While staying with them, Jesus ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Before ascending into heaven, Jesus told his disciples to remain in Jerusalem, for it was there they would be baptized in the Holy Spirit. Shortly after his ascension the day of Pentecost came, and the Holy Spirit descended, first like a violent wind, then as divided tongues of fire. As each tongue rested on them, they began to speak in other languages that were not their own. While this is miraculous in and of itself, it is also a profound statement of the power of the Holy Spirit to allow us to understand those who are other, those who are not like us. To speak another language is to catch a glimpse into another person’s mind.
It is no mistake that this coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost began in Jerusalem. Jerusalem, the site of so many moments of Jesus’ life on earth, including his death and resurrection; the location of the temple; the holy city of peace. Jerusalem was also a place of deep turmoil as Jewish followers of Jesus, those early Christians, were being persecuted, and as the city was still under Roman occupation. The coming of the Holy Spirit did not bring immediate peace, but the ability to begin to understand one another, the ability to place themselves in each other’s minds and speak the same language.
As we continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, we do so asking that the Holy Spirit would continue to allow us understand one another by speaking each other’s language, literally as well as metaphorically. This past week we witnessed the opening of the embassy in Jerusalem, and protests and violence which followed, in Jerusalem as well as Gaza. We saw triumphant videos of celebration, and tear gas canisters rain from the sky. The celebration of one community seemed to be to the detriment of another. We desperately need the Holy Spirit to breathe into us the ability to understand one another. This ability is not a simple speaking of another language, but seeing into the mind of the other, and being changed through it. Chapter 2 of Acts concludes with an image of the peace brought through this kind of understanding,
All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people.
The ability to understand the other, as given by the Holy Spirit, leads to a beautiful image of peace. A peace in which all are taken care of, where generosity is routine, where fellowship and unity prevail. In the midst of a heartbreaking week for many, in Israel, Palestine, and around the world, we ask for the breath of the Holy Spirit to come and awaken us so that we might live together in peace.
We ask for your Holy Spirit to breathe new life into us. We grieve the events of this week, and know that we need you especially now. As peace seems so far from us, we ask for the ability to understand the other, so that we might begin to work towards peace. We continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, trusting that you are good, and you wish for the flourishing of all people. We specifically pray for those affected by the violence in Jerusalem and Gaza this week.
In your name we pray, Amen.
This devotion was written by Molly Lorden, the CMEP1835 Coordinator for Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP). She holds a Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary.
CMEP is very thankful for the writers who contribute Spiritual Resources. However, CMEP does not necessarily agree with all the positions of our writers, and they do not speak on CMEP’s behalf.