(First in a series)
Pentecost was a high holy day, and it was recommended that all travel to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast. Peter and the rest of the apostles, as well as Mary and a number of other women were in attendance.
It was a nice spring morning, a perfect day for a picnic. Little kids were playing with their pets. A few older children were playing marbles and some were even trying to fly their kites. But the air was too calm and they never got off the ground.
Mingled among the chirping and tweets of the birds were many strange accents and words in languages I could not understand. I recognized a business client, a trader who had the unfortunate nickname of "Latro," which means thief. I never learned his real name. He traveled widely in his business, so I asked him if he recognized any of the groups or could understand what they were saying.
"I do," Latro responded enthusiastically. "I know that group is from Cappadocia. There's another bunch from Cyrene. That group came from Libya in North Africa. I think there are even people from Egypt and Crete, and Greeks and Romans and even Asians."
Their different languages created a global panoply of sounds. I liked the cosmopolitan atmosphere and was convinced that deep philosophical concepts were under discussion. I wished I could take part and possibly learn something.
I thought perhaps Latro's travels might make him familiar with some of the languages involved.
"Do you have any idea what these people are talking about?" I asked him. "It must be really important."
"I hate to disappoint you," he said, "but they're mainly talking about the weather." He laughed. "As if they can do anything about it!"
A boring subject, I thought. It was indeed a nice day: Mild temperature, clear sky, little wind, no threat of rain. Hardly worth talking about. But then it changed dramatically.
It was barely noticeable at first. Nobody felt the slight freshening of the wind.
But after just a few minutes the kids with the kites yelled their excitement. Try as they might, they had not launched a single craft, yet now they were beginning to take off.
The pleasant zephyrs lifting the kites seemed harmless, yet the kids kept tight hands on the strings that tethered them to their crafts. The kids stared at their toys in the sky, reminding me of the apostles as Jesus ascended into the clouds.
My pleasant reverie was rudely shattered as a gale-force gust blasted out of nowhere.
"What's going on?" someone shouted. People looked up only to see a cloudless blue sky. The wind blustered wildly, with threatening and ever-increasing velocity. Kids started crying, their kites suddenly out of control. One little tyke, grasping the cord with all his might, was actually lifted off the ground.
"Let it go!" his dad shouted. He did, and broke into tears as it floated away. Moms started gathering up their little ones and heading for home. Dust filled our eyes. A hurried exodus began.
Just as I thought the wind had reached its peak a massive squall lifted me off my feet. The ear-shattering roar of the wind drowned out even the shrieks and yells of the terrified crowd. I tried to stand but the wind drove me to my knees. Helpless, I lifted my arms in prayer.
And then it stopped.
The sudden silence, broken only by the sobbing of the children, was unnerving.
Smiles of relief began to appear on faces young and old. We were safe, grateful there were no casualties.
Songbirds returned to the trees and renewed their singing. Crows cawed their displeasure. We basked in the quiet and peaceful stillness. But the eerie tranquility created a worrisome anticipation.
"It's too quiet," someone said. A nervous twittering confirmed the crowd's anxiety.
As we waited nervously, my eyes were drawn to a brilliant speck of light in the western sky. How odd, I thought, a shooting star in daytime. Foolishly, I stared at it until my eyes burned. It continued to grow in size and intensity. I looked away as it came sizzling to earth with incredible speed!
Then the sun itself exploded. The day became intensely bright. The heat was scorching. Leaves began to whither. I expected the entire world to burst into flame.
Screams filled the air. People fell to the ground. They started running. They didn't know where they were going. They just ran.
The massive inferno split into individual blazing spears. Screaming as they sped to earth, they rammed into the house where the apostles were staying.
I covered my ears in fear of the coming explosion, but it never happened. The house shone with an unearthly glow, but amazingly, it was unscathed. The halo of light surrounding it slowly faded and the day became calm and cool again.
No one spoke. It seemed our brains had been fried. But then everybody started talking at once. Dozens of different languages filled the air, all unintelligible to my ears. The trees renewed their greenery. The birds sang.
My thoughts turned to Mary and the apostles, trapped in that glowing house. All incinerated like twigs in a morning fire.
I rushed toward the house, where I expected to find the charred remains of the wonderful people I had come to know and love.
(Note: This article is adapted from The Big Tent, by Dave Mishur, which has recently been published by Liberty Hill and is available on Amazon and other online retailers, and can be ordered at any bookstore.)