Chapter I. — The Day of Pentecost

Chapter I. — The Day of Pentecost.

Scenes and Circumstances Prior to the Outpouring

And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. Luke 19:41, 42.

Jerusalem, prior to the day of Pentecost, had passed through strange and moving scenes, more especially within the previous two-score years. Within and around her had taken place events of vital importance and far-reaching effects, which had caused anxiety to leaders of religion and state. The former were concerned because persistent rumour had divested their long-looked-for Messiah of His glory and triumph, and had wrapped Him in garments of lowliness and humility. The latter were aroused because a kingdom of a new order was about to be established, and its King had already been born. On one side there were predictive whisperings and murmurings regarding the end of Jewish tradition; on the other fears and dark forebodings concerning a usurped throne. One saw the passing away of all ceremonial law, the other the decline and fall of their glorious empire.

More recently the strange and fearless John the Baptist had come dangerously, near to the city, and his approach had intensified the anxiety, for he openly proclaimed the establishment of a kingdom that would supersede Caesar's. The loud, commanding, penetrating voice of the desert preacher had reached the ears of the rulers, and his message struck terror to their hearts

"Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight." Matthew 3:2.

The leaders of religion discerned in the sound of that voice the death-knell of empty formalism, the end of all typical sacrifice, and the awful spectre of a vacated Temple. Even the select Pharisees and Sadducees had come under the preacher's denunciations

"O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: and think not to say within yourselves, We believe Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire." Matthew 3:7.

The severe tension in religion and state was further accentuated by the news that Jesus the Nazarene, the coming King, was being openly presented to the people, that He had been actually baptised by John in the presence of vast multitudes, and had been publicly declared as the one Mediator between God and man. Time passed on, and nerves, strained to breaking point, were somewhat relaxed through the death of John the Baptist. But it was not long until the inhabitants of the city began to realise that what they had already experienced were but the rumblings preceding the great spiritual and moral earthquakes that were to shake the city to its foundations.

The temporary relaxation through the riddance of John the Baptist is ended, and there are manifold fears within and without, for the ministry of Jesus is confirmed by miracles and signs which John never did. The whole world seemed to be going after Jesus. It would not be long until the common people themselves would acclaim Him King, and as for established religion, it was passing quickly away. Something must be done and that soon, if religion and state are to be saved.

The task of convincing the people in their favour and against Jesus is formidable. How could the people be turned against Him when they saw the result of His touch in delivering and healing? Why, the winds and the waves obey His voice, and even the dead are raised. The only possible way would be to find some discrepancy between His teaching and the teaching of their beloved Moses. A seeming inaccuracy might suffice, because the people loved and revered the Law, and even Moses himself.

Time passes on, and intrigue soon discloses a possible solution. Jesus must die like John the Baptist, and the state combines with religion to erect His cross. Then with fury, malice, and hatred surging around it Christ gives up the ghost amid scenes of ignominy. The desert preacher is gone, Jesus is dead, the great struggle for existence is now over, and they begin once again to build upon the foundations of false hopes and uncertainties. What irreparable loss could have been saved, what anguish of soul avoided, if only both religion and state had seen in the person of Christ that corn of wheat that was destined to die before bringing forth the inevitable harvest.

Three short days pass — and the lull in the storm proves to be the calm before thunders roll and the lightnings flash. It is the third day, and the news falls like an avalanche upon the city — Jesus is alive, the seal of the Empire broken, the stone is rolled away, and the tomb in which He lay is empty. Difficulties in the city are multiplied, religion and state are unnerved, for they now have to contend with One who had even broken the bonds of death. Far better had they allowed Him to live than to be placed in this nerve-racking dilemma with its unmistakable dark forebodings. Days pass slowly by, and although there are rumours of His being seen and heard by His disciples He does not appear openly as before, and perhaps He never will. In her bewilderment poor deluded Jerusalem tries to find solace in sleep, and to settle down once more after the past strenuous years. The tranquillity of her dreams is not realised, and under present conditions there is an uncertainty about the future. The day of Pentecost draws near. It is almost fifty days since the day of His resurrection, and the city is filled with the sons of Abraham who have come into it from far and near for the annual celebration of Pentecost. It would not be difficult to say what was the chief subject of conversation. The stranger from afar would enquire diligently of those who lived near concerning the scenes that had taken place in and around the ancient city. A thousand questions were asked and as many answered. Rumours of all kinds were in circulation, and conjectures were clothed in eloquence. Let us at this juncture try to visualise the scenes at the two central places of worship in the city, just before the dawning of this great day. The one is the magnificent Temple, where everything is in readiness for the great Jewish festival about to be celebrated. On the morrow the priest will stand in flowing robes before the Temple veil, waving, as the custom was, the two wave-loaves which were the first-fruits of harvest. It would be the same veil that had been rent some seven weeks before, exactly at the time when Jesus died. Alas! that which had been rent by the Divine hand, in order to show that the way into His presence was now open, had by this time been sewn together or replaced by the hand of man.

The other place of worship is a plain insignificant upper room where one hundred and twenty disciples of Jesus are gathered. They have been holding a prayer convention in anticipation of an outpouring of the Holy Spirit which their Lord had promised. Tomorrow, the tenth day of their prayer meeting, they will meet as they have done every day since they commenced. There will be no priests officiating, for they need no mediator save Jesus, who is on the Father's throne. There will be no ritual, and very little formality, for each one will simply pour out his or her heart in prayer until the windows of heaven are opened.

We have thus given some idea of the conditions which prevailed in the city of Jerusalem, from the birth of Christ until the day when God ushered in the great dispensation of the Holy Spirit. It is now the day of Pentecost. Nothing unusual happens in the grand Temple, the services are conducted in the same orderly manner as they have been for centuries.

Jerusalem was once more seeking to re-establish the ordinary routine of its normal life, and to settle down undisturbed by the mysterious forces that had troubled her in recent years. These she hoped had been abated, and there would be no recurrence. Then suddenly the heavens were opened right over the upper room, and showers of latter rain descended. The lightning tongues of fire fell, thunderous praise pealed forth, until the ancient city was rocked to and fro by the greatest of spiritual and moral forces. Pictures drawn by the hand of God on Old Testament parchment had suddenly come to life with energising and quickening effect. Biblical type had merged into antitype, and Pentecostal showers were falling, drenching the barren land of religious experience. Rippling rivers of living water that had their source in the far shadows of scriptural prophecy were surging in upon the astonished inhabitants. Fountains of deep, sincere, and sanctified emotion were breaking forth, and thousands were turning to God for salvation through the crucified, risen, and glorified Christ. The moral foundations rocked and false religious structures crashed. Truly the greatest of all spiritual upheavals befell the city.