The book of Acts was written by Luke, a medical doctor who took an interest in the teachings of Jesus through his mentor, Peter. He’s examined the evidence for Jesus’ life in his earlier letter, the Gospel of Luke, and this time he’s looking at what happened to those who decided to continue following Jesus.
Jesus has given his followers a huge mission – we learned this last week – to share his good news with the entire world. To the ends of the earth! He gave this mission to twelve central disciples and a hundred or so people who may have gathered around them in this story. It would be hugely daunting, with no modern communications, travel options. They were in uncharted territory, and needed a guide. Jesus promised them the Holy Spirit, and said to wait for him to arrive.
Here’s what happened on the day of Pentecost, a Jewish festival.
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and 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 Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” (Acts 2:1-13 ESV)
How could they know if this was truly the Holy Spirit, their guide for this mission they’d been assigned? They experienced three phenomena that only God could produce.
It sounded like wind, but wasn’t. It was the Holy Spirit. Not a bad attempt at a physical description of God’s Spirit – we know we can feel the wind, see its effects, but also that we can’t ever pinpoint or control its source. It’s out of our control, and in the case of a sailboat, we have to admit this if we ever want to get anywhere, by adapting ourselves to the reality of the wind’s direction and strength.
It looked like fire, wasn’t. This phenomenon didn’t burn them or produce heat. It just appeared and rested on them. They were on fire!
These people sounded like they were speaking languages they knew, but they weren’t. They were speaking other people’s languages.
Tomorrow we’ll see the meaning of all this, particularly the languages or tongues. Why all these odd signs of the Spirit?
John the Baptist said Spirit would come with wind and fire. God has used these signs before – in Exodus God appeared as a pillar of fire to guide his people. But why now?
Question: What do you think God is trying to teach these disciples through wind, fire and speech? What’s he showing them about the Holy Spirit?
Meeting with a Group? Your discussion questions are in this week’s Group Study Guide[permalink append=”#comments”]Discuss the Challenge[/permalink]