(Today’s Reading – Acts 2:1-13)
In biblical times, if you were a really good and faithful follower of the Hebrew faith and Scripture (e.g. Deuteronomy 16), there were three pilgrimage festivals where you would make the effort to be in Jerusalem. The city would swell with multitudes of people from around the ancient world.
Jesus Christ was the Passover Lamb – who gave his life at the time of that first great Feast of Unleavened Bread when the city was filled with visitors. You may remember that the Romans hastened the death of the two thieves crucified with Christ because of the Sabbath associated with this event (John 19:31-33).
Pentecost – meaning 50 days later – marked another festival also called “The Feast of Weeks” or “Harvest” or “First-Fruits.” (The Feast of Tabernacles – several months later – was the third pilgrimage festival.) Pentecost came at the time of the first-fruits of the wheat harvest. This was a time of gathering to worship God and come before Him in gratitude for his provision.
The Day of Pentecost is the birthday of the institution (or program) of the Church – the bride of Christ. The new coming of the Spirit to indwell the Apostolic company marks the first-fruits of those who will respond to the Gospel message. This is a harvest that would bear fruit all around the world – continuing to our own day. So it is appropriate that the fruit of Christ’s work of salvation would come on Pentecost – as we remember Jesus saying (John 4:35), “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” And the Apostle Paul calls Jesus the first-fruits of the resurrection to life: “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”
The results of the filling of the Spirit are truly dramatic. As on the occasion of the baptism of Jesus, there are sights and sounds that accompany this initiation of these first believers into the universal Church. It occurs apparently at the house where they were staying, though some believe this refers to the Temple; but in any event, it is dramatic and noticed by the crowds of people. The entire issue of speaking in tongues and how that does or does not apply to our age is a long discussion for another time and venue, but it is clear on this occasion that the tongues are known languages recognized by a large variety of people from around the ancient world. The sights and sounds drew attention to the speakers – who in turn were communicating the message of truth that God wanted the world to hear.
It is humorous to note from this passage that a large part of the amazement of the crowds of people is that they were hearing their own languages spoken by uneducated Galileans! Remember how Peter was identified as a Galilean during his denials of Christ, simply by the accent of his speech? Galileans had a sort of “clipped” way of speaking and pronunciation – maybe sort of like the folks you see on the show “Swamp People!” … or similar to a “Cajun” accent. Whatever, they were not known as scholars! And here they are speaking clearly in other languages apparently in a way they could not even accomplish in their own dialect!
God really has a great marketing plan here! He has this happening on a time when multitudes are in the city, on a symbolism-enriched occasion, accompanied by miraculous sights and sounds, and with a message being communicated by people who could only do it if God were speaking through them.
Even so, there were scoffers. There will always be scoffers! Our role is to plant the seeds of the harvest and watch God give the increase through his Spirit working through us and through our teaching of the Word.
The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost – Acts 2:1-13
2 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 tonguesas 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.”