I wonder what they were thinking about on that day? Had they gathered together to celebrate the holidays or were they making plans for the future? We don’t know where they were, why they were there or even how many of them there were. But we do know that what happened on that day changed history and ultimately changed the world.
It had been seven weeks since the carpenter from Nazareth had been crucified. A lot of things had happened since the day the Romans had nailed Jesus of Nazareth to a crude cross and hung him on Golgotha to die. Probably the greatest thing that happened was that Jesus had been raised from the dead. Three days after he was placed in a borrowed tomb it was empty. Three days after the apostles had given up hope; hope had been given back to them. Three days after the devil had tasted victory he saw defeat. Three days after the religious leaders had celebrated his death they had to cope with his resurrection.
During the time after his resurrection Christ had appeared to his apostles both individually and collectively. He had made them breakfast on the beach at Galilee and gave them the great commission on top of a mountain. He had promised them that the Holy Spirit would come, appeared to a crowd of five hundred and then ascended into heaven in front of his followers.
Ten days after Christ had left they found themselves in a room in Jerusalem doing just what Christ had commanded them to do they were waiting. It is interesting to note that even at this point they had a pretty firm grasp about how to play church; they were busy with administrative functions. Nobody was saved but they did have the opportunity to vote Matthias in as an Apostle. It’s amazing that even today churches have captured that ability to look busy while basically not doing anything. Every year at our conference there are churches that report that haven’t seen a single person come to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ but they continued to function as bureaucratic entities, forming boards, electing people to fill roles, filing reports doing all the things which would ensure that they would continue to exist.
And so here they are, gathered together to celebrate Pentecost. Acts 2:1 On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place.
Pentecost is a New Testament name for an Old Testament festival. When most of us think of Pentecost we think of Christianity, but as is the case with most of Christianity the true beginnings of Pentecost are rooted in Judaism. The word comes from the root word for fifty and literally is fifty days after Passover. Sometimes it is referred to as the feast of weeks or the week of weeks, because seven weeks is 49 days and the next day is Pentecost.
Historically the Pentecost celebration commemorated the giving of the law to Moses and also had agricultural significance. In recognition of that the crops first Omar or two quarts, or 1.89 litres of barley were brought to the altar as an offering along with two loaves of barley bread.
Pentecost was a day of celebration. Servant labour was prohibited and so it was a holiday for all. Presumably the believers had made their sacrifices, remember they were all good Jews, and nnow they were together, whether they were in anxious anticipation over whether or not this would be the day that the Holy Spirit would come or if they were just sitting around enjoying each other’s company we’ll never know this side of eternity, all we know is that they were together in on place.
I had said earlier that we didn’t know who was in the room who the they were that were mentioned in this first verse and we don’t know for sure but we can make some guesses. Acts 1:13 tells us that ten days earlier right after Christ had ascended Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the zealot, and Judas son of James, got together in Jerusalem. Luke tells us that they were with the women, who are the women? Well several are mentioned in Jesus life they include Mary the wife of Clopas, Mary Magdalene, Martha and Salome the mother of James and John.
As well Luke tells us that Jesus mother and brothers were there so that’s Mary, Jude, James the two new candidates for apostleship were there so that would are Matthias and Joseph called Barabbas (also known as Justus). Maybe Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus would have been there, Luke’s giving us the account and so that would leave 97 of the original 120 who we don’t know their names. It was Groucho Marx who said “Although it is generally known, I think it’s about time to announce that I was born at a very early age.”
And the church was born at a very early age as well and this was to be its birthday.
We may not know exactly who all was there that day but whoever they were the NKJV tells us Acts 2:1 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all in one accord in one place. How they got a hundred and twenty people in a Honda is a mystery to me but at least they were parked.
But right there in that one little phrase is the secret to a church that is going to succeed and that is they were moving in one direction. If a church is to go forward then everyone needs to be aimed at a common goal. One of my favourite books as a child was Dr. Doolittle and one of the amazing animals in Dr. Doolittle’s menagerie was a Push Me Pull You, kind of looked like a horse with a head on either end. And it was constantly pulling itself in directions that it didn’t want to go. And sometimes the church is like that. Being with one accord doesn’t mean that we always have common consensus, but it does mean that we have co-operation.
The time will come that we will begin with earnest to think of expanding our building, whoever Earnest is. Not everyone will agree that we need to expand, we won’t all agree on the size or what it looks like or the colour carpet we put down, however if we are to move ahead then even though we don’t all agree on every little detail we will have to cooperate if we are going to get the job done we will all need to be in one Accord, although personally I’d prefer a Camry.
We need to have a common goal, do we want to remain a medium sized church, do we want to be a large church of five or six hundred or do we want to be a mega church that will have an impact not only on our immediate area but on the other churches in the area as well as the churches in the denomination. What is our desire and what is our goal?
These men and women knew what they wanted, they wanted the Holy Spirit. After all that is what they were promised in John 14:26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.
And again in Acts 1:8 Jesus told the apostles Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. They had already experienced failure on their own, that’s why they went back fishing. They had been promised power and that power is what they were waiting for.
