Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. – Acts 2:5
After Jesus’ resurrection He spent forty days with His disciples, teaching them and preparing them for their mission. “[Y]ou will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8b) To fulfill this monumental task, Jesus promised them they would be “clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49) Meanwhile they were to stay in Jerusalem until they received that power. (Acts 1:4-5) With these final instructions, Jesus was taken up into sky.
The Great Commission – to “make disciples of all nations” – was quite an assignment for an unlikely band of ordinary men and women. But with God all things are possible, and a few days later they received the promised power of the Holy Spirit.
As usual, God’s timing was impeccable. Pentecost – the Jewish Feast of Weeks – brought Jews to Jerusalem from all over the Roman world. Conveniently, the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples – a group of about 120 people – the morning of the day of Pentecost, and as the believers began miraculously praising God in many different languages they had never learned, a crowd came together in amazement. They recognized the believers as Galileans, but they were hearing praises in their own languages! Some scoffed and accused the disciples of being drunk.
Peter, the disciple who had denied Jesus three times in moments of fear, now stood boldly before the crowd and explained the gospel to them – how Jesus had come in fulfillment of the prophecies concerning the Jewish Messiah, died at the hands of sinful men, and rose from the dead on the third day. He explained that what they were seeing was the outpouring of the Spirit that had been promised, and he urged them to repent, believe in Jesus as the Christ, be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins, and receive the promised the Holy Spirit.
It was an effective sermon – about three thousand were baptized that day. When the Feast of Weeks was over, all the people who had traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate returned to their countries – taking the gospel with them!
This past week there has been another gathering of people from all over the world – the Olympics. The world’s best athletes, who have been training for years preparing to compete, have gathered in Tokyo, Japan, while the eyes of the nations are on them. For each of them this will be the experience of a lifetime – an adventure that will bring changes, for better or for worse.
To those watching the Parade of Nations at the opening ceremonies, it was evident that some of the athletes had great expectations, dreams of a gold medal, or multiple gold medals. Smaller nations were represented by just a few athletes, who were clearly just excited to be there.
Expectations have a way of making or breaking a person. We have watched some break their own records, others bitterly disappointed, and some even deciding to end their careers. One man who announced he was quitting after the Olympics was quoted as saying he wanted to find out who he was without the sport he was known for. And everyone was shocked when the young lady considered the best in her sport bowed out, citing mental health issues.
It’s hard to imagine the kind of pressure these athletes have been under or the bitter disappointment of those who feel they did not meet their nation’s expectations. Even the gold medal winners can go through an identity crisis of sorts once the cheering fades. They have worked all their lives to reach this goal; now what?
Those still aiming for the fame, the recognition, the glory of winning gold might find it hard to imagine anything greater or more important than that accomplishment. But one advantage of reaching a major goal is the acquired wisdom in recognizing that there has to be more to life.
And there is. Jesus said “I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10a) While many watching the Olympics with all its glory and pageantry might think the life of these athletes is full and enviable, the athletes themselves might be open to the offer of another, better life. They may be primed for an experience having nothing to do with sports, an experience that will bring blessings for the rest of their lives, and for all eternity.
I have been praying for over a year now that there will be those at the Olympic games who are in a unique position to share the gospel with the athletes, their coaches, the judges, journalists, and anyone else the Lord had placed there. Granted, there are fewer people at the games this time, but they are people who will soon be returning to their homes all over the world. Many of them are highly visible in their own countries and have a platform to share whatever is on their hearts.
Believers in Jesus in the first century were passionate about sharing the gospel; they were unstoppable. Their frustrated enemies described them as “these men who have turned the world upside down.”(Acts 17:6)
If “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), He is changing lives today, as well. The reality of death is no less sobering today than it was in the first century, and the promise of eternal life no less mind-boggling. Those who have received this unfathomable gift can’t keep it to themselves. (If you call yourself a Christian but have no desire to share the good news with others, it may be time to reexamine your faith.)
This is a last-minute request, but if you know and love Jesus, would you pray with me that the gospel is being proclaimed at the Olympics? Please ask the LORD to bring about a modern-day Pentecost, making Tokyo the hub of a world-wide movement of His Spirit.
Like those visitors to Jerusalem nearly 2000 years ago, the visitors to Tokyo in 2021 may go home with far more than they were hoping for.
Prayer: LORD, be glorified at the Olympic games. Convict the lost of their sin and need for a Savior. Bring them to repentance, and give them Your promised Holy Spirit, abundance in this life, and eternal life in heaven. May they be released into the world with powerful testimonies that win millions to faith in You, in Jesus’ name. Amen.