Pentecost: How It Might Have Been

She always felt better when she could be with his friends.

True, all of them except the young one, John, had deserted him in the end. But she understood that.  She had been afraid too. And she wasn’t even in immediate danger from the Romans like they were. In any case, he had told her just before he died, “Behold your son.” And John, “Behold your mother.” So, clearly,  he wanted her to be part of them.

She really would have preferred to stay in Olivet which is at least a little distance from where it all happened. But, as they gathered there, it was clear that Jerusalem was where he had wanted to go, and Jerusalem was where they must re-assemble.  So, they crept in, over the course of a couple of days…individually, sometimes two by two…and began meeting every evening in that same upper room where they had celebrated Passover.

Now it was the Feast of Weeks, fifty days after the ceremony of the barley sheaf during Passover.  Anciently a harvest festival, marking the beginning of the offering of the first fruits. She had always loved its celebration as a child.  And so had Jesus.  She accepted their invitation to be together that morning.  There were other women there in addition to his brothers and, of course, the Twelve, their number being complete again since the addition of Matthias (who had in any case never been far from their assembly).

They had just begun to dance, and sing the Hallel:”Hallelujah! Give praise you servants of the Lord; praise the Name of the Lord.” (Psalm 113:1) when  the wind picked up.  It first whistled and then howled through the streets  of  the old city. And,  even though they had been careful to secure the door, suddenly the shutters rattled and blew open. Strangely, there was no rain or fog, as one might expect with the wind, but sunshine — bright glimpses of it, illuminating every face around the make-shift “altar-table.”

But they were too caught up in their praise to worry about the open windows now!   The volume of their singing only increased, “Let the Name of the Lord be blessed!  Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your Name give glory!  How can I repay the Lord for all the good things he has done for me!  I will lift up the cup of salvation…Praise the Lord, all you nations; laud him all your peoples.” (Psalms 113-117, passim)

As was the custom for the Feast of Weeks (or “Pentecost”) the poor and the strangers as well as the priests and Levites were already beginning to gather for the eating of the communal meal which was the culmination of this great agricultural rite.  It was a way to recognize their solidarity as people of the Covenant, across all the natural divisions of life.  And so, people in the streets were from all over the Mediterranean world!

But their diversity was no barrier to understanding God’s praise that day!  She had no idea how it happened. But, no matter what language God’s praise was being spoken or sung, everyone heard it! And everyone understood it! All of them — from east to west, from the different traditions, ethnic Jews and converts.  And when the praises began to abate, Mary saw Peter slowly walk to the open window and, flanked by the other Eleven, he said, “People of Judea and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you…and listen to what I say…” (Acts 2:14)

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