John 20:19–23, Acts 1:4, Acts 2:1–36
The short vignette in the locked upper room after the Resurrection seems as if was a snippet of a memory that was lacking something. Yet, John felt it was important. As a precursor to Pentecost, Jesus’ statement/blessing about receiving the Holy Spirit was an important thing. Jesus had already told the disciples that they would only fully be what they were called to be when the Holy Spirit came and that Jesus would have to not be present. Jesus directed them to wait.
They waited, prayed, worshipped.
The Festival of First Fruits (Pentecost) was a Jewish major festival to celebrate the first of the harvest and to praise and worship God. Probably not as full as it was during Passover, Jerusalem was still a significantly full. In addition, there were likely many people who lived far away but remained for both. Was it as packed? Probably not. Were the spectacle of Jesus and his story still floating around? Probably. They, the disciples and the people of Jerusalem, were not ready for what came next.
The spontaneous sermon by Peter probably shocked him and the other disciples. While his sermon fell on fertile ground, it is probably not just the words. Any charlatan or false teacher or false prophet can preach a good sermon. The miracle of people of different countries hearing the sermon in their native tongue showed God’s supernatural approval and participation in this.
We often get tied up in methods and modes of communicating. There are longtime disagreements about modes and methods. Far too many confuse mode and methods with the message. God made no distinction between languages. It was the message that mattered. On the other hand, we could be so concerned about the language (“did they miss the nuance?”) that we forget the effectiveness of mode and message.
What matters is that the message was heard. The people didn’t hear God’s message in some tongue that they were not native to, they heard it in the tongue where they knew the nuances. God did not do a poor translation, God did a great one. More than that, hearts were transformed, and those transformed hearts went back home. Of what value is a Jew whose first language isn’t Hebrew? They took home the message that God loves them so much, that he sent his son to die for them.
Pentecost is the birthday of the Church. The whole church. While it took Peter and the other disciples time to recognize what the first sermon was saying (all nations and people can come to God), it was the heart of the Church at birth. The Jewish Pentecost was a celeb.ration of the first fruits of the harvest. The Church Pentecost is about the first fruits of the Kingdom of God
1) The initial response to the supernatural act of hearing things in one’s own language was met with skepticism. Why do you think that is?
2) Speaking in Tongues is considered a gift of the Holy Spirit. What is very unique about this specific display of Speaking in Tongues? If you need a hint, who is missing?
3) Even today people hold on to methods and modes as essentials to sharing the Good News, rather than the Good News itself. Why do people hold onto such things, often to the detriment of sharing the Gospel?