The Apostles waited; I don’t know how patiently they waited, but they waited nevertheless.
What they did not know that morning as they awoke was that this day would mark a paradigm shift of massive proportion. For those who had been through the ministry of Jesus, His death and resurrection, they had experienced many very highly significant events to say the least, but this day would be the culmination of all that had happened before− on this day of days, the Kingdom would come.
Oh yes, of course Jesus has already brought the Kingdom of heaven to earth with Him; He had been its very embodiment. In fact everything He had done in His ministry, and most particularly in His death and resurrection, had been done to make this day a reality. The paradigm shift takes place when the Holy Spirit comes into the Apostles and into all believers, for when this happens, the Kingdom itself is within us, and together as the Body of Christ, we are the embodiment of His Kingdom on earth.
This was the day of Pentecost, and in the Jewish calendar it is the second of three annual feasts, falling fifty days after the Sabbath of Passover week (Lev. 23:15-16). It has a few names in the Old Testament; the feast of weeks (Deut. 16:10), the feast of harvest (Ex. 23:16) and the day of firstfruits (Num. 28:26). I bring this up because we need to see God’s timing in all of this: Jesus had instructed the Apostles to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit was poured out on them, and so they have waited. Then, the Holy Spirit comes upon them on the very day when the city was filled to overflowing with good God-fearing Jews from all over the known world who had come for the feast of weeks (Pentecost).
You see, the Holy Spirit came when there would be literally thousands of witnesses; this was not something that would happen in secret.
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. (2:2-4)
The Holy Spirit comes upon them without warning, but He does so in a dramatic way, with the sound of a “violent wind” and an appearance like “tongues of fire” that separate and “came to rest on each of them”. We might want to keep in mind here that “like tongues of fire” isn’t literally fire because of the word “like”; Luke is telling us that in this instance, the Holy Spirit took a form that they could see. He looked something like tongues of fire, but He was most assuredly the Holy Spirit. What we really have here in the coming of the Spirit, is the Apostles receiving the Spirit with such am impact that the people in the neighborhood couldn’t miss it. The Apostles began to speak in “other tongues”, and it is worthwhile for us to note the meaning of this statement: The Greek word rendered “tongues” is glossa which means “languages”, thus in this instance the Apostles were not speaking in private prayer languages, and they were speaking human languages that they didn’t know.
In 2:5-8, Luke documents for us that hearing all of the commotion, a crowd gathers, a crowd that is amazed to find a bunch of Galileans speaking languages that the people in crowd, who are in town for the Feast speak. In other words, they are wondering how it could be that mere lowly Galileans can speak their languages. Luke also documents the places the people in the crowd have come from in 2:9-11, and more to the point, he documents what the Apostles were talking about in languages they had never studied:
we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” (2:11b)
Needlessly to say, they were amazed and wondered what this all meant (2:12). Yet, as one might guess, not all were amazed…
Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” (2:13)
Have you ever noticed that there are always the naysayers? As old Solomon wrote long before Pentecost, “there is nothing new under the sun”.
Peter will shortly step up once again and address the wine comment, and as he does so, he’s going to address quite a lot more. In the next section we’ll see what happens next on that most exciting of days; see you then!