Over the next two Sundays, we’re going to be studying the historic outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples at an event called Pentecost and then the subsequent presentation of the Gospel and the breaking out of the New Testament Church. Not only is the event an important event in the Redemptive History of the Scriptures that has tremendous impact for all of us, but the Gospel presentation by Peter is a powerful presentation of the nature of the Gospel and how it converts dead hearts into living, beating, believing hearts that embrace the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
You will recall that Christ was crucified on the day before the Passover. This, the Jews insisted would occur so their plot to kill the Son of God would be complete before they fulfilled this most important religious observance in the religious life of the Jews.
According to the Law, the Passover was always celebrated on the fourteenth day of the first month of the year. The Jewish calendar was a lunar calendar so the months of the year alternated between 29 and 30 days depending on when the new moon would fall. About every 3 years, a thirteenth month called Elul was added to the calendar to keep the seasons from getting too messed up, which is why the Jewish Passover doesn’t always fall at the same time every year but is either March or April according to our calendar that has the same number of months every year.
The Israelites used the lunar month, so the Passover was always on a full moon. Associated with Passover in Deut 16:9-12 was the presentation of the first ripe sheaf of grain (Lev. 23:9). On the day following the seventh Sabbath after that presentation (Lev. 23:15, 16) was the one-day “Feast of Weeks” (v. 10), called “Pentecost” in the New Testament because of this fifty-day calculation. Pentecost gets its name from fifty because 7 Sabbaths and a day would follow the Passover, which is 50 days. This feast day was a day that devout Jews were expected to attend every year.
Now, something you and I need to remember about the Scriptures is that people didn’t have automobiles in those days. One of the reasons why the region of Israel is not terribly large is because it would be quite impossible for men to journey to a central place for worship every year if the nation was enormous. Even though the country is still relatively small, it was no small task for men to walk to these major feasts that they were required to attend three times a year. In fact, due to the journey and the hardship of it, the Scriptures only required the men to go up to these regular feasts to represent their families.
I lived, from 1980-1986, in Fort Worth, TX. My best friend across the street was the son of a Palestinian Christian. His father had been forced at gunpoint to leave Israel in 1946 as the Israelites took land that had belonged to his family for countless generations. My friend’s father, Samir, recounted an interesting tale to me one day that he told about his older brother and his father as he grew up near Jerusalem.
Samir’s brother had purchased an automobile, the first in the family to own one and so he invited his father to join him for a trip in the car. They got in the car at the base of the mountain leading up to Jerusalem and he drove to the top where the temple had been located at the time of Christ. It took them 15 minutes.
The brother turned to his father and asked him what he thought. The father was very troubled. “A trip to Jerusalem should take 3 days. Take me back down the mountain,” he replied.
We find this strange but the pace of men was much different before transportation. There was a joy in the journey of pilgrimage with other men. In the Scriptures there are even Songs of Ascent as men approached the Temple Mount. Men would travel for weeks to journey to the Temple for the Passover and there was much joy and hospitality as residents of Jerusalem would open their homes to house the thousands of pilgrims from Judea and even the known civilized world where devout Jews were dispersed.
It is very significant, then, that these men that were at the Pentecost were undoubtedly the same men who had been present during the Passover 7 weeks earlier as they would not have made a trip home but would have stayed in Jerusalem to await this feast. This will become more significant next week.
As the passage opens, in response to Jesus’ command in Acts 1:4 to await the coming of the Spirit, the apostles were waiting patiently and prayerfully in Jerusalem for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Christ had ascended only shortly earlier but now the day of waiting is completed and a new era dawns. The passage indicates that they were all together in one place and these included not only the Apostles but all 120 of Christ’s disciples who were assembled together.
Suddenly there was a sound of a violent wind. It demonstrated heavenly power as it suddenly descended upon the house and shook it so violently and loudly that men outside gathered around to figure out what had happened.
Fire appeared that separated and rested upon each one of them in fulfillment of John the Baptist’s description of Jesus’ power in Matt 3:11 that Christ would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Fire is a regular symbol in the Old Testament of God’s presence.
All present were filled with the Holy Spirt and began to speak in other tongues, literally other spoken languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. The filling of the Spirit occurred once and for all – it did not come and go but stayed. The outpouring of the Spirit is not repetitious but the Spirit stays with the person who has been filled. In the Acts, the Spirit reaches out in ever-widening circles to the Samaritans in Acts 8:17, the Gentiles in Acts 10:44-46 and then the disciples of John the Baptist in Acts 19:1-6. This fulfills Christ’s command to witness to Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth in Acts 1:8.
One significant point of this event of spoken languages at Pentecost should not be overlooked. Genesis 11:1-9 records a time where all the men on the earth spoke the same language and, in the pride of their human accomplishment and ability, exalted themselves and began to build a tower that they reasoned would reach to God. In judgment of the pride and sin of men, God confused the language of mankind. Here in the Pentecost, the Holy Spirit enabled the disciples to speak the languages of the known world. The power of the Holy Spirit overcame the disunity that sin brought to the world by human pride and united all men present at Pentecost to hear the disciples praising and telling of the mighty works of God. Not only did the Holy Spirit unite men to understand the same message that is confused by the tongues of the earth but it directed men away from worship of themselves and telling of their own deeds to the proper worship of God and His mighty works.
As I noted earlier, devout men from all over the known world were dwelling in Jerusalem and were nearby the house. It was about 9 am in the morning and thousands were gathered to celebrate the Pentecost near the Temple. They heard the loud noise and walked over to investigate what had occurred.
