Is this the actual site of Pentecost? In 2015, I visited Jerusalem as part of a pastor’s tour with GTI Tours. One of the many stops we made was at the Southern Steps of the Temple Mount. Of all of the possible locations, the Southern Steps seems to fit the description of where Saint Peter and the Apostles preached their famous sermon on the Day of Pentecost. Pentecost marked the beginning of the New Covenant and the establishment of the Christian Church–50 days after Jesus’ resurrection. The place is a natural outdoor auditorium and at the foot of the steps in an area not shown in the footage, were a number of mikvot (small pools for Jewish purification) where the baptisms of the new converts could have taken place.
Was the Southern Steps area the birthplace of the Church? No one knows for sure, but in my opinion it fits all the requirements. What a thrill to stand on the very spot where the Gospel was first preached under the New Covenant!
Watch this 49 second video footage from the Southern Steps!
Check out this video on Christianity’s Spread 30-1000 AD! I think you’ll find that it will surprise you with how Christianity became established and the timeline it followed.
The value of this video.
This video shows visually how Christianity spread over its first thousand years from a tiny persecuted group in the Middle East to eventually cover much of Europe and beyond. It is interesting to see that Southern Europe, as well as parts of Africa and Asia became Christianized first. It took 600 years for the ancestors of the English to embrace Christianity. The Germans accepted Christian faith at least a century later, and the Russians converted just before 1000 AD. Notice how Christianity once also covered much of the Middle East and North Africa, but was displaced by Islam around 650 AD.
The next segment
This video was created and originally originally posted by Ollie Bye. I will follow up this presentation with another post by the same person featuring a video of the spread of Christianity from 1000 AD to the present. If you are of Christian faith, I think you may find these videos encouraging. If you are not of Christian faith, you may at least learn some facts that you were unaware of. Either way, enjoy.
Meanwhile, tell me what you think, and feel free to share this post with your friends.
Watch the Video: Christianity’s Spread: 30-1,000 AD
How did you do on the Intermediate Bible Quiz? Here are the answers.
The Bible commonly used by Protestants contains a total of (1) 66 books. It is divided into two main sections: the (2) Old Testament and the (3) New Testament. The first section was written mainly in the ancient (4) Hebrew language; the second section was written in the (5) Greek language of the First Century.
Bible People and Storyline
The book of Genesis describes the first humans as living in a garden named (6) Eden. There they fell into (7) sin by eating forbidden fruit. To prevent the complete corruption of the human race, God later sent a devastating flood while saving a remnant under the leadership of (8) Noah. Later, the restored human race rebelled against God again by building the Tower of (9) Babel. After this, God called a man named (10) Abraham to begin a line of chosen people who would represent him to the rest of the world. The great-grandson of this man was sold into Egyptian slavery by his brothers. His name was (11) Joseph.
After several generations of slavery, the descendants of this former slave and his brothers became known as the nation of (12) Israel. They were delivered from their slavery under a lawgiver named (13) Moses. Although God promised them the land then known as (14) Canaan in which to establish themselves, they showed a lack of faith and many of them died in the wilderness. After forty years of wandering, God raised up a man called (15) Joshua to lead them into this Promised Land.
In this new land, the nation was at first ruled by servants of God called (16) judges, one of whom was a woman named Deborah. Later the nation was ruled by a series of (17) kings, the best known of which was David. When this line of rulers became foolish and disobedient to God, he divided the nation in two, with the northern capitol in Samaria while the south had its capitol in (18) Jerusalem. Though they were warned to cease worshipping idols and devote themselves to the true God, the people continued to disobey, with the south eventually suffering exile in (19) Babylon. A book of 150 musical poems, some of which were written during this time, was used by God’s people in worship. It is entitled (20) Psalms. Though called to represent him in the world, God’s people often needed correction by men and women speaking on God’s behalf. These people were called (21) prophets.
The second main section of the Bible begins with the life and ministry of (22) Jesus. He was incarnated in the womb of a virgin named (23) Mary and born in the city of (24) Bethlehem. He performed many (25) miracles to validate his claims of being the Son of God. After being accused of blasphemy, he was condemned and put to death by the cruel method of (26) crucifixion. After (27) three days in the tomb, he rose from the dead. The book of (28) Acts is the history of the early Christians. They formed a new people of God, known as the (29) Church. The basic Christian message, called the (30) gospel is the good news that, though people are guilty before God, anyone may be forgiven and reconciled to God through faith in God’s Son.
