Acts 2:1 – 13
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
We celebrated Pentecost only last week – I mentioned in my sermon then that Pentecost was a harvest celebration, an important festival among the Jews, occurring 50 days after the Passover. The apostles and others had been waiting, praying, for about 10 days since the Ascension of Jesus. But on this particular morning something incredible happened; that for which they had been waiting came!
Suddenly, a sound as of a wind blew through the whole house – and tongues of fire came to rest on each of them. The Spirit is represented throughout Scripture by wind (wind, breath, spirit are all the same word “ro-ah” in the Hebrew, “pneumos” in the Greek) or breath – in Genesis 1, the Spirit of God hovered over the waters – or wind from God – or breath of God. In talking with Nicodemus in John 3, Jesus says “The wind blows where it chooses and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with the Spirit.” Had you thought of the double meaning here? I look outside and see the leaves stirring in a breeze and think of the Spirit of God. And so, the sound of wind filling the whole house was the Spirit. Likewise, flame represented the Spirit – Moses heard God speak from the burning bush. And so, the best way that Luke had of representing what was happening in that room was to describe flame, for what the people saw was indescribable – but something like a flame (“as of fire”).
And then they all began to speak in languages they did not know. The Spirit empowered them to speak the message of Jesus in all languages, to people from all over the world. The message is clear – the Gospel was not to be limited to the one “chosen” people; it was a message for the world! And it was not limited only to the Apostles – all of the followers of Jesus who had gathered together in that room were affected, including the women. This Gospel was not to be limited only to a select few to serve and spread the Word; the Spirit would empower all believers to tell the world his message!
They made so much noise – singing and speaking all at once, praising God – that a crowd gathered there beneath the windows of the Upper Room, and the people in the street began asking what in the world was going on? What did it mean? Were these people drunk? When have we made so much noise praising God that people would wonder what it meant?