Pentecost June 11, 2000
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine. Here ends our text.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Who promised the Holy Spirit to His disciples, Dear Fellow Redeemed,
My father once told me about an unforgettable experience he had as a young man. He had stood and watched, one night, as a church in the town where he was living burned to the ground! It was a huge church, he said, and people were drawn from miles around to watch as the massive old timbers went up like matchsticks in the blazing inferno. By the time the local fire department arrived, there wasn’t much they could do, except to try and keep blaze from spreading to the adjacent buildings. My father said he just stood there in the night, mesmerized by the tremendous sights and sounds, as the flames consumed the stately old building.
You can’t blame him for being fascinated—we would have been, too. It’s not every day you see a church on fire! That kind of a catastrophic event just naturally seems to attract people’s attention. And that must have been part of the reasoning behind what the Holy Ghost did, in the city of Jerusalem, one Sunday morning exactly fifty days after the resurrection of Christ. Something very special happened that day; there was a great commotion, and people gathered round. Why? Because, as our theme for today states:
You may have noticed something about miracles in your reading of the Bible—the most important events in Bible history were always attended by miracles. When God came down on Mount Sinai to give his Law to Moses, what happened? There was fire and smoke, the earth shook, the skin on Moses’ face took on a supernatural brightness. When Christ was born, a special star miraculously appeared over Bethlehem, and hosts of angels sang the Good News to the shepherds. When our Lord was crucified, the sun was blotted out, the veil in the temple was split in two, and many dead believers rose from their graves. His resurrection and His ascension into heaven were accompanied by miracles, too. And just ten days after His ascension, another mighty even occurred. It was the founding of the Christian Church, and the Holy Ghost called attention to this momentous occasion with a blaze of miracles!
Jerusalem, once again, was crowded with visitors. Pious Jews from all over the world were in town for the Jewish festival of Pentecost, also called “The Feast of Weeks.” The followers of Christ were there, too, about 120 of them, together in one room that Sunday morning. Not long before, Jesus had told them that the Holy Spirit would come upon them in a miraculous way. As it turns out, they didn’t have long to wait! All of a sudden, a fearsome sound seemed to come from heaven; the sound of a mighty, rushing wind swept through the house, but it didn’t blow anything away. Next, forked tongues of what looked like fire came and rested over the heads of all the disciples, but it didn’t burn them. The amazing sights and sounds brought people running from all directions, thousands of them, in fact. They knew something was going on—these amazing miracles could only mean that something was happening; something important was going on. And indeed it was: this was the Holy Spirit’s way of announcing the birthday of the New Testament Church of believers.
On this day, the flickering light of the Christian faith was being fanned into a blaze by the Holy Spirit. He was setting the Church on fire, and He was doing it through fired-up Christians. Our text tells us, And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? To the people who came flocking to that house, this was the most amazing thing of all. These men were simple fishermen and laborers from Galilee. They’d surely never been to school—and yet all the visitors heard them speaking in their own languages!
If any of you have tried to learn a foreign language, like Spanish or German, you know how hard it is even to get a basic feel for it, much less speak it perfectly and fluently. In fact, experts say that only a child can learn to speak a foreign language perfectly, without an accent. Adults just can’t do it, no matter how many years they study. But on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was the teacher, and the disciples instantly found themselves able to speak perfect Latin, perfect Greek—perfect Arabic, Persian and Egyptian. And now that they could all communicate perfectly with all the visitors in Jerusalem, what did they talk about? We do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? The disciples may have been speaking different languages, but they were all saying the same thing. They all preached the Gospel!
These were fired-up Christians. The Holy Ghost had already made them believers some time ago, but now they received a unique and special outpouring of the Spirit. They were no longer the timid men who scattered before the Roman guard in the Garden of Gethsemane, who cowered behind locked doors after the crucifixion. On this day the Holy Ghost transformed them into bold proclaimers of the Gospel, ready to tell anyone and everyone about Jesus, the Son of God who had come to ransom sinners. Up until now they’d had only a fuzzy picture of who Jesus was, and what His mission on earth had been. But, filled with the Holy Spirit, they now understood God’s plan of salvation perfectly, and they didn’t hesitate to shout it from the rooftops in every language under the sun!
There was opposition to the Gospel they preached, of course. There always is. Even faced with the miracles of Pentecost, there were a few sparks of mockery to be heard among the crowd that gathered there. They were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine There wasn’t any other way to explain the languages, so some said, “Oh, they’re just drunk!” Even though that didn’t make much sense. After all, Peter said, it was only nine in the morning; and besides, since when does drunkenness give a person the ability to speak foreign languages?
Nevertheless, the opposition to the Gospel was there, right from the beginning. And it would get worse later on. That day they were laughed at for preaching about Jesus; soon they would be thrown into prison and killed. The sparks of mockery continue even to this day. In fact, they’re burning brighter and brighter in America all the time. More and more often now, you see Christians pictured in television and the other media as fools—religious fanatics who are just using their faith to avoid facing “reality". Some time ago, National Public Radio featured an interview with a ten-year-old boy; the boy was suspended from his grade school for the terrible crime of standing at the door of the schoolhouse and telling the other children about Jesus. The interviewer questioned him as if he were some kind of freak. So you see, the Pentecost disciples weren’t the last ones to be mocked and called names because of their faith; it happens today, too. But it didn’t stop those followers of Christ, and it won’t stop us, either! Paul said, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” I Cor 1:18,25.
Despite the sparks of mockery, the disciples went right on preaching, calling on the people to repent of their sins, and to believe in Jesus for forgiveness. And what happened? The same thing that always happens when the Gospel is preached—the Word accomplished it’s mission, and people were saved. Not because of who these particular men were, not even because of the miracles, but because of the power of the Word. God’s Word always gets done what He wants it to get done. As the Lord says in Isaiah, “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” Is 55:11.
And that was the real reason for Pentecost. The Holy Ghost set the Church on fire—to make the Gospel burn brightly in the hearts of men. And burn it did! As soon as people started accusing the disciples of drunkenness, Peter stood up to defend them. Then he launched into a sermon, reciting many of the Old Testament Scriptures that proved Jesus was the Messiah. Then Peter gave them just what they needed—he preached the Law to them. He confronted them with their sins. Many of them had been among the crowd which—seven weeks earlier—had shouted for Jesus’ blood in the court of Pontius Pilate. “Therefore,” Peter said, “let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Now the men saw their sin, and it scared them! “They were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.’” Jesus Christ, he told them, was the way out of their sin. Do you think God’s Word did its work? How many hearts were burning with the Good News of forgiveness that day—ten? Fifty? A hundred? Too low! On the day of Pentecost, three thousand people believed the Gospel and were saved!
You know, that same Gospel fire is still burning today. Our Savior Jesus is still the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. Believing in Him, we have life through His name. The same Holy Spirit is—right now!—working in us, and through us with that message of salvation. Every time you come here to listen to God’s Word, every time you open up that family Bible and read, you’re letting the Holy Spirit breath more faith into your heart. Each time, He’ll be turning up that fire a few more degrees. May God grant that the faith in each of your hearts may become a hotter and hotter flame, until the people you come in contact with can’t help but catch on fire with the Gospel, too! In Jesus’ name, AMEN.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.