Holy Land Day Ten (Monday): The Southern Steps
Today our band of Holy Land pilgrims will be visiting the Southern Steps of Herod's Temple. These were also known as the Teaching Steps because it was a common sight to see rabbis teaching their disciples upon them.
You can still stand on a portion of those same steps not long after you walk on the first-century streets that led worshippers and visitors to the Temple by a marketplace. Jesus almost assuredly would have walked those same streets, and he undoubtedly taught on the Southern Steps.
But the story that we'll be focusing on today is from Acts chapter 2---the Day of Pentecost, which occurred roughly fifty days after Jesus was raised from the dead. It was the Feast of Shavuot, or the "Feast of Weeks," one of the great feasts in the Jewish tradition.
The Feast of Shavuot commemorates the moment when God gave the Law to Moses--49 days after the first Passover when the Israelites fled slavery in Egypt.
In Acts chapter 2, Peter stands on the Southern Steps and delivers the message of his life. Jesus has ascended into heaven. The Holy Spirit has come upon Jesus' followers and filled them with power. And Peter shares the Good News of Jesus with the thousands that are gathered there that day.
I think it's awesome that on the day that the Jews came to celebrate the giving of the Law, Peter shares with them the new thing that God has done, the way that God fulfilled the Law through Jesus and brought deliverance for all peoples in all places.
And that it is Peter delivering the Good News at that moment is so sweet to me. He had stumbled along in his journey with Jesus. He denied him, ran from him, but was restored, reconciled and redeemed.
When it came time for him to tell the Story of God's great love for the world, Peter didn't flinch. He stood on the Southern Steps and let it all out in a rush. And three thousand people came to faith in Jesus that day and were baptized in the ceremonial baths that surrounded the steps.
One of the many reasons I love this story is that I identify with Peter so much of the time---especially when it comes to feeling unworthy and ashamed of myself. I struggle to see how God could use someone like me, and then I read a story like this and gives me hope.
It is my hope that this story fills you with a renewed sense of God's goodness and with confidence that God's plans are perfect--both the ones that guide the paths of the cosmos and those that guide your own feet.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.