grabbed the nearest person.
“Tell me,” he implored. “Tell me what is happening, and how I too, may have this gift.”
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