Seven weeks had gone by since the Passover in Jerusalem, when Jesus had been executed by Roman crucifixion – an execution that at the time had looked like a terrible defeat as the ‘Messiah’ was murdered at the hands of evil men. But so much had changed since then! Yes, Jesus had been put to death by wicked men, and yet what had happened to Him was never out of God’s control! And since then, God had raised Jesus back to life! And over the next 40 days He’d spent time with His disciples showing them that He really was alive and not a ghost, and at the same time teaching them about the Kingdom of God. And, most exciting of all, Jesus had promised that within days He’d baptise them with the Holy Spirit so that they could tell everyone, starting with the residents of Jerusalem and ending up – well, at the furthest ends of the earth – about who He was and what God had done through Him! (PAUSE)
At the end of those very special 40 days, Jesus had been taken back to heaven. But even though He’d gone back to heaven, His disciples knew they could still talk to Him, and He could still let them know what He wanted. So, instead of feeling sad, they spent their time praising God in the temple for what He’d done and then, in a more private place, they continued to pray, asking Jesus to do what He’d promised, to send the Holy Spirit. (PAUSE)
And so now it was the Jewish celebration of Pentecost, 50 days after Passover, which marked the end of the barley harvest (and also marked the time they’d been given the Torah on Mount Sinai), and for this festival, every Jewish man was commanded to come before the Lord in His temple in Jerusalem. So Jerusalem was buzzing with people from all over the place, Jews who’d come back to Jerusalem for this special celebration even though they now lived in many different countries all over the world! (PAUSE)
On the day of the Pentecost celebration, the city stirred early with people on the streets enjoying the festivities. The disciples were also up early when, suddenly, the house where they were gathered was filled with the sound of a powerful, rushing wind and then something appeared that looked like tongues made of fire and, as the disciples watched, the tongues of fire separated and came to rest on all the disciples, all 120 or so of them! At once everybody in the room was filled with the Holy Spirit, and they started speaking in all kinds of different languages as the Holy Spirit gave them the ability!
Nobody could keep this quiet! People all over Jerusalem heard the sound of the powerful, rushing wind and came running to see what was happening. And when they got there, they were amazed - not really sure what to make of it all - as each of them heard their own language being spoken by the believers!
No one could understand what was going on! ‘How can this happen?’ they asked each other. ‘These people are all from Galilee, and yet – we hear them speaking the languages of the lands we were born in – our native languages – from all around the world! And they’re speaking about the wonderful things God has done!’
What confused people even more was that the disciples really were from Galilee and, to be honest, Galilee was considered to be a backwater, not exactly cultured, and their strong accents usually made them incapable of speaking any language clearly – some said they even struggled with their own language! And yet, after that incredibly loud noise of rushing wind, and the settling of the tongues of fire, here they were fluently speaking languages from places they’d surely never been! ‘What does it mean?’ the onlookers asked, shaking their heads and unable to understand it. (P) But a few of them who came to see what all the commotion was about, heard the people speaking different languages and started to laugh! ‘If you ask me,’ they said, ‘these people have had a little too much wine!!’
It was then that Peter stepped forward, and with the other apostles behind him, he addressed the crowd. ‘Listen carefully, all of you! These people aren’t drunk, it’s only 9 o’clock in the morning – it’s far too early for that. No, what you see this morning is what the prophet Joel predicted centuries ago. This is what he wrote:
‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions and your old men will dream dreams. In those days I will pour out my Spirit on my servants, men and women alike, and they will prophesy…’’
And then Peter continued to tell the people about Jesus: that He was a man God approved of as shown by the signs and wonders God had done through Him; that He’d died at the hands of evil men, but at the same time, His death hadn’t been outside the plans and purposes of God; that God had raised Jesus back to life, freeing Him from the grave; and that God had now raised Him up to sit on a throne at His right hand side in heaven from where He poured out the Holy Spirit as they could now see. He finished with, ‘So let it be clearly known by everyone in Israel - that God has made this Jesus whom YOU crucified - to be both Lord and Messiah!’ (PAUSE)
God had started His work of building His Kingdom, of building His church, and as Peter spoke, the Holy Spirit took Peter’s words and helped many of those who heard them to realise how guilty they were and that they needed to be forgiven. So they said to the apostles, ‘Brothers, what should we do?’
So Peter told them, ‘Each of you must turn away from your sins and turn to God, and be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you too will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. And this promise isn’t just for you, it is also for your children and even for people who are far away from Him – for all who’ve been called by the Lord our God.’ (PAUSE)
Over 3000 people believed what Peter said and were baptised and added to the church that very day! They all spent their time listening to and putting into practice what the apostles taught. (P) And because of this, a deep sense of awe came over the believers, both old and new, and the apostles performed many miracles, signs and wonders!
The believers met together constantly and shared everything they had, selling their possessions and giving to those in need. Together they worshipped at the temple every day, and met in each other’s homes to share the Lord’s Supper and their own meals with thankful and humble hearts - while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of the people. And each day, the Lord added to their group more people who were being saved.