“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting” (Acts 2:1-2).
“Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: ‘Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say’” (Acts 2:14).
Where did the Pentecost event take place? Until the year 2000, the answer that I had been taught was that it took place in the upper room.
My mind’s eye pictured frightened disciples cowering in the dark corners of a room in a house. I pictured this timid band waiting and wondering. Suddenly fire appeared, their heads were lit, scores of people showed up, Peter preached, and there were 3,000 baptisms. Praise the Lord!
Was that your picture too? I suspect it was. Consider then three questions:
1. It is one of the three major feast days ordained by God. The disciples were devout. As Peter told us, it is 9 a.m., the exact time of morning worship/sacrifice/prayer. Where would a devout disciple be?
2. The houses in old Jerusalem are very small and the streets too narrow for even a compact car. They would make a starter home look spacious and a North American alley look like a thoroughfare. Given that, exactly how do 3,000 people fit?
3. With the exception of the villas of the priests and Roman leaders, first-century homes didn’t have indoor plumbing or even a single bathtub. Where, in an upper room, would 3,000 baptisms take place?
The answer is both obvious and beautiful. Pentecost occurred, not in some obscure corner of the city, but at the Temple! It was the place where believers from every nation under heaven had come to gather for Shavuot. Where else would people that had traveled for days and even weeks be assembled at 9 a.m. on a major feast day?
We have mistakenly read “whole house” in Acts 2 to mean a family dwelling. Instead, consider that the house was the Temple: the holy place where the holy presence of God has chosen to dwell.
On the southern steps of the Temple, rabbis gathered and taught. It was the people’s entrance. On those steps archaeologists have uncovered 48 mikvehs so far. A mikveh is a ritual bath, a place where dusty travelers could immerse themselves to be washed before entering the Temple for worship.
Just inside the gates of the temple complex was the largest court of the Temple. The huge court was called the Gentile Court. Yes, the largest court of the complex was open to people of every nation, tribe, and tongue. Jesus became righteously angry in that court. The Bible records that he overthrew the tables of the money-changers and declared, “My house shall be a house of prayer for all nations.” It was not that buying and selling was wrong. Jesus’ point was that it had become the focus of the greedy priests and a higher priority than worship for the people who God called.
Devotionals are written by Jeff Blamer, Vice President of Member Services