Summary: Perhaps we are too comfortable to share the Holy Spirit with others. First preached at Arley United Methodist Church.
Our scripture about Pentecost can be broken down into three parts: the Holy Spirit comes upon the disciples, the reaction of the Jews in Jerusalem, and Peter’s response to the Jews.
Pentecost was held seven weeks or fifty days after Passover and was a celebration of the Ten Commandments being given to Moses. This was one of the three major festivals on the Jewish calendar and was a time when Jews from all over the world would try to return to Jerusalem. Pentecost that year occurred just ten days after Jesus’ ascension into Heaven.
We cannot be sure where the believers were in Jerusalem but we know from the first verse of chapter two that they were all together. In the previous chapter of Acts we learn of Judas Iscariot’s death and the election of Mathias to be a new member of the Twelve. I think we can safely assume that at least the twelve apostles were all together. This verse may refer to the entire community of believers that included Jesus’ mother and his brothers. From some of the scripture this may have been up to one hundred and twenty people.
In the previous chapter, Jesus had instructed the community to stay in Jerusalem and before long they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit.
This promise was fulfilled when the Holy Spirit suddenly came from Heaven like a great wind. I imagine that is sounded something like some of the storms we’ve had in the last couple of weeks. The Holy Spirit filled them and they began to shine so brightly with God’s glory that it appeared as though they were on fire. As they were filled with the Holy Spirit they began to speak in other languages. What did they speak of? Our scripture tells us that they spoke about “God’s deeds of power.”
Have you ever had great news that you wanted to tell everyone, including perfect strangers? I remember that after I found out that my wife was expecting each of my children I just couldn’t keep it to myself. I remember telling a checkout person at Wal-Mart before my daughter was born. The subject just managed to come up somehow.
Perhaps this was the way it was with the disciples. They were so filled with the Holy Spirit and the joy of wonderful news that they just couldn’t keep it to themselves. They had to share it with everyone they could, and the Holy Spirit had given them the ability to be understood by anyone they met.
Some theologians believe that all of the disciples were in the Upper Room when this all began. In my mind I have always pictured the Upper Room as a cozy little area just big enough to hold the table shown in the painting of the Last Supper. If it was large enough to hold one hundred and twenty people it must have been much larger than that. From wherever they were I think they all began to spill into the street in a flood and began to loudly and passionately tell anyone they could find about God’s glory and the risen Christ. As they did so a large crowd gathered to see what all the commotion was about.
My family moved to southern Mexico when I was ten. In that part of Mexico there were very few people who spoke English and for the first couple of years I didn’t speak Spanish very well. One weekend we went up into the mountains to see the town of San Cristobal de las Casas that has one of the oldest cathedrals in all of the Americas. The countryside around San Cristobal has a large indigenous population that speaks very little Spanish. While at the market there my father was haggling with an Indian woman over the price of some fruit and in English I reminded him that we had seen better prices somewhere else. I was completely shocked when in perfect English she told my parents and me that she would beat anybody’s price in the entire market. The rest of the transaction was carried on in English, which she spoke much better than she did Spanish.
I imagine that the foreign Jews that gathered felt somewhat like I did. Here were people speaking to them in their own languages as if they were natives of that country as well. What was more, the ones speaking were Galileans. In those days people from the province of Galilee were considered to be uneducated and were generally looked down upon.
From our scripture we know that there were at least fifteen languages being spoken. There were probably many more languages than that since the Jews had been spread out among the entire known world. It would appear that any one of the disciples could talk in the native tongue of anyone they came across. Mastering another language is not an easy task, but to hear people from Galilee speaking all of these languages must have been amazing to those who heard them.