The associate of the Lord and main spokesman for the earliest Christians had been a simple fisherman. His name was (31) Peter. The majority of the letters in the second section of the Bible were written by one man: the Apostle (32) Paul. Other letters were written by various Christian leaders. One of these letters makes it clear that faith without works is dead. It was written by (33) James, who was probably a brother of the Lord. Several other letters were written by the Apostle (34) John, who was especially close to the Lord during his lifetime. The book of (35) Revelation fittingly climaxes the Bible, closing with the promise of the Lord’s return and the establishment of his Kingdom on earth.
Never be discouraged. A good grasp of the main facts and themes of the Bible is a great foundation on which to build an unshakeable faith!
How did you do on Basic Bible Quiz? Here are the answers:
The Christian Bible is divided into two main parts, the (1) Old Testament and the (2) New Testament. This first book in the Bible, called (3) Genesis tells the story of the origins of the universe and of human civilization. This book describes the first humans as living in a place called the Garden of (4) Eden. They disobeyed the command of God and followed the temptations of the (5) Serpent (or Devil).
After a devastating flood in which humanity was preserved through the family of (6) Noah, the Bible continues with the establishment of a chosen people known as (7) Israel. These people were delivered from slavery and received God’s Law under a leader called (8) Moses. Though this nation was to represent God in the world, it often needed correction by people who spoke for God. This type of corrective leader is called a (9) prophet.
The second section of the Bible begins with the record of the life and ministry of (10) Jesus. His followers were later organized into a new people of God called the (11) Church. The first leaders of this new people of God were called (12) Apostles. One of these leaders named (13) Peter was a former fisherman, who had denied his Lord in a moment of weakness. Another of these leaders preached the Christian message in many places and wrote at least twelve letters to various groups of believers. History knows him by the name of Saint (14) Paul. The book of (15) Revelation closes the Bible by promising the coming of God’s Kingdom at the end of the Age.
If you missed some answers, don’t be discouraged. A knowledge of the Bible is something that comes with time. Keep reading!
A female perspective on the Resurrection of Jesus is desperately needed in our divided times. Though male myself, I have tried to see the resurrection of Jesus through the eyes of the women who went to his tomb as recorded in Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-8, and Luke 24:1-12. The following is my attempt to tell their story in a single narrative.
The Women’s Story
It was an early Sunday morning twenty centuries ago. Actually, we would probably describe it as night because the darkness had not yet been mixed with the faintest light of dawn. A small group of women–three or four–were on their way to do something that would break their hearts. They were going to finish preparing the body of their dear friend and honored teacher for his final burial. Over the past days, these women had experienced an emotional ups and downs. Just seven days earlier they had been convinced that their teacher, leader, friend was finally going to be acknowledged as the Messiah that their people had been expecting for centuries.
The Previous Week
Such excitement; such hope! Only a few days ago their expectations were all coming true. Now it had ended so suddenly, so tragically. The previous Sunday–just seven days ago–Jesus of Nazareth had arrived in Jerusalem to the acclaim of the cheering multitudes. He had entered the holy temple and called out the corruption of its leaders. The packed and eager crowds hung on his words. Though Jesus’ enemies had tried to discredit him, they were unable to counter his answers, and went away, publicly embarrassed. It had looked like the Messiah and his Kingdom had actually arrived at last.
Then on Thursday, Jesus and his closest followers sat down to the annual Passover meal–the traditional celebration of their people’s deliverance from slavery long ago. During that extended meal he taught them as usual about God’s coming Kingdom. But this time the teaching was more personal. Jesus addressed them as friends. It was hard to believe, but he had seemed to be saying that the covenant between God and Israel had been fulfilled, and that a new covenant was being established based on himself. There was talk of blood sealing this new covenant–but then he had always spoken in symbols and metaphors.
Later that night, though, the metaphor turned into reality. Jesus was arrested by his enemies. The next day, Friday, he was tried before the high Jewish council and, later, by the Roman governor. To the disbelief of his followers, he was quickly and unfairly condemned and executed after public humiliation and torture. Within forty-eight hours the women had gone from excitement and expectation to numbed grief and devastation.
