Because I was raised a Christian, my heart and spirit have been bolstered over the years with the profound love and regard that the Baha’i teachings have for the station of Jesus Christ.
Baha’is revere Christ and his role in advancing the cause of God in the world. Christ’s suffering so that the sins of the world could be forgiven, and his teachings that promote love, peace, and understanding among all God’s children, offer wonderful testaments to the power of God and religion. Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, said of Christ:
Know thou that when the Son of Man yielded up His breath to God, the whole creation wept with a great weeping. By sacrificing Himself, however, a fresh capacity was infused into all created things. Its evidences, as witnessed in all the peoples of the earth, are now manifest before thee. The deepest wisdom which the sages have uttered, the profoundest learning which any mind hath unfolded, the arts which the ablest hands have produced, the influence exerted by the most potent of rulers, are but manifestations of the quickening power released by His transcendent, His all-pervasive, and resplendent Spirit. …
He it is Who purified the world. Blessed is the man who, with a face beaming with light, hath turned towards Him. – Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 85.
Speaking of the death of Jesus, his resurrection and the appearance of the Holy Spirit before the apostles represents the singular event in the life of the Pentecostal church I attended as a child. Pentecost is defined as the Christian festival celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples of Jesus after his ascension, held on the seventh Sunday after Easter. Looking at Pentecost makes me appreciate my childhood church’s beliefs, and also helps me understand the new revelation the Baha’i Faith represents, as well.
The Bible described that event:
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.
Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.
And they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?
And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.
And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?
Others mocking said, these men are full of new wine.
But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of 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:
And on my servants and on my handmaidens, I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come: And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. – Acts 2:2-19.
When I heard these passages as a child, I only had a vague idea of their meaning – until I read what Abdu’l Baha, one of the key figures in the Baha’i Faith, had to say about the inner meaning of Pentecost:
The descent of the Holy Spirit is not like the entrance of air into the human body. It is a metaphor and an analogy, rather than a literal image or account. That which is intended is like the descent of the sun into a mirror, that is, when its splendor is reflected therein.
After the death of Christ, the disciples were troubled and diverged in their thoughts and opinions; later they became steadfast and united. At Pentecost they gathered together, detached themselves from the world, forsook their own desires, renounced all earthly comfort and happiness, sacrificing body and soul to their Beloved, left their homes, took leave of all their cares and belongings, and even forgot their own existence. Then was divine assistance vouchsafed and the power of the Holy Spirit manifested. The spirituality of Christ triumphed, and the love of God took hold. On that day, they received divine confirmations, and each departed in a different direction to teach the Cause of God and loosed his tongue to set forth the proofs and testimonies.
Thus the descent of the Holy Spirit means that the Apostles were attracted by the messianic Spirit, attained constancy and steadfastness, found a new life through the spirit of God’s love, and saw Christ to be their ever-living helper and protector. They were mere drops and became the ocean; they were feeble gnats and became soaring eagles; they were all weakness and became endowed with strength. They were like mirrors that are turned towards the sun: It is certain that the rays and the effulgence of the sun will be reflected therein. – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, newly revised edition, pp. 120-121.
The description of the state of the believers in Jesus during Pentecost makes it easy to see how wonderful that would be to aspire to and to try to re-create in some way. With all its attendant spiritual components, Pentecost would appeal to Christians who wanted to have the real experience of being close to God, a simple spiritual love pure and untainted by all that has transpired in Christian history over the years. Pentecostals believe in this way of going back to pure religious experience.
From a Baha’i perspective, it’s fascinating to note the unity of the believers on that day and their being of one accord and speaking one language occurs here in these scriptures.
As Peter affirmed, these Christians are not literally drunk (“it is but the third hour of the day”), but symbolically they are indeed drunk on the new wine, as represented by the teachings brought by Jesus and reinforced by the presence of the Holy Spirit. As Jesus said in response to a question about keeping the previous laws and rules:
And he spake also a parable unto them; No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old; if otherwise, then both the new maketh a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old. And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish. But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved. – Luke 5:36-39.
This Biblical episode foreshadows things to come, because this state of elevated spiritual existence provides a metaphor for universal peace and understanding among all peoples of the world – the mission of Baha’u’llah:
Consider the days of Christ, when none but a small band followed Him; then observe what a mighty tree that seed became, behold ye its fruitage. And now shall come to pass even greater things than these, for this is the summons of the Lord of Hosts, this is the trumpet-call of the living Lord, this is the anthem of world peace, this is the standard of righteousness and trust and understanding raised up among all the variegated peoples of the globe; this is the splendour of the Sun of Truth, this is the holiness of the spirit of God Himself. This most powerful of dispensations will encompass all the earth, and beneath its banner will all peoples gather and be sheltered together. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 82.