Summary: At Pentecost, God enabled Jesus' disciples to do what they could not do on their own. God fulfilled Jesus' promise to spread the gospel to all lands, as the pilgrims heard the good news in thier own language. God calls us, too, to be his witnesses.
Drawing on the Power of God
A few days after the Thanksgiving holiday of 2016, Eric Heffelmire was working on his GMC truck at his family home in Vienna, Virginia. As he recalls, “I was on my back, face up, and I was trying to get some corroded brake lines when apparently the jack slipped and fell down on me.” He continued, “The minute the jack slipped, there was an almost instantaneous, real strong smell of gasoline, and then just, whoosh!” He recalls, “I thought they’d be pulling out a dead body later in the evening.”
Fortunately, his 19-year-old daughter Charlotte was home from the US Air Force Academy on Thanksgiving break. She heard the noise and came flying into the garage, barefoot, five foot six, all 120 pounds of her. She saw her dad and still can’t fully explain what happened next. Charlotte recalls, “I lifted [the truck] the first time, he said ‘OK, you almost got it. Finally managed to get it out, it was some crazy strength, pulled him out.”
Once her dad was out, she jumped into the truck, still on fire, threw it into four-wheel drive, and drove it, on three wheels, out of the garage. Then she closed the garage doors to help contain the fire, and got everybody out of the house, starting with her sister’s baby.
“I just did what I had to do, so I don’t feel like a big hero or anything,” Charlotte said. She was recognized with a Citizen Lifesaving Award by the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue and later received a $10,000 check from Shutterfly on the Ellen show.
Every so often we hear a story like Charlotte’s of superhuman strength in time of need. People do the seemingly impossible, and they have no idea how they accomplish it. What if a power like that was available to every Christian believer? It is! The Holy Spirit is our power source for when God wants to do the impossible through us.
It all began with a promise Jesus left his disciples right before he ascended back to heaven. You’ll find it in the chapter before today’s reading, Acts chapter 1, verses 4-8:
On one occasion, while he was eating with them, [Jesus] gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized in water, but in a few days you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit. ... You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
The word for “power” here is the Greek word “dunamis,” from which we get our English word “dynamite.” Notice it’s not a power that the disciples have on their own. They have to “receive” it when the Holy Spirit comes on them. And that power, God’s power, will enable them to be God’s witnesses at home, and wherever they go, throughout the known world.
At Pentecost, God brought the known world to them. And through that extraordinary event, he birthed his church. Please listen to the story from Acts chapter 2:
1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
14 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. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!