The Lord is Dead
All day Saturday they were haunted by the memory of taking his shattered body off that cross. Along with two kind men–Joseph and Nicodemus–the only two members of the high council who sympathized with Jesus, they carried his body to a nearby tomb that Joseph donated in this hour of need. Together, they had done what they could to prepare Jesus’ body in the short time before the Sabbath came at sundown. The Romans sealed the tomb with a heavy stone and posted a guard.
Now the Sabbath was over and the little band of women were picking their way through dark lanes and streets of Jerusalem and then out of the city gate to the tomb where the final preparations would be made to lay their beloved master to his final rest.
Arrival. Shock. Confusion. Are we at the wrong place? No, this is surely the right place. How could we forget this scene of crucifixion so etched in our memories barely thirty-six hours ago? But something is dreadfully wrong. The tomb is standing open. That big, heavy stone door is laying way over there. How? There is a man sitting on it. Who is he? He is terrifying, powerful. Light seems to be radiating from him.
What is he saying? “Jesus isn’t here. He is alive from the dead.” What does that mean? We must look inside the tomb. Another man in shining clothes. An angel? ” Where is out master?” “See for yourselves,” he says: “He is not here.” We look at the niche where we placed his body, now just the empty shroud lays there.
Outside now. Bewildered. Where has he gone? “You there, sir. Are you the groundskeeper? What has happened to the body of our teacher? Where are the soldiers? Please help us!”
“Mary!” That familiar voice. Recognition! Tears. Fear. Joy. Alternate laughing and weeping. Questions. He is saying, “Don’t detain me. Don’t hold me–not yet. Run and tell my disciples that I am alive and I will meet them soon.” ” No, Lord. We don’t want to leave you. Don’t send us away. Alright. Yes Lord, we will go tell the others.”
The First Eyewitnesses
Stumbling, hurrying, running into the waking city as the light grows stronger. Pounding on the door of the safe house where the men are staying. We tell the story with words tumbling out of our mouths. Interrupting, talking one on top of another. Those infuriating blank looks from Peter and the others. More urgent attempts to make them understand. Questions. Disbelief. Off they go to see for themselves–just like men!
But oh the joy, the relief. Our hope is renewed. Morning has come. We sit down to an improvised breakfast. More talk. Is this a dream? More tears. Irrepressible joy. Nothing will ever be the same!
Jesus’ resurrection on Sunday of Passion Week changed everything! Out of all the followers of Jesus, only a few of the women were able to keep their wits enough to focus on practical things. Several of the women got up very early on Sunday morning, met at an agreed location, and set out together for the tomb to finish embalming Jesus’ body . As the walked through the darkness, the women must have quietly discussed both the heartache they still felt, and the task ahead. Specifically they wondered how they were going to roll aside the great stone that sealed the entrance.
Upon arrival, the women were stunned to find a scene of confusion. The stone weighing several tons, was not only rolled aside, but seemingly tossed aside some distance away. The Roman guard was dispersed and the tomb was empty. Not knowing what else to do, they began the return journey to inform their friends. Mary Magdalene lingered behind because she wanted to ask what had happened of a man she presumed to be the gardener. It was only when the man spoke her name that she realized he was actually Jesus, fully alive.
There were other experiences that day. After being urged by the women to see for themselves, Peter and John ran to the tomb and confirmed that it was empty. Other followers of Jesus had been on their way home to figure out how to restart their lives– only to meet a fellow traveller, who they suddenly recognized to be Jesus at the end of the day’s journey. Later Jesus appeared to his disciples when they were together in the upper room. On still another occasion, Jesus appeared among the disciples when Thomas, who had been absent before, was present.
After his resurrection, Jesus seems to have been physically with his disciples a number of times during a period of several weeks, both in Jerusalem and in Galilee. Imagine the emotional swings they must have experienced during those days. In all of their discussions with Jesus, one thing was certain to these men and women: Jesus had come to life again after dying. His death was no tragic accident, but a supreme payment of human transgression. Most importantly, Jesus had shown himself to be the Son of God by taking on a new kind of life: a life he was offering to share with them.
