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[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.   

[Acts 1:1-11] … 6So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight…


Restoring the Kingdom to Israel

Things are not done yet. The course is being run but isn’t yet finished. Jesus has lived the perfect life, died for our sins, is risen from the dead — and now, at the end of the Gospel and the beginning of the book of Acts, His ascension into heaven is about to happen and then happens.

Jesus ascends to the right hand of God the Father – to His place of all authority in heaven and on earth [Matthew 28:18], still fully Man and fully God. God the Father seats Jesus “at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named” [Ephesians 1:15-23].

Just before Jesus ascends, the disciples ask Him, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He has conquered the greatest enemy, death, by His resurrection. Now, in His ascension, will He use His ultimate power and authority to advance their nation of Israel?

Jesus had taught clearly, “My kingdom is not of this world” [John 18:36], but His disciples still have their minds set on this world – on earthly Israel. “Will Israel topple the Romans?” “Will the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob finally prevail?”

Even after all they had seen and heard from Jesus, it was still stuck in their minds, at least to some degree, that their Messiah, their Christ, had come to make them the ultimate superpower in the world. Would it now happen?

When the disciples ask, “Will You now restore the kingdom to Israel?”, Jesus doesn’t say “No”, and He also doesn’t say “Yes”. He says it’s not for them to know the times or seasons, and then He directs their attention to the true restoring of the Kingdom: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”      

By His ascension, Jesus takes His throne to extend a kingdom greater and different than any other kingdom. Jesus will extend a heavenly kingdom, not through politics, power, or sword, but through the ministry of preaching and teaching His Word – the work of making disciples [Matthew 28:19-20].

In just a few days, the disciples’ minds will be transformed by the receiving of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and from then forward there is no more talk at all from them about restoring or opposing any nation on earth. Instead, they go forth preaching the forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus.

Now for us: Going back to their question in today’s reading, how does our mindset compare? Is our mind on earth or in heaven? Is our hope anchored in a nation, people, or city in this world or to a city and Kingdom to come? What is our Israel, our Jerusalem, our kingdom and nation?

If you listen to Christian radio very much – you may find some good preachers on there, or you may not – but what you will definitely find at times, it seems, is a strange focus on the earthly nation of Israel, as if our hope in Christ, or even the second-coming of Christ, is somehow tied to the politics of that region. This is very misguided thinking.

There is talk in the Bible about the promises and blessings of Israel. All of these promises, and the people of Israel’s role as a blessing to the world – this is all fulfilled in the birth of Jesus. The promise made to Abraham was that, through his son Isaac, his descendants would become a great nation, and that from that nation the Savior of the world – of every nation – would be born. [Galatians 3:16-29]

That promise has been fulfilled in the birth of Jesus. By His death, resurrection, and ascension, He has become the Savior of people from every nation, all in the same way – through faith Him.

Man’s relationship to God is not through any city or nation – not through the city of Rome, not through Jerusalem or Israel – and not through any special race of any sort – but only through one Man, Jesus Christ.

Jesus has said as much: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” [John 14:6]. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” [John 3:36]. It’s the same for every person.

And we read last week, from the mouth of Peter, “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to Him” [Acts 10:34-35]. And, “everyone who believes in Him [Jesus] receives forgiveness of sins through His name” [Acts 10:43]. “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” [Romans 10:13]. It’s the same for every person.

In the Church’s lifetime on earth, we’ve often set our minds too much on the earth. The most common opinion is that the kingdom of our ascended Lord Jesus is somehow tethered to the city of Rome – or to the success of the United States – or, as we’ve said, to Israel and Jerusalem.

But Scripture is abundantly clear: “Here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” [Hebrews 13:14] — “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” [Hebrews 12:22] – “The Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother” [Galatians 4:26] – “the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven” [Revelation 3:12].

Jesus did not give a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to His disciples’ question, “Will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel”, because there is an Israel that He is restoring – the kingdom of those who trust in the Savior [Romans 4; Galatians 3].

Jesus ascended into heaven, yet also promised, just before ascending, “Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” [Matthew 28:20]. Jesus has ascended to His throne of kingship to reign over the hearts of all who call upon Him. He ascended to His throne and has set that throne upon your hearts.

The ascended Jesus is restoring an Israel for heaven. His might is the forgiveness of sins which He won for you by His death and resurrection. From His heavenly throne, He forgives you on earth, dwells in you, reigns over your hearts, and transforms your minds [Romans 12:12]. In this way He is restoring His Israel and His Kingdom is coming.

You are called, “A chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” [1 Peter 2:9-10]

The ascension of Jesus means you do have a Kingdom. The news about this Kingdom and the mission of this Kingdom are infinitely more important than the daily news cycle about the kingdom of this world. The Kingdom of heaven has been extended to you — And the Kingdom of heaven extends through you into this world so that others may also come to know their Savior.

