Speaking our Language
This week, Paul travels to Ephesus, baptizes a group of 12 men in the name of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit shows up much as it did for Pentecost. Each one of the men starts speaking in tongues and prophesying.
After two years, he leaves Ephesus. He knows that he will not return, and tells them so. His travels are coming to an end, and he will eventually be imprisoned and killed. It is interesting to note that Paul's letter to the Ephesians was written after he left them. When you get the chance, read it with the understanding that he will never return to this place he has called home for so long. It's much more powerful when you know where Paul is coming from.
In the stories of Paul's last travels, he is continuously taken to the Roman authorities and the authorities keep sending him back. This is so different from Jesus. Paul defends himself by proclaiming Jesus. Jesus never proclaimed Himself, but allowed the crowd to determine His fate. Paul is freed, Jesus is not.
Finally, Paul asserts his rights as a Roman citizen and the Roman authorities have to deliver him to Caesar even though they still found no wrong in him. (a Jesus parallel?) He lived comfortably for two years and taught everyone who came to see him. The book of Acts doesn't tell us that anything else happened, but tradition tells us that Paul was eventually beheaded and never did return to Ephesus.
Now you may think that all these parallels are a bit much - prisons/tombs opening, Holy Spirit descending, trials, accusations - it makes you wonder, doesn't it? I think that this is one of the many times that God communicates to us in ways that we will understand - in ways that we can return to and see through our doubt.
It's a little like parenting. Would you tell your child "I love you" one time in their lives, or would you tell them over and over again? Once is just not enough, and even the words are not enough. There must be actions, there must be occasions to build trust, and they must fit with the words.
In these first years after Jesus' resurrection, God is speaking loudly and clearly so that we can start to understand. It's clear that Jesus is intimately present, that the Holy Spirit connects us directly to Jesus' power and grace, and that each and every one of us is invited into relationship with Him. It's time that we listened.
What do you hear? What do you see?
Pentecost is coming. Are you ready?