In preparation for the Jewish festival of Shavuot (English: Weeks; aka Pentecost), which begins this year the evening of Saturday, June 11, we have been focusing on the topic of boldness. For Yeshua’s followers, boldness is a key theme arising from the fulfillment of the promise given through the Hebrew prophet Joel:
And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions (Joel 2:28; Hebrew Bible: 3:1).
What Joel prophesied came to pass in Jerusalem many centuries later during Shavuot about a week after the resurrected Yeshua’s ascension to God’s right hand in heaven. Yeshua had mandated his disciples to bear witness to his resurrection. But first, they needed to wait for the promised Ruach HaKodesh (English: the Holy Spirit). Why wait? Didn’t they have all the information they needed to inform others of what they had seen? Did they need further convincing that Yeshua had risen or that he was the Messiah, the Son of God? No, they didn’t, but they were missing something that only the Spirit could give them: boldness.
Earlier this week, my wife, Robin, wrote an excellent piece entitled, The Emperor Has No Clothes, whereby she reminded us of the need to speak the truth in spite of public perceptions and preferences. In this famous fable, it took an innocent child to shame popular opinion by speaking the obvious when everyone else had succumbed to peer pressure. While the boy is a great encouragement to us all, he was naïve in relation to the implications of standing alone. He didn’t seem to be aware of the possible consequences to himself and possibly his family for his actions.
Yeshua’s followers, on the other hand, were going to find themselves in real danger for speaking the truth. Not being children, they were fully aware of the implications for testifying to Yeshua’s resurrection. We could talk about the need for child-like faith (see Matthew 18:1-4), but I don’t think this is what Yeshua is teaching about here. Speaking what’s true in the face of great danger doesn’t demand childlikeness, but a supernaturally inspired certainty, clarity, and courage that comes only from God.
That is the boldness we are talking about. That’s why after the very first time two of Yeshua’s followers were threatened by the authorities, they prayed like this:
And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus. (Acts 4:29-30)
They asked for boldness because they knew that their detractors’ chief tool was intimidation. They knew they had a message to share and must not buckle under pressure. But they didn’t simply acknowledge their need for boldness and psych themselves up. They knew that the boldness they needed was something only God could give. So they asked him for it. Even though they had recently received an outpouring of the Spirit, they asked him. They asked; he answered:
And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31; emphasis mine).
This is the boldness we need. Yeshua’s followers today share in the great privilege of continuing the witness of the early believers. Like them, we are called to do so amidst ever increasing hostility and intimidation. If they needed to ask for boldness, how much more we? So let’s ask, and be ready to receive it.