Pentecost: What Does This Mean?

It’s one of the great scenes in the Bible. A sound like a mighty wind filling the room. Flames sitting on the tops of heads. Uneducated men suddenly speaking in languages that they hadn’t known the moment before.

pentecostAnd the Holy Spirit being poured out on everyone present.

Surely this is an amazing and dramatic scene. It even confused many who came to see what the ruckus was about, thinking that surely these people had just over-indulged on the wine. Must have been quite a site.

I love the question they begin to ask amongst one another: What does this mean? Because this is the question that endures. Once you get past the craziness of the events, even all the way to our time now, the same question applies.

What does this mean?

What does it mean that the Spirit – the same Spirit present in Jesus Christ – now lives among us? What does it mean that God has poured out his Spirit on men and women, young and old? What does it mean to how I live my life, my job, my family, my friends?

This is the question that endures. It is a question that must be answered. And it’s a question we’ll examine this week together.

Acts 2:1-21

On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.

At that time there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem. When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers.

They were completely amazed. “How can this be?” they exclaimed. “These people are all from Galilee, and yet we hear them speaking in our own native languages! Here we are—Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the areas of Libya around Cyrene, visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans, and Arabs. And we all hear these people speaking in our own languages about the wonderful things God has done!” They stood there amazed and perplexed. “What can this mean?” they asked each other.

But others in the crowd ridiculed them, saying, “They’re just drunk, that’s all!”

Then Peter stepped forward with the eleven other apostles and shouted to the crowd, “Listen carefully, all of you, fellow Jews and residents of Jerusalem! Make no mistake about this. These people are not drunk, as some of you are assuming. Nine o’clock in the morning is much too early for that. No, what you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel:

‘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
    even on my servants—men and women alike—
    and they will prophesy.
And I will cause wonders in the heavens above
    and signs on the earth below—
    blood and fire and clouds of smoke.
The sun will become dark,
    and the moon will turn blood red
    before that great and glorious day of the Lord arrives.
But everyone who calls on the name of the Lord
    will be saved.’

John 7:37-39

On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)

Psalm 10::24-34, 35b

Lord, what a variety of things you have made!
    In wisdom you have made them all.
    The earth is full of your creatures.
Here is the ocean, vast and wide,
    teeming with life of every kind,
    both large and small.
See the ships sailing along,
    and Leviathan, which you made to play in the sea.

They all depend on you
    to give them food as they need it.
When you supply it, they gather it.
    You open your hand to feed them,
    and they are richly satisfied.
But if you turn away from them, they panic.
    When you take away their breath,
    they die and turn again to dust.
When you give them your breath, life is created,
    and you renew the face of the earth.

May the glory of the Lord continue forever!
    The Lord takes pleasure in all he has made!
The earth trembles at his glance;
    the mountains smoke at his touch.

I will sing to the Lord as long as I live.
    I will praise my God to my last breath!
May all my thoughts be pleasing to him,
    for I rejoice in the Lord.

Let all that I am praise the Lord.
    Praise the Lord!

1 Corinthians 12:3b-13

And no one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit.

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.

A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge. The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said. It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.

The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.

Prayer

Gracious Father,
I want to feel the wind of your Spirit
roar through my heart.
I want your fire
to light up the darkness of my life.
I want to believe your promises
with all of my being
and wait in expectation
for your Spirit to fill this place.
I am often a person of unbelief.
Do not let Pentecost be a once-in-an-eternity experience.
Pour your Holy Spirit upon me
and upon all of your followers
that we may be fountains of
          love
          joy
          peace
          patience
          kindness
          goodness
          faithfulness
          gentleness
          and self-control.
May it be with me today
as it was for your disciples on that beautiful day in Jerusalem.
And may the Spirit empower me
to be a light in the world around me today.
Amen

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