There are many truths to be gained from the resurrection of Jesus. One that should always be emphasized is the almost unbelievable fact that you now have hope. The gracious God, who loved and pursued us through history, has never given up on your reconciliation. For reasons of his own, God wants you back and has done all that is needed to forgive you, cleanse you, and make you his own. The resurrection proves this almost unbelievable fact. So, next time life seems hopeless– next time your heart is broken, or weighed down with worry, remember that there is hope in Jesus’ resurrection. Put your full trust in him. Hold onto the gift of life he offers you. It will guide you through all that life brings your way, and will bring you eternal life with him!
It is on Saturday of Passion Week that fear really took hold. Jesus’ followers– scattered the day before– have gone into hiding. They were terrified of betrayal by their neighbors or other who might recognize their connection with Jesus. That Saturday of Passion Week, every footstep in the street, every knock at the house next door, every raised voice, caused the terror to rise to the surface again. The extreme disillusionment and sorrow of Friday is taking its toll on Saturday. Life is not simply flat and gloomy: now it is horrifying.
Had God abandoned them? Were they heretics as their enemies claimed? Was Jesus a liar or a misguided fool? In their minds, the fishing, or the collecting of taxes, the farming and small businesses of their former lives now appeared to be a respectable alternative to all the talk about the coming Kingdom of God. What about the miracles, the crowds and the new hope inspired by Jesus’ teaching over the past several years? These now appeared foolish and even dangerous. So the followers of Jesus quietly made their plans to slip back north up to Galilee and just disappear. Fear had caused a sudden abandonment of everything these men and women had so optimistically believed as recently as one week before.
Many of us have experienced (or are experiencing) this kind of fear. That deep kind of fear is dark and overpowering. It makes us desperate and irrational. It can cause us to be suspicious of those around us. We feel like cornered animals with no way of escape. So we crouch, ready to fight and flee, abandoning all we once held dear. Threatened layoffs at work, accusations by associates, a medical diagnosis or some huge disillusionment can have this effect on us. Are you in the grip of fear? Are you considering throwing away some of your dearest commitments? Do you feel abandoned by God? Hold on: God isn’t finished. Hope is just around the corner!
It is Friday of Passion Week. Jesus had been awake for more than twenty-four hours. At this point in what we now call Passion Week, Jesus had endured the difficult interrogation by the Sanhedrin (the Jewish religious council) all alone. Both during and afterward, Jesus was beaten and humiliated. His friend Peter had managed to enter the courtyard of the High Priest where Jesus was being held, but when Peter was asked if he was one of Jesus’ followers, he strongly denied it in Jesus’ very presence.
Then Jesus was shuffled off to Pilate, who quickly passed him off to Herod Antipas. Herod humiliated Jesus and then returned him to Pilate for final judgment. We should remember that Pilate was in a difficult spot. As Roman governor felt blackmailed by the Sanhedrin into sentencing Jesus to death. Seeing no way out of the predicament, Pilate made it clear Jesus had violated no Roman law. Even so, after a whipping that left little skin on Jesus’ back and resulting in a catastrophic loss of blood, the Romans forced Jesus to carry a heavy wooden beam through the streets. Before he reached the place of execution, Jesus stumbled and fell. A bystander named Simon was then forced to carry the cross on the final leg of the journey.
At the place the Romans called Calvary (Skull Hill), Jesus was nailed to the crossbeam and the crossbeam was attached to post to which Jesus’ feet were spiked. There Jesus hung from 9:00 in the morning until 3:00 in the afternoon. At noon a darkness came over the sky as Jesus increasingly lost strength. With a final cry of agony, he gave up his spirit, causing the veil in the Temple to split from top to bottom.
Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, two members of the Sanhedrin who refused to condemn Jesus, asked for and received permission from Pilate to remove Jesus’ body for burial. Joseph kindly offered his own unused family tomb for the purpose. The burial party was under the pressure of time due to the commandment not to work on the Sabbath, which would begin at sundown–only a few hours away. Because of this pressure the burial preparations were only partially completed. One last caress by Mary, his mother and a mental note of the preparations still to be made, and they sealed the tomb.
But isn’t Jesus the miracle worker? Isn’t he the Messiah, the Son of God? How could God let him be treated like this? Is God just a myth, or is he like the disciples who abandoned Jesus in his hour of need? Maybe the skeptics are right when they sneer that nice guys always finish last. Maybe the cynics are proven correct that evil ultimately crushes good and might trumps right. The followers of Jesus were in deep shock. For them, the crucifixion was more than a major disappointment: it was the crushing of all hopes and dreams. They were facing the real possibility that life ultimately favors whoever has the power to force their will on others. These are hardly the thoughts that faithful Jews should have had on the sabbath following Passover.
