Pan and Zoom (By Dan Adams)

Whether it’s for a family gathering or a ministry project, I occasionally find myself compiling a video on my computer. It’s usually a highlight reel from a youth event or a picture collage for a family gathering. One of my favorite video effects to use is the pan and zoom. It’s an effect, sometimes called the Ken Burns effect, which allows you to compile snapshot photos in a way that shows the inherent motion captured in the still pictured. I expect this effect to show up in videos and movies.
I was startled to notice this same effect as I was studying Acts 2 this week. The entire book of Acts gives us various snapshots of the disciples, early church, and Holy Spirit in action. From time to time the author, Luke, zooms in on one particular scene.
As he describes this scene, we learn something new and exciting about God’s work through His Spirit and church. Then Luke will zoom out and pan to another scene. I was startled by the contrast this effect made in Acts 2.
Here’s what I noticed. At the beginning of the chapter, we have the disciples waiting for the promised coming of the Holy Spirit – their power to boldly live the Christian life. This was a slow pan, 10 days of waiting. Suddenly, Luke zooms in on an amazing scene. All of a sudden the disciples are filled with the Holy Spirit. With the sound of rushing wind and tongues of fire above their heads, they begin to speak in languages they never knew before.
Then Luke pans over and zooms in on Peter. Just a few weeks ago, Peter was embarrassed, denying Christ and hiding in fear. Now he’s boldly preaching the gospel, calling everyone who hears him to repentance. Luke quickly zooms out, and in verse 41 we see the results: 3,000 people were saved and baptized that day.
The last scene in Acts 2 is a pan across a snapshot of the early church, now infused and empowered by the Holy Spirit. This snapshot has a lot of detail, not to be missed, so Luke takes his time to describe it. It’s rich with the character qualities that all believers should strive for.
It’s full of the kind of actions and living that Christ has called us to. It describes what the community of believers should be.
While this last scene has always been one of my favorite passages of Scripture, I found it even richer once I noticed the contrasts imposed by the pan and zoom Luke employs. It’s as if Luke was trying to help me see this progression: waiting on God, being filled with the Holy Spirit, and boldly proclaiming the gospel will lead to the kind of Christian community and living that we are called to. As I read and re-read Acts 2:42-47, I long for this kind of community. But we won’t get there without going and growing through 2:1-41. I pray that the snapshot of our lives and church, whether zoomed in on, or panned over, looks a lot like Acts 2.