And so there they were, waiting and probably enjoying each other’s company when it happened, it was incredible. I mean you wouldn’t have believed it unless you were there. What happened oh sorry, Luke tells us about it in Acts 2:2-3 Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them.
And so there they were, in one accord, 50 days after the crucifixion celebrating Pentecost as all good Jews were and two things happened. The first was that a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and secondly what appeared to be tongues of fire came to rest on each of them. Neat huh, bet that would shake things up in your average Wesleyan church wouldn’t it?
Now let’s not confuse the signs with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit isn’t fire, he isn’t wind and he doesn’t look like a bird, you ok? For just a minute let’s take a look in the Old Testament way back to 1 Kings 19:11-12 “Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.
Sound familiar? Earthquake, wind and fire? Sounds like a rock group. The wind and fire were signs, sent to prepare the people for what was supposed to happen next.
You see as is the often the case it the problem isn’t that we don’t listen to God, the problem is that we’re not paying attention. Sometimes it just takes a word, when the Holy Spirit came upon Mary in Luke 1:35 there was no wind or fire, when the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in John 1:33 he came as gently as a dove. But sometimes there’s a need to get our attention. Now I don’t know what was going on in that room before the wind and fire arrived but I would suspect that God had their undivided attention after the fact.
Everybody’s ready, they know something’s going to happen and if we continue to read in our narrative Acts 2:4 And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability. Again two things happen, the first is that they were filled with the Holy Spirit. Filled as in completely filled, not a little bit filled, not half filled, not three quarters filled, but filled, filled, filled. Jesus has gone, but the comforter has come in his place just like Jesus had promised, and the very first thing that the believers did was to speak in other languages.
Now you can ignore that, or you can skip that, or you can rationalise that but no matter what you do with it, it will not go away. The only way you can get that out of your bible is to cut it out but it will still be in mine.
Now to be truthful I don’t know what came out of the mouth of those believers on that day, could have been Greek, or Hebrew, or Swahili, it might even have been Canadian, eh. I don’t have a clue.
But I do know what went into the ears of the people outside. They heard God being praised in each of their native tongue. Now that’s neat.
I once heard from a reputable source of a Wesleyan missionary in Haiti who had to travel to the other end of the island where they spoke a different dialect than he knew and even though he had never learned that particular language he was able to communicate in it for the five years he spent there, but when he left the ability to speak in the dialect was gone.
Now there are all kinds of disputes that we could get into at this point. You know the things people love to fight over, “you always speak in tongues when you are filled with the Holy Spirit.” “You never speak in tongues when you are filled with the Holy Spirit” “you aren’t saved unless you speak in tongues” “no , no, no you aren’t saved if you do speak in tongues.”
You see what happens is that too many of us are guilty of putting God in a theological box; we say this is our position so get in there. I have met many wonderful spirit filled people who have claimed the experience of speaking in tongues, I can’t just write them off. On the other hand I have met many wonderful spirit filled people who have never claimed the experience of speaking in tongues. Go figure.
I have never spoken in tongues, probably never will speak in tongues, but I have met a wonderful saviour named Jesus Christ and have been filled with the Holy Spirit and nobody can say that I haven’t. Our church is not a charismatic church and our discipline states that we will not use tongues in worship nor will we promote them. But it does say in Acts 2:4 And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability. It wasn’t instantaneous it was as the spirit enabled them. Now we shouldn’t have a problem here.
Acts 2:5-6 At that time there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem. When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers. In saying that let’s recognise the fact that we’re not talking about a couple of different languages here instead we are told acts Acts 2:9-11 Here we are—Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the areas of Libya around Cyrene, visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans, and Arabs. And we all hear these people speaking in our own languages about the wonderful things God has done!”
And so at least in this particular reference to tongues it would appear that these men spoke in a known language that they had no knowledge of. Or at least that is what was heard.
But tongues is not the major issue here. The fact is that it was simply a tool provided to them so that they could fulfil the promise that Jesus had made in Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
these men and women were told that they would be filled with power and would be witnesses to places that they had only heard of. How would they speak the language? Hey no problem. Where would they get the courage? Same place. This group that was certainly on their way to be a typical evangelical church that is ingrown and stagnant suddenly was proclaiming the greatness and wonder of their Lord so loud that people on the street wondered what was happening.
The miracle here was not the language that they spoke in but that they had the courage to speak in any language, as far as we can tell this was the first time that Peter had ever preached and three thousand people were saved. “Incredible.” you say “Denn why doesn’t that happen when you preach?” good question, but then again when was the last time that this congregation was so filled with the Holy Spirit that three thousand people showed up to find out what was happening.
When the crowd came and saw the 120 do you know what their reaction was, “They are drunk, that’s all!” I bet it’s been a while since anyone mistook our salvation for intoxication. From these 120 people men and women who were filled with the Holy Spirit the world was changed.
On a typical Sunday morning we have twice that number worshipping at Cornerstone, I wonder what God could do with us, if we let him?