Have you ever felt abandoned and punished unjustly? Have you wondered why evil sometimes seems to triumph? Why is it that selfish and self-righteous people appear to prevail? Those are truly desolate and terrifying thoughts, and many people have them. Jesus’ friends and followers certainly felt that way at the foot of the cross and at the sealing of Jesus’ tomb. But hold on: God isn’t finished. Hope is just around the corner!
Think back to the busiest week of your life. Maybe there were many places to go or you had to fulfill a crushing list of responsibilities. Perhaps you hosted a constant stream of visitors, or received phone calls from people wanting favors small and large. At the end of the week you were physically and mentally exhausted. This is what that final week was like for Jesus. We now refer to that week in Jesus’ life as Passion Week.
Jesus began Passion Week by riding into Jerusalem to the enthusiastic cheers of the crowds who hailed him as their Messiah-King. From Sunday onward, Jesus had taught in the Temple every day. He had tried to listen to the requests and meet the needs of dozens, maybe hundreds of people. Passion Week saw Jesus awash in a sea of humanity. Now it is Thursday—the day of Passover: time to spend time with family and friends; time to focus on Israel’s great story of deliverance from slavery and their becoming a covenant nation.
But even on this day of celebration and reflection, Jesus must teach his followers some final lessons. So taking a towel, he washed their feet as a metaphor of servant-leadership. He spoke at great length in the upper room where he and his followers were meeting, reminding them of how much they are loved by the Father, and how inseparable they are from himself. He told them that they would soon be empowered by God’s Spirit living inside them and commanded them to cling desperately to each other. On the night of Passover, Jesus broke the unleavened bread and poured the cups of wine, filling these elements with special meaning his followers would not grasp until many weeks into the future.
Then came the desperate, desolate hours of prayer in Gethsemane. In that grove of olive trees, Jesus sweat blood and cried out in agony at what he knew awaited him the next day. His suffering was enhanced by his followers’ drowsy lack of concern, and by the ultimate betrayal of a close friend. At his arrest, the very disciples who seemed so confident and fearless only hours ago promptly scattered, leaving Jesus utterly alone.
Jesus will face trial before a hostile council on this last Thursday of his earthly life. Humanly speaking, everything seemed to have gone wrong. There is no hope. Without the rest of the story, Thursday night seems to be all gloom and sorrow, much like some days we have experienced ourselves in a more limited way. But hold on: God isn’t finished. Hope is just around the corner!
I want to conclude my discussion from parts one and two of this blog about 21st Century faith. Christians who were raised in the 20th Century often find it a challenge to communicate the gospel in the 21st Century because of the quite different values and viewpoints of younger people.
In part one of this blog I discussed how 21st Century people tend to value functionality. Rather than asking the question of whether something is moral, they may ask whether it is practical. So given the practicality of people in our times, maybe we should be saying, “Come and meet my Jesus. Try him. You won’t be disappointed. OK, so you don’t believe Jesus is the THE truth. Fine. He is the truth, but he is also a lot of other things you do believe in. Jesus is real and loving and gracious and intriguing and full of purpose and adventure–things you value. Those qualities all ultimately come from Jesus Christ.”
As they check Jesus out, we older Christians must be more patient than we have been. 21st Century people may not change as quickly as we hope as they begin to follow Jesus. They may not immediately adopt everything we think a devoted follower of Christ should.
So in bringing this discussion to a close, let me ask a basic question: What if we actually succeed in reaching a significant number of 21st Century people? Along with that big question are some more specific questions to ponder.
Some questions to consider:
Can 21st Century people meet Jesus among us? In some cases we may have to be Jesus to them until they are willing to meet the Lord himself.
Will we want 21st Century people once they respond? They will change the way we do things in our churches and gatherings. Some of them won’t fit in very well. They may bring their kids– some of which will be disruptive. They may use a vocabulary we aren’t accustomed to. They may have a past that is pretty colorful.
What sacrifices are we willing to make to bring 21st Century people to Jesus and grow them in the faith? Remember, the gospel is for them as much as for any generation. What’s more, they are the future of Christianity in our society. So what are we going to do now to include them and prepare them to carry the banner of Christ into the future?