Their Eyes Were Opened
A Biblical Study for the Easter Season
Based on the Gospel of Luke
Reflection for the week after Pentecost (May 15). For this page in PDF format click on the title, below:
The week after Pentecost
I. LISTEN to the audio interview or read the transcript below. The interview is based on the following verse from today’s scriptural passage: “All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’”
Question for reflection: This passage is a bookend to the Spirit’s descent upon Jesus at his baptism. What is your understanding of the phrase, “What does this mean?”
Listen to a reflection by Bishop David Reed
Or read the reflection here: What does this mean
II. READ and STUDY the Scriptural Passage:
Acts 2:1-12 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 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. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”
Commentary on the Passage:
Biblical scholar Luke Timothy Johnson provides a helpful analysis of this well-known story about the gift of the Holy Spirit to the early church at Pentecost. Johnson points out that the symbolism of ancient Judaism is the thoroughgoing background for Luke’s narrative.
First, Pentecost was understood by Jews to be the celebration of the giving of Torah to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Second, the image of fire was a widespread Jewish symbol for the Torah itself. Third, Philo, a first-century Jewish writer in Egypt, explicitly connects the giving of the Torah by God to a kind of communication that Philo characterized as speech by flames. According to Philo, God’s voice was so clearly heard in the midst of the flames that the people seemed to see the words rather than hear them. They became living words for the people.
Luke brings these images together to portray this important event – the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in the presence of Jews from all over the world. The event fulfills the earlier words of Jesus, who had promised his disciples this outpouring of the Spirit as he was ascending into heaven (Acts 1:8). Just as Jesus received the Holy Spirit in baptism (Luke 3:21-23) and set out on his mission to inaugurate God’s kingdom (Luke 4:14-21), his followers now receive the Holy Spirit and are thereby empowered to continue the mission of Jesus by proclaiming God’s kingdom to all the nations of the earth in their native tongues. The Spirit empowers the followers of Jesus to spread the living word of God’s new Torah, embodied in the person of Jesus, throughout the world.
III. RESPOND to the following questions:
• Find the connections between the interview and the biblical story.
• Are there any connections between the interview and your story?
• We often fail to stop and think about the implications of the Pentecost story for our own world. The gospel is regularly proclaimed to different groups of people in distinctive ways that allow particular groups to hear the gospel in the context of their own language, social customs, and history. Can you identify some of the different ways the gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed in our own geographical region? Within our own Episcopal Diocese?
• In what ways are you, too, “amazed and perplexed” when you see or hear about the great variety of ways the gospel is proclaimed in your own region? Country? Throughout the world?