We are in the Book of Acts, chapter 2; Jesus has just spent 40 days with the disciples, speaking about the kingdom of God. He tells them to remain in Jerusalem, and wait for the promise from the Father, the Holy Spirit. The disciples return to Jerusalem with great joy, and devote themselves to prayer.
Then the day of Pentecost arrives. Pentecost was a Jewish harvest festival 50 days after the Passover. Travel conditions were at their best, so there was always an international crowd in Jerusalem for Pentecost.
Acts 2:1-13: When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. 5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs – we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” 13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
Try to picture that day: The city is full of people, both residents of Jerusalem and foreign visitors. The streets are jammed. Suddenly, everyone hears a loud noise, like the rushing of wind. Everyone moves to the place where the disciples are together. Do you suppose they saw the tongues of fire resting on their heads?
What we do know is that the foreign visitors, assembled from at least 15 other nations, heard their own language! Needless to say, they were astonished, but (as always happens) a few skeptics have their own explanation – “They have had too much wine.”
The disciples had been praying together; Jesus had promised them the Holy Spirit. He told them it would not be a national, military, or political arrival of the Spirit. Do you suppose any one of them thought it would happen the way it did?
My friends, when the Holy Spirit acts in and through us, does he act the way we think he will?
Trust me folks, I never thought I would be able to stand in front of a group and speak. I was raised with a terrible stutter, and here I am, preaching God’s Word.
Has the Holy Spirit worked through you in a way you never thought he would? We can be certain the disciples were astonished that they were doing what they were doing. Have you ever been astonished? God works that way, doesn’t he?
And remember, these eleven men were Galileans! Galileans were looked down upon as being uncultured. According to one scholar, they “…had difficulty pronouncing gutturals and had the habit of swallowing syllables when speaking; so they were looked down upon by the people of Jerusalem as being provincial.” Their accents were easily recognizable.
Remember when Peter was recognized by the servant girl in Mark 14:70: But again he denied it. Then after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.”
Another question – if you have had the Holy Spirit work thru you (and if you are a Christian, he has), has someone else been amazed and astonished? Maybe you said something that was especially comforting; maybe you said something profound; maybe a friend heard your testimony and gave his or her life to Christ; maybe you said something that enabled a group to make a particularly difficult decision.
Just like he worked thru these Galileans, the Holy Spirit works thru you and me to do amazing and astonishing things.
Scholars are divided over exactly what the disciples were speaking. Were they actually speaking foreign languages, or were they speaking in tongues, the gift of the Spirit noted by Paul in Corinthians?
In Acts 2 and in 1Corinthians 12-14, the Greek is the same. Some English translations say, “other languages,” some say “other tongues.”
On the one hand, if the foreign listeners understood them, that means it was a foreign language. On the other hand, if they were speaking in tongues, no one would have been able to understand until someone present received the gift of interpretation. But it says everyone understood what they were saying. I suppose I am entitled to have an opinion, and I think it was foreign languages.
Bottom line? It doesn’t matter – the Holy Spirit had been delivered, just like Jesus promised!
After seeing and hearing all this, did everyone give their lives to Christ right away?
Verses 12-13: Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” 13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
Gee, there’s some in every crowd, isn’t there?
My friends, as we saw during the life and ministry of Christ, miracles do not always convince.
There must also be the preparation of the heart and the proclamation of the message if miracles are to accomplish their full purpose.
In spite of all this, they exclaimed, “What does this mean?”
Have you ever asked, “What does this mean?” On the other hand, how many of us have sneered, “They are filled with new wine”?
Regardless, Peter uses both points (what does this mean / they are filled with new wine) to deliver the first Christian sermon.
What Luke has described in verses 1-13, Peter now explains, verses 14-21: Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
“‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. 21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
We can spend the rest of the morning on these opening words: Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd…
Less than two months earlier, this man boasted he would fight to the death for Jesus! But when the chips were down, he was intimidated by a servant girl! Imagine the shame that he had carried. Jesus forgave Peter, but we can only imagine how he must have felt, denying his Lord and friend
Peter’s speech is not about his homiletical ability to work the crowd into an emotional frenzy – it is about the power of the Holy Spirit.
Fifty days earlier, this man, full of shame, wept bitterly. Fifty days later: Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd…
Here is a wonderful quote from John Stott: “In Genesis 2:7 the Spirit of God breathed life into dust and created a human being. In Acts 2:1-4 the Spirit has breathed life into a cowardly disciple and created a new man who now has the gift of bold speech.”
My friends, consider and be amazed at the power of the Holy Spirit – what he did for Peter, he can and will do for you and me.
Pentecost is more than the birthday of the church.
Pentecost is the fulfillment of the final promise of Jesus before he returned to glory.
Pentecost gives the disciples the equipment they would need for their special role.
Pentecost is the inauguration of the new era of the Spirit.
Pentecost has rightly been called a revival – a whole community suddenly becomes aware of the Spirit’s presence.
Pentecost is the fulfillment of the promise of the Spirit – the Spirit who makes everything possible
QUOTE: “Without the Holy Spirit, Christian discipleship would be inconceivable, even impossible. There can be no life without the life-giver, no understanding without the Spirit of truth, no fellowship without the unity of the Spirit, no Christlikeness of character apart from his fruit, and no effective witness without his power. As a body without breath is a corpse, so the church without the Spirit is dead.”
The final words from Peter this morning? “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
My friends, this is not a call for the lifeboats – Peter is not saying, “Save yourselves!” He is declaring, “Let yourself be saved!”
Are you ready for a miracle?
Are you ready to perform miracles?
Are you ready to toss aside insults?
Are you ready to have others be amazed and astonished?
Are you ready to be amazed and astonished yourself?
My friends, call upon the name of the Lord and you shall be saved.