We’re going to be in Acts 2 today.
It’s a lengthy passage—
but lengthy passages don’t scare us.
We’ll listen to this passage
and then we’ll make a couple of quick reflections
before we come to the table.
(Acts 2) When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
“‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
“Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. David said about him:
“‘I saw the Lord always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest in hope,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
you will not let your holy one see decay.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.’
“Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.”’
“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
The word “Pentecost” means “fifty” in Greek.
It’s the 50th day after Easter—
the last day of the season of Easter.
And you guessed it—
The story of Pentecost is a strange story.
That shouldn’t surprise us.
The Church is the strangest thing in the world—
the birth of the Church—the beginning of the Church—
is probably going to be a little strange too.
The Church is unlike anything the world has ever seen.
This vast community of people—generation after generation, century after century—
passing along and proclaiming the news that Jesus has been resurrected from the dead.
I hope you heard that.
That’s what is happening here in this passage.
We can get hung up on the tongues like fire (v3)
that it can sometimes distract us from
what the Church is using those tongues for.
They’re declaring the wonders of God (v11)
and—miraculously—everyone can understand it.
Everyone hears these wonders in their own languages—in their own tongues.
But notice what is being announced.
It shouldn’t be any surprise.
It’s the resurrection.
Let us tell you about Jesus (v22)
who did miracles, wonders, and signs—
You put him to death (v23)
but (v24) God has raised him from the dead.
“It’s impossible for death to keep it’s hold on him.”
We wouldn’t have guessed it before, but now—
based on what we’ve seen and experienced—
we know that all of Scripture—
from the words of prophets like Joel (v16-21)
to the songs and prayers of king David (v25-28)
were really about him.
God didn’t let Jesus rot in the tomb—
he didn’t let his body see decay (v31)—
No—God has raised Jesus to life (v32).
We’ve seen it.
We are witnesses to it.
And this resurrected man—
this once-he-was-dead-but-now-he’s-forever-alive man—
has been exalted to the right hand of God (v33).
He’s the world’s true king.
Our allegiance should be towards him.
Our lives should orbit around him.
God has made this Jesus,
whom you crucified,
both Lord and Messiah.
So change your lives—
repent and be baptized (v38).
Save yourselves from this corrupt generation (v40).
Life doesn’t have to be what it’s always been.
Tomorrow doesn’t have to be
an endless repeat of yesterday.
Something New is possible.
Something New has already happened.
Resurrection has happened.
And we can be a part of it.
Jesus—the alive, living, realer-than-real Jesus—
is pouring out this Something New right now.
Jesus is pouring out the Life of God himself—
the Holy Spirit—into whoever wants to receive it.
If you want God at all—if you ask God at all—God is already there.
Pouring himself out.
We’re people dying of thirst,
but we’re standing under a waterfall.
The rescue, the life, the water is everywhere—
surrounding us, covering us, soaking us.
The refreshment, the newness, the salvation is already here—
what we need to do is open up.
Even just a little.
Our lips are parched and cracked but we’re under a waterfall—
open up just a little and the water is going to start getting in.
The prophet Joel was absolutely right (v21):
“everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
The smallest prayer,
the faintest crack in our wall,
the weakest faith or trust at all—
and God is going to get in.
This is what the Church is announcing.
We’ve been saying it for weeks.
The Church announces a resurrected king who shares his resurrection.
That’s the center of the gospel.
Pentecost is the strange birthday of the Church,
and it’s the day when resurrection
begins unfolding into the world.
Pentecost is Easter expanding.
The Spirit arrives to start spreading resurrection—
into our lives, in communities, throughout the world.
People sometimes talk about the Holy Spirit
in ways that barely sound like they connect to Jesus.
But the Spirit isn’t arriving to do his own thing.
What the Spirit does
is soak us in resurrection.
Jesus has been risen from the dead—
Something New has happened—
and you can be a part of this.
That’s what the Church is.
We’re this strange, little people in the world who believe
that the God’s healing fire can transform us today.
In a world dying of thirst,
we’re the people who are learning
to open ourselves up to the waterfall.
and then we’ll come to the table.
First, resurrection life will not overpower us.
I think a lot of times I want God to overpower me—
to overwhelm me, to force me to see him.
But that’s not the way it works.
That’s never the way that it’s worked.
One scholar I read recently said that
Jesus’s kingship is a disputed kingship.
His sovereignty is a disputed sovereignty.
It always has been.
He doesn’t force his rule and reign—
he doesn’t force his kingship—
onto the world.
Jesus doesn’t force resurrection.
He doesn’t force his Spirit onto people.
The grand culmination of God’s work in the world—
the resurrection of Jesus himself—
can be overlooked.
It can be refused.
It can be disbelieved.
