CS Lewis, at the end of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, has a passage that feels like it could describe our attitude toward Pentecost. Or maybe some of our experiences in the Holy Spirit when we were younger. It's the desire to go back there.
Lucy Pevensie is talking with Professor Digory Kirke. Digory is a central character in another book, The Magician’s Nephew.
Pentecost is a little like Narnia. A magical moment that feels completely out of reach. But then at some point it dawns on you, that you can go back there. But, like the professor said of Narnia, you can’t really control how it’s going to happen. It will simply happen to you. And likely not in the way it happened before. And like the professor said, you’ll meet people who have been there. It’s in their eyes.
This morning we do want to go back there. By looking at the first 21 verses in more detail. We’ll hit the other verses along the way but focus on the first 21.
Acts 2:1–21 is found in Part Two of Luke's two-volume work, Luke-Acts. His gospel tells of Jesus' birth, ministry, death, resurrection, and then at the end he says to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit falls. Then begin the global mission. In Acts, part two, Luke starts there with Jesus talking to the disciples about the Spirit coming. Then he ascends in chapter 1. And then in chapter 2 is Pentecost.
We'll look at three questions: (1) When Did it Happen? (2) What Happened? (3) What Does it Mean?
“The day of Pentecost” would have meant something to Luke’s first readers. To us, the name is a little curious. It’s not a name found in our Old Testament.
“Pentecost” in the OT is called “the Feast of Harvest” (Exod 23:16), there is the “day of the firstfruits” (Num 23:16), but it is most often “the Feast of Weeks” (Exod 34:22; Deut 16:10) because it was 7 weeks after the first grain was harvested and also “50 days to the day after the seventh Sabbath” (Lev 23:16). Pentecost = Grk for 50th.
Pentecost was one of the three main feasts of the Jewish year—along with Passover and the Feast of Booths/Day of Atonement. The first feast of the year was Passover in March/April when Israel was to remember the night when the LORD killed the firstborn of the Egyptians, passed over the Israelites. Led to their Exodus, their deliverance.
Pentecost was the next festival. In May/June. It was timed with the harvest of grain. When Israel got to the land of Canaan they were to plant their crops. When the first grain was harvested, usually barley, they were to count off seven weeks, and then they were to gather.
It was to celebrate God’s provision. It was to be a time of rejoicing. It was a time to celebrate the harvest. God brought the harvest. There was sowing and caring for the crops. And then the harvest!
That’s why Pentecost is such a fitting time for…Pentecost. The day of Pentecost began with 120 disciples praying together. By the end of the day there was a harvest: “Those who received his word were baptized, and there added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41).
But it wasn’t just “A day of Pentecost” but “THE day of Pentecost.” It was a day of God doing something he had been prophesying for centuries.
But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’S people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!” (Num 11:29)
14 For the palace is forsaken, the populous city deserted; the hill and the watchtower will become dens forever, a joy of wild donkeys, a pasture of flocks; 15 until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest. (Isa 32:14–15)
“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. (Joel 2:28)
John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Luke 3:16)
And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Acts 1:4–5)
1500 times the calendar and the harvest cycle told them it was the day of Pentecost. But then there was THE day of Pentecost when something truly unique and historical was going to happen.
God’s plan of redemption was moving forward. Jesus had just been crucified to pay for our sins, raised to life again after 3 days so that we might walk in newness of life, he had ascended to the Father’s right hand, and now the Son of God would fulfill this final piece of his redemptive work.
This was no ordinary vacation day in the work calendar. This was THE day of Pentecost.
Now we want to see what exactly happened.
Acts 2:1–3: As the 120 gathered are “filled with the Holy Spirit,” God includes signs and wonders as part of it. But these aren’t random signs. Three elements: (1) from heaven, (2) a sound like a mighty rushing wind, (3) fire. Calls to mind the Exodus and Mt. Sinai:
On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. (Exod 19:16)
Throughout history God multiples signs and wonders when he’s doing something he doesn’t want us to miss. Here the signs and wonders multiply: from heaven, a sound like a mighty rushing wind, visible fire.
It’s something as momentous as what happened on Mt. Sinai.
And then we read what that something is: “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4). These disciples were already believers but now “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” They knew who Jesus was and believed in him. But now “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.
Don’t pass too quickly over that word, “FILLED.” It’s filling a glass to the top. It’s an empty vessel now being full.
The Spirit is often connected to water images. The Spirit is poured out. People are filled with the Spirit. Jesus speaks of the Spirit as “living water.” Isaiah speaks of the Spirit like it’s water in a desert. The Bible says we drink of the Spirit. The Bible talks about being “baptized in the Spirit,” which has the idea of being immersed in the Spirit. As immersed as when you jump in a river and go completely under.
The Spirit is refreshing, life giving, how God satisfies our thirst for him, cleansing.
This language of filling and fullness isn’t just here. In the book of Ephesians Paul exhorts us to experience the same thing:
Be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph 3:19)
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit. (Eph 5:18)
May God do that to us—fill us to overflowing!
When those first disciples are filled with the Spirit, things happen! They “began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4).
But this miracle made something else possible—evangelism to “every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5).
In these few verses you get a powerful picture of what the Holy Spirit does in people:
But let’s think about their question, “What does this mean?” (Acts 2:12).
When the question comes, Peter is ready. “What does this mean?” Peter answers with the greatest and most important sermon ever given by a Christian.
It’s the greatest and also the deepst. I’ve been studying this chapter of Acts for years, and this week I read an article on it by a guy who brought two or three things I hadn’t seen before. It’s deep waters. Peter’s sermon is amazing.
But don’t miss that it’s Peter preaching this sermon. Remember, just seven weeks before this he denied Jesus three times to a slave girl.
Now he’s here in the very center of Jewish life, likely in the temple itself, preaching boldly to essentially the same Jews who put Jesus to death. Thousands hear and thousands are saved by this one sermon.
The way he begins tells you this isn’t the same Peter. He’s been filled with the Spirit—Acts 2:14–15.
And then he gives the theological explanation for what has just happened—a THIS IS THAT explanation. This is what was prophesied centuries ago by the prophet Joel (Acts 2:16).
The prophecy gives us the WHEN, WHO, and WHAT of the giving of the Spirit.
Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. (Acts 2:33)
This reminds us just how glorious Jesus is. That he is fully God. Only God can pour out the Spirit of God on the people of God. That’s what Jesus the Son of God has done, and in some ways he is doing.
First, it’s “POURED OUT.” A deluge. Like a dam breaking. A river flooding across a dry field. Jesus wasn’t stingy in giving the Spirit. It wasn’t a SPIRITUAL SIP. There’s no sprinkling of the Spirit. This isn’t a Spirit drizzle. He’s “poured out.”
Our God is generous with us. He’s ready to pour out the Spirit on his people.
Second, “ON ALL FLESH.”
Third, VARIETY AND DIVERSITY WITH SPIRITUAL GIFTS
This variety is important. Reminds us that when someone is filled with the Holy Spirit it can look a lot of different ways:
This Joel prophecy says a lot!
But then Peter’s sermon also gives us the SO WHAT?
The so what speaks to us right here and right now.
Look at Acts 2:36–39
And then Peter emphasizes the invitation with this promise—Acts 2:39.
But with those caveats, hear Peter’s invitation: Acts 2:38–39!
To remind us that this invitation is for us, Sam Taylor’s testimony.
Sam Taylor’s testimony.
Response in prayer.
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