The Day of Pentecost
BY NONSO UKEKA
Key Verse 2:4
“All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”
There was a farmer who finally saved up enough money to buy himself a land. Once he bought it, he went to the land and noticed that it was full of rocks and grass, weeds with thorns and all kinds of useless bushes. So, he set about to clear his land by chopping down the bushes one by one. He’d pull out the weeds and cut the grass all over. It was hard work. He was drenched with sweat, and blood soaked through his clothes all over his body—for you see pulling out those thorny weeds did not come without a price. The farmer patiently toiled day after day, tilling the ground and digging out rocks and the roots of dead plants from the soil. This was back-breaking labor for this lone farmer man, but to him it was all worth it because he knew he had something that no one else in the world possessed. The farmer had the seeds of plant now almost entirely extinct; the seeds of a plant that had the tastiest fruit any man had ever tasted, but he had only few of those seeds. So, after months of his labor and hard work, he finally had a field that was optimum for planting his precious little seeds. One by one he sowed them into the ground. He fertilized the soil. He watered them constantly, and eagerly awaited the day that those little seeds would sprout out of the ground.
When we consider the events described in this chapter of Acts, we can’t help but to marvel at the glory of our Lord. God is very much like that farmer working very hard, looking forward to the day he sees his little seeds sprout and mature into that luscious plant with many delicious fruits. In the previous chapter, we saw how Jesus worked very hard to do two things after his resurrection from the dead: First he deeply imbedded resurrection faith into the hearts of his disciples by “…[offering] many convincing proofs that he was alive” (Acts 1:3). At the same time, he also planted the hope of the Kingdom of God deep in their hearts through his teachings even up until his final days on earth (Acts 1:3). These foundational teachings helped his disciples become the people God made them to be. They were completely set free from the power of sin and death. They no longer lived for themselves alone or for the fleeting passions of the world. They now lived for God and his kingdom. They really matured! They matured from being lost in the world to becoming firmly established in Christ Jesus. They matured from men and women who didn’t even know how to say a prayer, to men and women united and devoted to prayer. They were truly transformed in depths of their heart and soul. Now, they were ready to be used by God in a great way. Before leaving, the Lord gave them one final command. He said to them, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days, you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:4-5). And now as we go through today’s events, we clearly see the spectacular result of Jesus’ labor. It is like the first shoots or leaves of those precious seeds sprouting from the ground. They were also the fulfillment of Scripture and the fruit of the promise he made to them. It was the Birth of the Church!
In this passage, Luke describes exactly how God used these common men and women to form the first church— a body of people who would eventually go on to revolutionize the entire world. As incredible as these disciples were, God knew that they still weren’t ready to be sent out just yet. They couldn’t yet begin their gospel work. They still had a lot to learn. For example, they needed to be patient. They also needed to practice obedience. And for that, they needed to wait for the gift from the Father as Jesus had commanded them to. But there was one thing they knew that they had to do—the most important thing to do during this period! As they waited, they knew that they needed to create an environment for the Lord to work among them. What kind of environment did they know they needed? They knew they needed to make an environment of faith and prayer. It is how God would work among them. Let’s see then how God worked.
First, let’s read verse 1. “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.” Although the first verse is only a brief sentence, it gives us a good idea of what’s going on. The day of Pentecost is the festival of weeks, which is also known as the harvest festival. In a way it was something like our own thanksgiving celebration. It occurs exactly 50 days after the Passover Feast or festival. During this period, many Jews from all over the world travel to Jerusalem to celebrate this harvest festival. It’s similar to how we celebrate thanksgiving these days, but without the turkey. So, while most Jews are cooking and enjoying the festivities during this time, what were the disciples doing? We see them continue in their devotion to meet together for prayer. This is truly incredible! One hundred and twenty men and women—young and old, who had so many other responsibilities and commitments in their lives—did not waver in their devotion to meet together and pray! Amid the hustle and bustle of the festivities, we know that many of them had families and other commitments to tend to; Yet somehow by God’s grace, they did not abandon their top commitment to faith and prayer. These men and women, most of whom were nameless, were all great in the sight of God. And in return, God their Father honored their faith and prayers and was ready to bless them with the promise of His Holy Spirit.
Finally, at just the right time, that is at Pentecost, God tore open the heavens and poured out His Spirit on His people. He did so first on His devoted believers who obeyed Christ and had remained in Jerusalem. Read verse 2. “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.” The first thing we notice in verse 2 is that this event was very audible to every single person at that time. In full view of these devoted believers, the Holy Spirit made His grand entrance into the world. He did so in a manner unlike any other in history in order to dwell with his people. In the past, God appeared among his people in the form of a pillar of cloud or fire. He would allow only a select few to be able to approach his presence, but never too close. They’d have to climb up mountains to meet with God privately, or have special missions to accomplish for him. In those days, if even a goat touched the side of the mountain God was on, the people were instructed to stone it to death! The Lord had never before dwelled together with His people, without distinction. Of course, the only distinction now was that they were believers in Christ! This was a brand-new day— the beginning of a glorious new era. God the Holy Spirit had finally come to be with and dwell in his church, the body and bride of the Lord. Jesus had previously told his disciples: “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth…On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” (John 14:15-17; 20) And this promise was given not to special people, but to anyone— to anybody at all— who loves Jesus, and put their faith and trust in him. To them, God freely gives His Spirit! And He is our advocate, our helper, the one who help us live the life Christ wants us to live for His glory. Now, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in our lives and to be with those who believe forever! This means that we can now be bound in a love relationship with God through the Holy Spirit— forever! This is the beauty of the Kingdom of God: God coming to dwell with his people, forever.
