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Pentecost - Acts 2:1-21


[Acts 2:1-21] When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? …we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”

 

Holy Spirit: Comforter and Communicator

Doctors and car mechanics face a similar three-fold challenge in their work. First, they have to diagnose the problem. Lastly, they have to fix the problem. And somewhere in between, they have to try to explain the whole issue to you and me.

The medical or mechanical jargon is clear to them. They face the challenge of telling it to you in the words you know and use – words that you can wrap your mind around.

Things which are known to the expert may be difficult to communicate to the non-expert – but it’s the non-expert, the patient or the car owner, who has the most at stake. You really need to know.       

No expert knowledge stands more outside our mind’s grasp – no knowledge sits further beyond our understanding – further beyond our reach – than the knowledge of God. “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” [Romans 11:33]

No knowledge is more incomprehensible, yet no knowledge is more essential for us to know. We really need to know Him! Yet we cannot! Now enters the Holy Spirit.

On the Day of Pentecost, which we commemorate today, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon Christ’s disciples to communicate the knowledge of God – specifically, knowledge of God the Father as revealed in Jesus His Son.

Jesus told His disciples about this outpouring of the Holy Spirit ahead of time in the Gospel: “When the Helper comes, whom I will send from the Father, the Spirt of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness about me…” [John 15:26]. The Holy Spirit bears witness about Jesus. And, in Jesus, we see who God is [John 14:9].

What happened on Pentecost? On the day of Pentecost, which was originally an Old Testament harvest festival, the disciples “were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.” 

“And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

In Scripture, “tongue” refers to language, and to your tongue. What appears to be divided tongues of fire came and rested on the disciples – similar to how the Holy Spirit rested on Jesus in the form of a dove in His baptism.

Having received the Holy Spirit in this way, the disciples then began to speak in a multitude of different tongues, different languages – human languages which were well understood by a very diverse group of travelers who were in Jerusalem for that season of festivals, from Passover to Pentecost.

When the disciples ‘spoke in tongues’ they didn’t speak nonsense or gibberish. The Holy Spirit was bearing witness through them about Jesus, in such a familiar and human way that the words cut straight to their heart and also comforted their conscience [Acts 2:37-39].

“There were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language.”

The disciples speak the same hometown language with the same Galilean accent, yet they are heard in the various languages of the multitude around them, each man in the crowd hearing the message in his own language.  

And it might even be more specific than that. You wouldn’t know it, but there are actually two different words being used here for “language”. One is “tongue”, as we’ve mentioned. The other is a Greek word, dialektos(dialektoV), from which we get the word – you can guess it – “dialect”. Maybe more specific than just a language.

“They were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own dialect. And maybe it goes even further. Next the crowd says, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? How is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?”

“Own native language”. At first that sounds broader. But the words here say, translated much more literally, “How is it that we hear, each of us in the dialect in which we were born [Acts 2:8]. “We are each hearing this message about Jesus in the language of our own birth.”

So perhaps not just your own language, and not just your own regional dialect – not just the language you speak at work or at school – but the language your mother spoke to you on her lap when you were born. The language of home. The language of being comforted or corrected by mom and dad. The words your bedtime stories were spoken in.

God is your Father. Heaven your home. Jesus your brother. The church your mother. And the Holy Spirit is the great communicator. The Holy Spirit – for people of every background or upbringing – and for people of every level of ability or inability – the Holy Spirits meets that three-fold challenge of diagnosing our trouble, giving us the solution in Jesus, and making this knowable to each one of us.

Jesus said, in today’s Gospel, that when the Holy Spirit comes “He (the Holy Spirit) will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” [John 16:8].

Our sins in thought, word, or deed – our wrong-doing and wrong-being – is revealed to us by the Holy Spirit working through the word of God’s Law. The Holy Spirit, as only He can do, makes known to us the true measure of our guilt. He diagnoses our disease and makes it known to us to then show us the solution.  

The Holy Spirit points us to Jesus on the cross as the remedy and cure. Jesus carried your sins to the cross and there became the sin-offering, the sacrifice, for you. By His death in your place, every sin is absolved, forgiven. And this is the only way to be righteous to God. You, a sinner, are righteous to God – clean and pure to Him – because of Jesus’ sacrifice, which Jesus now presents to God for all eternity, having ascended into heaven.

And the ruler of this world, the devil, has been judged. Evil will not continue forever. The devil’s deeds in the world are coming to an end. He has already lost the battle; Jesus already has the victory. When Jesus returns for judgment, sin, death, and the devil will be sealed up and put away for good.

All this work of Jesus is called “the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints[Colossians 1:26] – to you who believe. This is the miracle and work of Pentecost today. The Holy Spirit, in what is still truly a miracle, communicates this mystery to us, not as experts, but as His children sitting on His knee.

Jesus said, “When the Helper comes… He will bear witness about Me” [John 15:26]. Then He said, “You also will bear witness” – not as experts, but as ones through whom the Expert does His work.

The effective communication of the Gospel of Jesus – the speaking and the hearing – is the work of the Holy Spirit. May this make us confident and bold in serving Him and in inviting others to hear His Word. Amen.   

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