As we remember Christ’s ascension, and always, may our minds be set less-and-less on the things of this world and more-and-more on those things pertaining to the Kingdom of heaven where Christ is seated at the right hand of God [Colossians 3:1-3]. Amen.

[John 15:9-17] Jesus said: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. 12This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”


Abide In Christ’s Love

Does their friendship remain? Is their friendship drifting? Or are they friends no longer? By observing what friends are doing or not doing, you can see, fairly accurately, whether their friendship remains, is drifting, or has parted.

Do they call each other? Are they up to date on each other’s life events? Do they visit when one is sick or grieving? Do they call to celebrate? Birthdays, holidays?

Do they eat together? Do they gather together for their regular friendship gatherings? Your monthly breakfast. Your yearly camping trip.

And, for the best of friends, do they still, and can they still, reach out to the other for help. Personal help, money help, help with those things that you wouldn’t admit to everybody.

Or, are they drifting through lack of these things? As interactions become fewer and farther between, at what point does a friendship no longer remain? Friendships can drift – and families and marriage – but they can also be repaired.

What about the love and friendship that Jesus Christ has for you? How is that friendship the same or different? The love with which Jesus Christ loves you – each of you – is almighty, unbreakable, constant, and unconditional. His friendship is for the unfriendable, the undeserving. Jesus is the Friend of sinners.

But His love and friendship is something in which we must remain and can drift away from.

We probably don’t use the word “abide” many times a day, but the word here simply means “to remain in” or “to dwell”: “As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Remain (Abide) in My love” – “Dwell in My love.” Remain in that friendship.  

Friendship with Christ has observable marks or indicators. Am I praying? Do I communicate with Christ about my day throughout my day? Does He hear from me and of my needs?

Am I hearing from Him in His written Word, the Bible? I read many things – do I read what the Lord has written to me? Do I listen to the speaking and preaching of His Word and seek more chances to hear it? In friendship there is speaking and listening.

Do I get together with the Friend of sinners, and with His friends? Or do I give my excuses too often or too easily? Am I invested in this friendship so that this Friend has a place as a priority in my calendar?

We know what marks those friendships that last for a lifetime, and we know those signs which indicate a relationship may be drifting. We should pay careful attention to our friendship with the Lord.

Of course, there are certainly differences between friendship with your friends and friendship with your Lord. If a friend says, “If you do what I say, then you’re really my friend” – that’s not a true friend and those words mean something that’s not good.

But it is the rightful place of our Lord and God to give us commandments. A mark of friendship with the Lord is being the people in this world who listen to His commandments to do what He says: “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” – “You are My friends if you do what I command you” [John 15:10,14].

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” [John 15:12]. And, what we talked about last week, we also heard today: “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments” [1 John 5:2-3].  

These are the moral commandments of Scripture. The Ten Commandments. His commands in the Sermon on the Mount, and elsewhere — His commands that we fear, love, and trust in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit alone as the only God; that we worship Him; that we call upon His name in every trouble —

— That we live a sexually pure and decent life; a life of marriage or a life of chastity; that we honor authorities; that we look to the interests of others; that we don’t lie; that we speak well of each other; that we be thankful.

Also, Jesus commands that you be a friend to Him by how you treat His unique friends: That you visit His friends, those who are ill, homebound, or hospitalized; that you feed and clothe His friends, those who are lacking in what they need; that you have mercy on His friends, men and women in prison; and that you welcome His friends, those who are outsiders or strangers to our group. [Matthew 25:31-46]

Jesus said, in words He will speak again on the Day of Judgment, “As you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me.” And, “As you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me” [Matthew 25:40,45].

A life of friendship with the Lord and of dwelling in His love is a life of keeping His commandments. “And His commandments are not burdensome” – they are a life of love, which comes from being loved by the Friend of sinners.

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.” Jesus laid down His life for the whole world [1 John 2:2; John 1:29] – and not for the righteous, but for the unrighteous: “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly… God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” [Romans 5:6-8]

Nothing is greater than the friendship and love that God has for you through Jesus. Dwell in that love. Turn from drifting and back toward friendship. Be at the receiving end of His Word preached and His Supper given. Gather with His friends here.

He has loved first, and it is the strength of His self-sacrificing love on the cross that does and will keep you abiding in Him. Amen.

Pastor and preacher at Trinity Lutheran Church

Pastor Curtis Stephens was born in Flint, MI. He completed his M.Div. at Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, IN and has served congregations in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Pastor Stephens began serving at Trinity in July of 2023. 

rinity Lutheran Church

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