Many of us marvel over the amount of people who were “cut to the heart,” coming to faith in Christ at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out. The number of people totaled 3,000 that day who repented of their sins and were baptized. We often think to ourselves, if only our ministries could be as effective as this apostolic ministry we see in Acts 2. However, we miss out on an important piece of Jewish history when we start comparing ourselves to the first century church.
Living under this kind of pressure can be quite defeating as we think to ourselves, the Spirit of God isn’t moving as powerfully as it once did! However, did we ever consider the amount of people who were there to see and experience the power of God on display, yet chose to walk away, instead of receiving the words of eternal life?
If you were a devout Jew you would have been in Jerusalem that day to celebrate the feast of Shavuot (Pentecost). The exact number of Jews that were there that day is hard to fully know, but the Jewish historian, Josephus gives us some insight into what Jerusalem was like when the Jews gathered for one of the seven feasts. Josephus tells of when the Jews gathered for Passover during the time of Nero. He said there were 2.7 million Jews in Jerusalem there to celebrate Pesach (Passover). Since Passover is the most widely celebrated Jewish feast, the gathering at Pentecost wouldn’t have been nearly as large, but even if we are conservative in our numbers and say there were 750,000-1 million Jews present, it certainly makes 3,000 people seem like a much smaller number in relation to the amount of those who would have heard the message and seen the power of God on display.
It certainly gives us fresh eyes to see and understand this passage. If you’re much like me you become discouraged that your ministry isn’t as effective, but truth be told, it is quite likely many, many more walked away then did embrace the message of truth.
Co-laborers in ministry, to you I would say, do not lose heart when it seems as though no one is getting the message; be faithful and continue to share the truth in love and rejoice with all your might over one sinner who repents. Do not grow weary over those who reject the message. The Apostles dealt with that too and their listeners were there to experience the power of the Holy Spirit come down! They were first hand witnesses of a work of God, but chose not to humble themselves and repent. Instead, they walked away that day; potentially, thousands upon thousands of them.
As much as we long to see people embrace Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, the truth of the matter is, the gospel is a hard message. People often don’t want to humble themselves to receive it. They don’t want to place anyone else in control of their lives, so they would rather go on in their stubborn rebellion, instead of receiving the message of grace and forgiveness.
Friends, if following Jesus were easy, everyone would do it, but it is a call to die. To die to our own will and to take up a new nature. To kill the old body of sin, and be made new through Jesus Christ. Keep sharing the message, but do not grow discourage or think to yourselves, God isn’t moving! Keep being faithful to Him, keep sharing His truth, but do not become disheartened over those who do not embrace the gospel. Pray for them with all your might that someday they too may be, “cut to the heart.”