Journey to Nicea: “From Passover to Pentecost”
Jesus Christ is the model for all things done in the Orthodox Church. Even as He in His earthly life worked through the Holy Spirit, so will the Apostles. During the Last Supper, Jesus promised to teach His disciples by the Holy Spirit (St John 16:13). Now, after His resurrection, His promise is fulfilled.
In these forty days His Apostles are forever changed by the reality of Jesus’ Resurrection. The same men who denied Him and fled at His arrest are being transformed –powerful evidence of the truth of the Resurrection of Christ.
The Promise of the Father: the gift of the Holy Spirit to be poured out on God’s faithful, according to Jewish expectations.
The concern of the disciples is still fixed on the idea of an earthly kingdom which would liberate the Jews from the humiliation of subjection to Rome. Only after Pentecost do the disciples have a clear understanding of Jesus’ messianic mission and the establishment of the Kingdom of God.
Jesus’ concern is with another Kingdom, one ruled in the power of the Holy Spirit. Note how all three Persons of the Holy Trinity are clearly related in the work of salvation. The power of the Holy Spirit will energize the disciples to go to the entire world with the gospel.
Peter and the others are witnesses to the Ascension. Christ’ Ascension is His enthronement in the fullness of divine authority and glory. In the Orthodox Church we sing,” When the Disciples beheld You, O Christ, ascending unto the Father and sitting down beside Him, the angels rejoiced, shouting, ‘ Lift up you gates, lift up; for the King has ascended unto glory of His Nature’s light’ ”
Certain Orthodox icons of the Ascension represent Christ in such a way that one cannot tell whether He is going into heaven or coming again. This captures the profound truth that we are already living under His reign while awaiting His return to establish the Kingdom in its fullness. We are not to stand idly gazing up into heaven, but to prepare ourselves soberly as His servants, filled with the Spirit, expecting His return, living lives of righteousness.
Obedient to Christ’s command, the Apostles, with the other disciples including the Virgin Mary and members of Jesus’ extended family, all wait in the upper room for the coming of the Holy Spirit, devoting themselves toprayer.
[Acts 1:20] The Greek word episcope, here rendered office, refers to the apostolic office. The authority of overseeing the life of the Church continued in the bishops of the Church who stand in apostolic succession. The Greek word for ” bishop” is episkopos, literally “overseer.”
[Acts 1:26] They cast their lots in the conviction that God would control the lots and thereby make the final choice.
[Acts 2:1] The Day of Pentecost (also called the Feast of Weeks) in the OT (Lev. 23:16) comes 50 days after Passover and is a celebration of the firstfruits of harvest. Since Jesus was crucified at Passover, the events occur 50 days after His death. On the first Christian Pentecost the believers are gathered together with one accord in one place, they are united in an assembly. Their unity creates an environment in which Holy Spirit will come.
[Acts 2:3] This phenomenon of tongues, as of fire fulfills the prophecy of John the Baptist that Christ would “baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16; Matt. 3.11). This fire is a manifestation of the uncreated energy of God. (Because God is outside the bounds of all that is created, He and all that comes from His uncreated nature, including His power or energy, are called uncreated). Pentecost so transcends man’s understanding that human language cannot describe this experience, but only point to it.
[Acts 2:4-8] This is a fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel (Joel 2:28, 29) concerning the Holy Spirit. The words spoken by the Apostles are in the actual languages of people from all over the empire who have come to Jerusalem for the feast. They hear the Good News and praises of God in their respective languages from people who do not know those languages.
[Acts 2:14-40] Peter’s sermon focuses on two prophetic themes: (1) the promised coming of the Holy Spirit, and (2) the Resurrection of Christ from the dead. This pattern of showing OT prophecy fulfilled in Christ is a major theme of apostolic preaching, leading to repentance, baptism for the remission of sins, and the receiving of the Holy Spirit.
[Acts 2:16-21] On Pentecost the first part of Prophet Joel’s prophecy of outpouring of God’s Spirit is fulfilled and the second part will be fulfilled with the Second Coming of Christ.
[Acts 2:33] The age of the Kingdom of the Trinitarian God begins with the Ascension of Christ into the heavens, His enthronement at the right hand of God the Father, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
[Acts 2:37] Peter’s listeners are cut to the heart because they understand what he is saying. Almost half of his message is the quotation of OT Scriptures promising the Messiah. The evidence that Jesus Christ is Lord is overwhelming to them.
[Acts 2:38, 39] Peter’s call to respond to the gospel requires specific actions which define Christian life within the Church. We must: (1) repent, (2) be baptized, and (3) receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. To this day, people come to Christ in precisely this same manner in the baptismal service of the Orthodox Church. They (1) repent, renouncing the devil; (2) are baptized by immersion in water for the remission of sins; and (3) are chrismated (anointed) for the receiving of the Holy Spirit. This sacramental action inaugurates our new life in Christ (Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 6:17; 12:13, Gal. 4:6, 7; Phil.1:6; 1 John 3:2).
[Acts 2: 42] Central elements of Orthodox worship-apostolic teaching, liturgical prayer and the Eucharist-are present from the very beginning of the Church. Prayers is literally “the prayers” in Greek, referring to specific liturgical prayers. The Jews had practiced liturgical prayers for centuries; many of their prayers are contained in the Book of Psalms. The early Christians adapted these prayers for use in the Church. Thebreaking of bread is, the Eucharist, Holy Communion.
[Acts 2:44-47] The earliest days of the church of Jerusalem were filled with love, unity, and joy in which Christians shared all things in common. Communal life was practiced because it was necessary to care for all of the new converts who were away from their homes. It is still appropriate in times of need, though surely not necessary at all times. We should, however, always regard all of our possessions as belonging to God.
[Acts 3:1] At the hour of prayer, the ninth hour, indicates the Apostles were observing regular hours of prayer, such as the Jews had observed for centuries. The practice of praying at the first (6:00 A.M.), third (9:00 A.M.), sixth (12:00 noon) and ninth (3:00 P.M.) hours of the day was carried over into the Church from the start. It continues today in Orthodox monasteries and in many Orthodox parishes, especially during Lenten time.
[Acts 3:1-10] The Apostles are empowered not only to preach and teach, but also to continue Christ’s healing ministry-a sacrament of the Church-as an authentication of the gospel.
[Acts 3:12-26] Peter’s homily is both brief and full. He explains:
(1) The identity of Jesus, by whose power the lame man was healed: He is God’s Suffering Servant (v.13), the Holy One (v.14) of God, the Prince of life (v.15), the Christ foretold by the prophets (v.18).
(2) Jesus’ rejection by the Jews: The religious leaders had Him killed (v.15, but God brought Him back to life, and the Apostles are witnesses to that Resurrection (v.15)
(3) What that rejection means: It shows profound ignorance of God’s saving activity as prophesied by Scripture (vv.18-20).
(4) What people need to do: repent (v.19) and convert (experience a thorough change of heart and mind), which is essential for participation in the Kingdom (v.19).
(5) The results of Conversion: forgiveness of sins, renewal, and confident expectation of the Second Coming of Christ (vv. 19-26).
[Acts 3:19] On the day of Pentecost, Peter preached that the outcome of repentance is receiving the Holy Spirit. Here, he says the outcome is that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord. This second outcome illuminates the first. Receiving the Holy Spirit brings refreshing renewal from the Lord-the presence of the Lord in the Eucharistic assembly.
Source: Orthodox Study Bible