When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” 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. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 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. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Pentecost is one of the oldest festivals of the Christian church. In fact, it was a Jewish festival before it was a Christian festival. Pentecost, which literally means “five ten times,” was the Greek name for the Jewish festival of the Feast of Weeks. This feast took place fifty days after the Passover.
It was at this Jewish festival that the Apostle Peter stood and preached a sermon to the Jews gathered together for the festival in Jerusalem. This was fifty days after Jesus rose from the dead, and ten days after he had ascended. Jesus promised to send his disciples (now called the apostles) the Counselor, or the Holy Spirit. That promise was fulfilled here in Acts chapter 2 when the disciples were gathered for this festival.
There was this sound of a rushing wind, which was strange, because there really wasn’t any wind. Then what’s described as “tongues of fire” appeared over the heads of the disciples. As if all that wasn’t strange enough, each disciple began to speak in the various languages of the people visiting Jerusalem from all over the world—languages they had never learned. Some suggested these men were drunk. Peter, however, gave a very different explanation.
“These men are not drunk, as you suppose…. No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel.” What happened on Pentecost was a fulfillment of prophecy. The good news of forgiveness in Jesus was preached to God-fearing Jews from all over the world that day. And after Peter’s sermon, 3000 people were baptized. Ever since, we have called this day the birthday of the Christian Church.
We still celebrate Pentecost in our church year. It’s a time when we focus on the work of the Holy Spirit. He still comes to us. Not with the sound of a rushing wind or with tongues of fire, but he comes to us in his Word. Whenever the Gospel is proclaimed on Sunday mornings, the Holy Spirit works. Whenever we have Bible Class, the Holy Spirit works. Whenever you read your Bibles at home, the Holy Spirit works.
Looking forward to celebrating Pentecost with you once again this Sunday!