As they arrived on the scene the men from around Jerusalem were utterly amazed as they each heard the disciples praising God in their native tongues. Several nations and their languages were mentioned that represented every major tongue of the known world where Jewish believers were dispersed.
Either the men recognized the clothing or some other feature of the disciples but they knew they were Galileans. Galileans were not known for being educated and culture but were what we might call “hicks”. Galileans were looked down upon much like mainland Japanese people are known to look down on some other prefectures. There is amazement that, somehow, these Galileans are speaking in their native tongue. How can this be?
Verse 12 and 13 records two very different reactions to this amazing event: “12And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13But others were mocking and saying, “They are full of sweet wine.”
This is the constant response in the history of Scriptures when God’s power is on display. There are always men who will be amazed by the power of God and then seek an explanation from others to find out what things mean. How is it possible, after all, for a bunch of uneducated men who have obviously never ventured outside the boundaries of Judea to be proclaiming the mighty works of God in all the known tongues of the earth?
But then there’s also a really dumb response that is so typical of unbelief. Some men just make fun of this event and say that all of these people speaking in other languages and extolling God are just drunk with wine.
Does that make any sense? I mean, really, we could understand if the disciples were jumping up and down and speaking in some sort of babbling language that men might think them drunk but how does being drunk give all these disciples the ability to speak in the known languages of the earth? It’s just silly. It’s almost as silly as their disbelief that was on display at that moment. It’s almost as silly and unforgivable as the Pharisees who witnessed Jesus perform wonders that Nicodemus had to conclude could only be done by someone who came from God. But unbelievers always mock the things of God. It’s almost as if a fireworks show is going on and they’re looking the other way with their ears plugged and then start mocking people who are describing how beautiful the show is.
Peter stepped forward at this point in boldness. This was the same Peter who only weeks before had been afraid to admit to a servant girl that he knew Christ. Now he’s in the middle of thousands of men who had likely shouted to crucify Christ and is about to give witness to the risen Lord who has just ascended on High with the Father.
True to His Word, Christ had sent the Holy Spirit with power to His disciples. Before the Pentecost, Peter had loved Christ but, in his flesh, he was not strong enough to withstand the persecution that comes from the world that stands against God and His holiness and even may kill those that name Jesus Christ. Prior to Pentecost, Peter could express devotion on his own strength only to find he lacked it when he needed it.
But disciples of Christ do not have the strength within themselves to witness to the true Gospel. It must be given from above and the Pentecost is a demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit that comes alongside Peter and empowers him to witness to Christ.
You see when Christ promised the Spirit, He promised He would send another Paraclete in John 14:16. That is sometimes translated helper or comforter but the idea of a paraclete in the ancient world was more like a family lawyer – person who was very close to the family and would represent the family and it’s interests when a member was being accused. The Spirit is said to witness to our Spirit that we are Sons of God. The Spirit strengthens and stands beside us and confirms to us that we are Sons of God and that nobody may bring a charge against us and that He who has power over death and life is with us when we proclaim Him among men.
So Peter stands up and commands the crowd: “”Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. 15″For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the [b]third hour of the day;”.
Notice how Peter commands the assembly to pay attention. He tells them to heed his words. We’ll speak more of this next week but Peter is not inviting men to pay attention or to listen, he is commanding their attention. You see, he had been ordained by God to proclaim the Gospel as are all faithful ministers of the Word. When they are proclaiming the Word of God as it is meant to be proclaimed then those that ignore the words are ignoring God Himself and are judged for it. The authority that Peter speaks with is backed up by the authority of God’s Word and so he does not merely invite men to stick around and listen if they are interested in the message but commands it.
First of all, he rebukes the mockers by telling them they’re not drunk. After all, he says, it’s only 9 in the morning. He then begins a sermon that we will begin today and conclude next week.
In verses 16-21 he quotes the prophet Joel. Joel had predicted the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and Peter boldly proclaims that the prophecy has just been fulfilled in their midst. He teaches that the era of the last days has come. Peter is proclaiming Christ’s gospel and visibly demonstrating to them that he is filled with the Holy Spirit and power.
Notice in this prophecy that all believers, regardless of age, gender or place in society receive the blessing of the Holy Spirit: sons, daughters, young men, old men, salves, men and women both!
The Holy Spirit has gone forward to be in all who believe upon Christ. It is not a privilege that only the few that receive a “second blessing” receive. It is not the privilege of the super holy and sanctified. All who believe upon the name of Christ receive the promise of the Holy Spirit to be their Paraclete against the world and the devil. All receive the Holy Spirit to have the comfort of knowing that, when they sin that the devil may want to convince you that you are not worthy of salvation because, as Paul notes in Romans 7, you keep doing the very things you know you should not be doing. But the Spirit then witnesses and reminds us in our spirits that we are sons of God and we cry out “Abba! Father” and know that we are, indeed Christ’s because we are reminded of the Cross. We are reminded that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord is saved!
Indeed, Christ has died and risen and when that Good News is heralded, it is heralded with authority. The question for you this day is whether or not you are one who just comes to the event of the news of God’s power with curiosity and interest with ears willing to hear and embrace the risen Messiah. Or, instead, are you a mocker? Is the news of the resurrection of a man silly? Do you suppose we’re all just out of our minds or, perhaps even drunk at such an early hour and are simply babbling. The power of God in the Gospel is in your midst. It demands your attention and your response. Believe upon it. Call upon the name of the Lord for He is worthy, He has all authority, and He demands it. And as you repent from your sins and turn to Christ you will, indeed, be saved from your sins.