“They thought they were drunk…”
Sometimes, people who haven’t actually read the Bible come up with this rather silly notion, that the Bible was written much later than it was, written by the winners of history (so to speak) to make the disciples and the Christian faith look good. So, we don’t actually have to believe any of it because it just glorifies the disciples. Now when we actually read the Bible we find out rather quickly how silly that kind of thinking and those excuses really are. For example, just in the NT, we see Peter, the Rock of the church and the basis for the catholic Papacy, swearing like the sailor he was at a little girl, denying he ever knew Jesus and having Jesus himself call him a servant of Satan. If I was writing a myth about a past hero, I can tell you, these would not be the details I would include, would you?
Then we have this account of how God’s Spirit worked to create the New Testament Era of the Church. This is the pinnacle, the moment that Jewish history pointed towards where God would recreate Israel and make it something new, a new people to tell the whole world about Jesus. This is the very exciting moment where the last 2000 and some years of the Worlwide, Universal Christian Church history, that 3 billion Christians this year alone call home, started. Of all the moments, if you were making this stuff up, to make the disciples look good, it would be now. So, what do we hear in the text, is the reaction of the crowds to the disciples?
“They thought they were drunk!”
This does not sound like the kind of thing that I would write if I was making this stuff up. My story would sound like “and tens of thousands of people, bowed down immediately and worshipped Jesus!” But you know, that’s not what happened. This is a real account, of real Christians, with a very real anointing by the Holy Spirit, dealing with very real people who say stuff like, “they must be drunk,” when confronted with a miracle and the good news about Jesus.
Because what do people so often do when they are confronted with something that does not fit into their understanding of the world. When they are confronted by a miracle from God almighty delivered through a group of ragtag disciples?
They notice and comment and try to make it fit into their worldview, saying they must be drunk, that’s it they’re drunk, and if they’re drunk then I don’t have to deal with the reality of what I’ve seen and heard and the words of conviction and love that come from those who love Jesus.
But you know what, at least the community noticed something was happening, right?
Part of the challenge and the question that Pentecost has for the Christian church today is do we have enough spirit-filled and spirit-driven love for our communities to make onlookers make any comment at all? If not, is it simply because the Holy Spirit is working in other ways or is it because the church has so successfully muffled the Holy Spirit that there is actually nothing happening at all in our Christian walk to make people take notice? (NT Wright, ACTS For Everyone)
This past week I am very grateful that our church as part of your commitment to my continuing education, sent me to a police chaplaincy and FEMA Incident Command conference. It was a good conference that gave me much that I can bring back to our congregation and community. There was a story in particular that I want to share with you from that conference.
The first was a heartbreaking story that a Christian police officer’s widow told us. She shared with us how her husband in the line of duty was killed cruelly by a low life with a gun. Even after this scum had ambushed her husband, shot and incapacitated him, instead of taking the chance to escape, came back and deliberately killed her husband in cold-blood. The police caught the man quickly and he was sentenced to death row. But what she shared with us, was during the sentencing she and her daughter and son each publicly forgave the man that killed her husband and their father in the name of Jesus. They weren’t saying that what he had done was ok, or that he shouldn’t receive the justified earthly consequences of his actions. But what they wanted that man to know was that Jesus could forgive him and he didn’t have to suffer the punishment for his crimes eternally. So they forgave him so maybe, he could somehow come to and know Jesus.
How do you do that? That does not fit into a normal human worldly way of looking at the world. When people hear that kind of Christian story, they react much like those onlookers 2,000 years ago did on Pentecost. How could they do that? How could they forgive? It doesn’t fit.
Much like the story we hear about Jesus, that story that even the Bible says is foolishness to the gentiles and nonsense to the Greeks. The story about how God loved his broken and selfish world filled with people that kill police officers in cold blood, that he sent his son to bear the worse that sin and evil could bear upon the cross, to go to the very heart of darkness. To die so we could live. That’s the kind of story that does not make sense in this world. That’s the kind of story that people try do dismiss as myth or a fairy tale. But you know what, its not suppose to make sense to a worldly, sinful and selfish way of thinking. It is supposed to be received in faith and believed.
An act of generosity in the name of Jesus. An act of compassion in the name of Jesus. A gift to the community in the name of Jesus. Sometimes it just doesn’t matter so much, if we get it just right, or if we look like a group of rag tag disciples, or if people think we’re drunk on Jesus. At least something is being done and in the doing people notice and comment and wonder why. Because the opposite is nothing happening at all in the name of Jesus, nothing for people to notice or comment upon. For the Christian church, to not doing anything at all is by far worse than trying to do the right thing in the name of Jesus and not always getting it right or having people look at you a little bit funny.
Because we have to remember that even though many thought the disciples were drunk on that Pentecost Day in their community, 3,000 people were baptized and saved that day as well. Amen.