I have no idea the origin of this little story.
But, this Pentecost parable carries a vital theme of Pentecost. It resonates with the prophecy of Joel quoted in Acts to explain the outpouring of God’s Spirit (and with a broad sweep of Scripture – see tomorrow):
In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit. (Acts 2:17,18)
Ever since the events recorded in Acts we have been trying to put the Spirit back in the box. But Jesus unleashed his Spirit to continue his work of breaking down the barriers we erect. This Pentecost parable calls us back to the purpose for which Jesus sent his Spirit “upon all flesh“.
A Heavenly Breach
As you know, God has entrusted responsibility for the smooth operation of heaven to the apostle Peter. As chief caretaker of the celestial precincts one of Peter’s top jobs is quality control. Peter works hard to keep the place tidy and orderly.
Every morning Peter makes an official tour of the heavenly enclosure seeking out undesirables who may have found their way in without passing through proper channels. Any illegals he discovers are immediately deported before they can upset the smoothly operating heavenly machinery.
One morning, to his horror, Peter discovered a number of heaven-inhabitants who obviously had not passed the rigorous screening process Peter that had been implemented for protecting the purity of heaven. These undesirables had been admitted by the main gate during admittance hours and had certainly not been approved by the authorities. Somehow they had skipped the screening process. Peter found people roaming the streets he instantly knew had never been baptized, some who did not know the Bible very well, and others whose souls were so tarnished they obviously had no place among the good people who belonged in heaven.
Peter immediately launched an investigation to discover how such a grievous breach in heaven’s security could have occurred. He sent his subordinates to search the farthest boundaries of heaven to find out how all these people who so clearly failed to meet heavenly standards had gained access.
Finally, Peter received a report that a breach had been discovered in the wall surrounding heaven. He rushed to the site in a far dark corner of the heavenly realm. From a distance Peter saw a terrible sight. Someone had pried away a few stones at the base of the wall and the most unruly riffraff were crawling through the gap. Peter rushed at the invaders with indignation to bar the way and stop them from polluting God’s honour by violating the sacred purity of heaven.
You can imagine Peter’s shock when he found standing by the hole in the wall helping each person through none other than Jesus himself. Peter stood speechless.
Jesus looked sheepishly at his apostle and said, “I am sorry Peter; I know it is against the rules. And I know these poor souls are not quite all they should be and they don’t measure up to the standards you have imposed. I know some of them have never been baptized and that a few of them hold slightly strange ideas about me. I am fully aware that they have not kept perfectly all the rules you have put in place to protect my integrity and honour. But Peter, you have to understand, these poor people are my special friends and I want them here with me. All I ever really wanted was to give you the power to love each of these people so their hearts might open and they might find my love in their lives.”
In his tiny poem, “Pentecost” poet David Craig drops the wall even further and sees the Holy Spirit indiscriminately present, not only in the human part of creation, but in all of life:
What is this Holy Spirit,
And what is it doing in the eggplant?
This Holy Spirit is the power of love that was incarnate in the person of Jesus. The Jesus Spirit breaks down barriers and destroys all systems of merit and self-justification.
This Holy Spirit asks all people to manifest in the world the Spirit of compassion, grace, acceptance, and love that Jesus unleashed with power on that first Pentecost.