After they heard the great sound coming from heaven, what happened next? Let’s look at verse 3, “They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.” First, they all heard, now they all saw! God was really engaging their senses. He was ensuring that they all knew that this was truly from Him. Can you imagine how surreal this moment must have been for them? They had to be certain that this was not some dream or a hallucination someone was experiencing. They were all hearing and seeing the same thing; and what was it that they saw? The Bible tells us that they saw something that looked like tongues of fire, which came to rest on each of them. As we consider the meaning of this, one thing we clearly see is that God loved and honored each of them, one by one. We can also see that he empowered them all by giving them the gift of His Holy Spirit. Yet we cannot, but see that God did it individually. He touched each of them personally. Notice how Scripture tells us that the Spirit rested on each one of them. God came and personally touched, enabled and empowered each person, one by one to fulfill his purpose. God blessed each of them and considered each of them equally valid, and valuable in his kingdom. He did not give the apostles a greater portion of his Spirit than the rest of the believers. Neither did the Apostle Peter receive more of the Spirit than the other disciples. God considered them all unique and equally precious for his kingdom.
In the same way, when God looks at believers today, he sees every one of his people’s unique qualities. He sees all our quirks, our natural gifts and abilities; he sees our struggles. Yet we are just as important and precious to him as the early apostles. Our heavenly father loves us. He looks at us the way he looks at his Son Jesus, and considers us just as valid and valuable in his glorious kingdom as all the other great saints who came before us in gospel history. Remember what Jesus taught us when he said: “In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” (John 16:26-27) God really wants to give his Spirit to all his precious people who love and receive his Son Jesus into their lives. He loves us, and gives us the best gift — himself. This year will be a year to commit ourselves to prayer and to ask our heavenly Father to fill us with his Spirit! Let’s not stop asking him to continue to empower us through His Holy Spirit, so that we can live according to God’s good will. Let’s also ask the Holy Spirit to help us fulfill God’s purpose in witnessing to the gospel of his Son.
At last, the first ever church had sprung as the first leaves of a plant shoot up out of the ground, showing itself to the world. And this blossoming church was not fragile at all. It came with real power! It came with splendor! The first church came, displaying the glory of God to the world around them. All the believers were filled with the Holy Spirit. But let us see how the Holy Spirit began to lead the church. Look at verse 4, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” They all began to speak in different tongues! But what were they saying in these many different world languages? Verse 11 tells us simply that they were “declaring the wonders of God.” From what the apostle Peter says later, we can surmise that all the disciples were sharing the gospel message from the Scriptures— each one of them speaking a different language. But why was it necessary for them to receive the Holy Spirit to do this very thing? If we can answer this, then we can understand this passage and we can also understand how to live a victorious life of faith.
There are many reasons why it was necessary for them to receive the Holy Spirit. Let me give you a few. The first reason is foundational and most important. It was because God had promised them. God always keeps his word. He is always faithful. He never lies. He promised long ago through his servants Joel (Joel 2:28–32), Isaiah (Isa. 44:3–5; 32:15-17), Ezekiel (Ezek. 36:26–27; 39:29), Zechariah (Zech. 12:10), later through John the Baptist (Mt. 3:11) and finally through his own Son Jesus who is God’s final Word to all mankind. God gave us his word, and continuously reminds us of his word until the day all his promises are fulfilled.
Secondly, we know that the work of God is by nature impossible work! Think about how great these disciples truly were. They had committed their lives to following Jesus. While he was alive, they went wherever he went. They saw many great things. They stuck with him during many difficult times. And even though they abandoned him after he was crucified, they came back to him and recommitted themselves. They spent the rest of his final days on earth with him, before he was taken to heaven. They learned so much from Jesus. The fact of the matter is that having so much Bible knowledge isn’t enough! In fact, neither was seeing the Risen Jesus enough. Don’t be mistaken, faith in the word of God and faith in Jesus’ resurrection are absolutely necessary pillars, in our lives of faith. By it, we find inner strength, we have hope, we have direction, we can struggle and overcome many things through our faith in the risen Jesus and his word. But it is still not enough to do the work of God! To do the work of God, we need the power of God! And this power isn’t of us. It can only be given from above. Therefore, we need God’s Spirit to come and dwell with us personally. Only He empowers us to bring the gospel message of the Kingdom into the lives of others—from our neighbors and unto the ends of the earth.
The third and final reason why we need the Holy Spirit is simply because he absolutely loves us. God is the God of love and he has given us “everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Pt 1:3) God cares for our every need. He wants us to be without lack. This is why he gives us his Spirit— so we can put our trust in him to provide for us all that we need. He also desires very much to be with us. God wants to dwell with his people and for his people to dwell with him. As our loving parent, he wants to always be at our side as we walk in this journey of life. He also wants to give us the kingdom. When we experience God, and see his marvelous power and presence at work in our lives, it’s like experiencing just a slice of heaven all the time.
During this moment of the birth of the church, we can now see clearly what is on God’s heart: The Kingdom of God. God establishing and expanding the Kingdom is what’s always on his heart, and we see it in Christ as well. Jesus spent many years teaching about the Kingdom of God to his disciples. He spent many years planting and watering the seeds of faith and hope in their hearts so that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, one day, God might establish his kingdom in their hearts and in our own hearts, and ultimately spread to the rest of the world. So, let us consider our calling before the Lord, as part of his precious body, the church. Let us hold on to the great hope of the eternal kingdom of God, being his witness here in our very own neighborhood, and to the ends of the earth…to the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.