They had been in lockdown for some time. They were locked down because they feared for their lives. But when they were given the strength and inspiration to realise that sitting in locked houses was surviving rather than living, they went out and did what they were meant to be doing: they spoke about hope and new ways of living to all who would listen. They would have taken precautions – in the light of their lives being threatened, they were alert to possible dangers – however, they would not allow fear to dominate. The fear would still have been there – some would have been more afraid than others – but they realised that they did not want to live their lives with fear having the upper hand.
This is the story of Pentecost. The followers of Jesus Christ kept a low profile after his death and resurrection because they feared arrest. Their fear paralyzed them. In addition, they would have felt confused and disoriented. The person whom they followed had been executed and then he appeared to be alive again. They could not make sense of what was happening: their small community was in disarray. But they waited fearfully and patiently.
What happened next was so life-changing that words cannot adequately describe it. In fact, it is described in different ways in the Bible. St. John’s Gospel describes it in a quiet, almost understated way as Jesus ‘breathing’ on them in a similar way that God breathed life into creation. The book of Acts describes a much more dramatic event with the house where they were gathered being rocked by something that sounded like a violent wind and it was as though fire appeared among them.
Whatever happened, God, the Holy Spirit, came among his followers in a new and vibrant way giving them the confidence to go out from their locked houses to live out and tell all who would listen some good news about each person living life to the full. As the life of Jesus showed, failure need not be a mill-stone that holds us back but can be a stepping stone which helps us forward. As the followers of Jesus showed, when fear does not have the upper hand, then we are freed to move forwards
We live in a society filled with fear. Covid-19 has made it worse. Fear is healthy when it makes us cautious, but it stunts our growth when it infects and drives our whole lives. One of the joys of Pentecost is that it shows what can happen when fear is put in its place.