A lot of people hear and believe and are baptized (v41)
but a lot of people don’t believe.
A lot of people see what’s going on—
with tongues like fire and people talking in other languages—
and they think the disciples are drunk.
In all actuality,
God is offering Something New to humanity.
God is healing a world
that has been fractured and broken
since the earliest memories of history—
God is reversing the Tower of Babel—
everyone understands… suddenly there’s a common tongue again.
Everyone can understand Jesus.
But people see this healing—
people see what God is doing—
and they say “They’ve had to too much wine!” (v13).
The grand culmination of God’s work in the world
and the birth of Something New
can be misunderstand.
In our lives, in our families, in our relationships,
God might just be doing stuff that we’re overlooking.
That we can’t see.
That we refuse to see.
Jesus doesn’t force anyone
to see or hear or understand resurrection.
But he’s always there.
Always working. Always inviting. Always pouring out.
Most of the time we don’t recognize it.
What’s the area in your life that looks like a mess?
It just looks like a mess,
like things are flying apart,
like things have always been,
like things always will be,
like there’s a bunch of drunk people in the street.
How would things change,
if you could begin to believe
that God is there?
Present. Loving. Saving.
Something New is possible.
Resurrection life is never going to overwhelm you—
there are a lot of other things you could believe—
but the Spirit is quietly breathing life
into those who will receive it.
Second, resurrection life looks like extraordinary regular life.
There’s this moment at the beginning of the story
that people like to obsess over a little.
Something extraordinary happens—
something supernatural, something miraculous.
This roar of wind (v2) and descent of fire (v3)
and people hearing their own native languages (v8).
But—like we just said—not even these things overpower people.
The Spirit of God does this amazing thing
that a lot of people don’t believe
or misunderstand or overlook.
And then the extraordinary—the miraculous—
keeps happening in a different sort of way.
Most of the end of the chapter—verses 42-47—
doesn’t sound supernatural or miraculous at all.
The devote themselves (v42)
to the apostles’ teaching
to sharing life together,
to breaking the bread,
Sure, you’d sometimes see the apostles doing signs and wonders (v43)
but those signs and wonders weren’t a magic show.
The signs were helping encourage people to live in a new way.
The miraculous life of Spirit
looks like a new ordinary kind of life.
People sharing their stuff
and sharing their lives.
People are meeting together,
and breaking bread and praising God.
They’re living like
the resurrection is true.
The reason we’ve got Pentecost—
the reason for the Spirit of God—
is so we can proclaim and practice resurrection.
That’s what the Church does in the world.
That’s what we do in the world.
We join the Spirit in expanding Easter.
We proclaim resurrection
and practice resurrection.
We proclaim to each other, to ourselves, to the world,
that Something New has happened.
That resurrection has—in fact—happened.
That Jesus is risen.
And then we practice living with Jesus as king.
We practice living lives
that make sense with resurrection.
And that often looks like the most ordinary things in the world.
If you were to go back and watch the early Church,
you would mostly see a new kind of regular life.
Sharing their lives with each other.
Giving to each other.
Supporting and loving and encouraging each other.
It looks like the best kind of regular life.
Most of resurrection life looks like extraordinary regular life.
There is no divide
between our “spiritual life”
and what we think of as our “regular life.”
It’s all regular life.
It’s all spiritual.
When God’s Spirit—when God himself—starts filling us up,
most of the time it doesn’t look like mysterious or spooky or supernatural.
It looks like the most extraordinary kind of regular life.
In Galatians 5.22-23,
Paul talks about what a “spiritual life” looks like.
What it looks like
when the Spirit of resurrection—
the Spirit who raises from the dead—
starts filling us up.
It looks like love and joy and peace and patience
starting to taking root in our lives.
It looks like kindness and goodness
and loyalty and gentleness and self-control
beginning to fill our lives.
It looks like patience at a traffic light
when the person in front of you
isn’t going fast enough.
It looks like choosing to love that person
you think doesn’t deserve love right now.
Choosing to listen to them
even when they don’t hear you.
Choosing to try to understand their perspective
before they understand yours.
In Ephesians 5, we’re told:
(5.17-20) Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
These people aren’t drunk,
but I can see why you’d make the mistake—
what with their merriment and talkativeness and singing.
But this is Something New
that won’t have you sleeping with a stranger
and throwing up all night.
This is Something New
that doesn’t poison you
as you fill up on it.
These people are filled with the Spirit of Resurrection.
That’s why they’re singing to each other.
That’s why they’re so thankful.
May we learn to be filled with the Spirit as well.
May we learn to open ourselves up
to the life-giving presence of Jesus
that is always surrounding us and soaking us.
May we live under his kingship.
May we live like the resurrection is true.
May his Spirit teach us how to live
the extraordinary regular life of resurrection.