Acts 2:1-21: The Real Power of Pentecost

At last, power!  A fitting display of vigor and vitality for the saving Word to sally forth into the world!  No more modesty of the Christ-child sleeping among the animals in a manure-filled stable.  Absent is the shame and humiliation of Christ’s execution by Roman overlords.  The hidden splendor of Easter Sunday morning when God in physical flesh arose—and no one witnessed Him conquering the tomb!  Gone is the disgrace of disciples cowering down in fear for their lives.

Oh, we like flash and fireworks, and now our moment is here!  Isn’t this what we wanted God to be doing all along?  To walk by faith and not by sight, to rely on what our eyes cannot take in, and to believe what we do not yet experience, is for losers.  For if our God is an awesome God, He should be dazzling us each day with miracles!  On Pentecost Day, God comes to His senses, as His Son sends us His Spirit from above.

What a sound!  The whoosh of wind without the wind itself.  Not only outside, but this reverberating echo also fills the room inside, where all 120 Christians wait!  The living Spirit exposes Himself in an obvious way, for His name, “Spirit,” is also the word for “wind” in both Greek and Hebrew.

In the days before He ascended, Jesus assured His chosen to send the Spirit in power.  Here He is, providing His invisible presence through a familiar sound of nature, whose source none can name, and whose coming and going no mere human can control.

Not to be belittled, this Spirit also reveals His presence, flickering in the flaming tongues.  How perfect!  For fire burns and refines, but also scorches and destroys whatever dares to oppose its searing heat.  So, too, is the proclamation of the Word since the Word is never apart from this Spirit.

The God-forgiving Christ, present in the stirring sound and wind of the Spirited Word, cleanses those in whom He works faith.  Such purifying power can also be dangerous, destroying all who reject the Gospel in the unquenchable fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

Gaze on the form the fire takes—tongues!  Ah, this little muscle in our mouths moves and shapes itself to form words and convey content.  By speaking, mouths open to declare what wonders God gives to us in Christ.  The wind-and-breath-filled Spirit takes words containing Christ, bestowing eternal life, creating and keeping us in faith.  Those fiery tongues are telling us how we receive the Savior.

These flickering and moving tongues foretell the future of the Lord’s Apostles.  Now, the total and all-consuming work for them is to baptize and teach, forgive and retain sins, preach, and administer Jesus’ sacred Supper.  Entwined in every act are the words of Jesus, who is the Word.  For Christ, coming to us in the way He chooses to do so, builds and sustains His Church.  Built on the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus is the chief cornerstone of the Church (Ephesians 2:20).

Oh, this marvelous moment!  To start with, God didn’t deliver the truth of this day only for the 120 believers.  No, He hurls down this public display for the whole world.  Grasp how the Spirit arranged everything.  On the day of Pentecost, people from all around the Mediterranean are visiting Jerusalem for the Old-Covenant festival, called “Pentecost.”

Some are Jews by birth, and others are Gentiles who converted to Judaism.  After this, however, they will travel home with the message of another celebration, of God, accomplishing His covenant in Christ and His redemption of the world.

Of course, the sound of wind with no wind and everyone in the Church telling others of Christ in different languages evokes sneers from many.  “Oh, they’re drunk!”  On this day, the responses will be different.  Earlier, Peter denied Jesus in panic; this time, careless of his safety and no longer fearful of ridicule, he speaks with boldness.  All the Christians proclaim Christ to others, but Pastor Peter stands up to preach, fulfilling the function of His office.

With an Old-Testament text, his Jewish hearers recognize, Peter begins.  For he is telling how the Gospel of Christ is rooted in Yahweh’s ancient oaths.  The passage from the prophets captures history in several phrases of Hebrew poetry.  The Almighty pours out His Spirit, not only on a few but on all who listen and receive His Word in Word-created faith.  All God’s people will speak and bring Jesus to another, which is what happened, explaining the events of the day.

The prophecy from of old says everything needed in summary form.  Ponder the first part of Peter’s sermon—God lives up to His promises.  For He rules over history, so not one word falls empty to the ground.  Consider how He preserved the promise made to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:15), which He continued to unfold through His prophets—the coming of the Messiah.

The promise is a pricey one to keep.  So expensive is our salvation, showing we sin-infected creatures can never earn or deserve what God does to restore us.  Still, generation after generation attended to this promise.  Despite our perversity and wickedness, God kept His Word.  On Pentecost, He worked through human events to honor the pledge made by the prophet Joel, with still more awaiting their fulfillment at the end of time.

The Lord completes what He vows to do in His way and time, as He decides.  Now, we want the outbursts of glory to endure!  The blazing spectacle of this day took place 2,000 years ago, showing Jesus to be the real Promise-keeper to His Apostles.  For He sent them the Heavenly Spirit, who will clarify the puzzles and mysteries He taught them before He suffered and died (John 16:5-16).

Only after the Spirit’s descent, do Jesus’ Apostles realize they are the ones He dispatched with His life-granting Gospel.  After Pentecost, we also can now recognize the Apostles are those Jesus sent with words, bursting with Spirit and Life from God.  Earlier, Christ’s Apostles agonized in fright.  Now given the gift of the Spirit again, they suffer all, including death, instead of denying Jesus, the Word, and their soul-saving assignment.

Today, God doesn’t take our advice to continue sending robust and potent demonstrations to validate the apostolic message.  In the book of Acts, these tongues-speaking events confirm the expansion of the Gospel as Jesus foretold, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.  For you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and Judea [event 1], in Samaria [number 2], and to the farthest reaches of the earth [the third]” (Acts 1:8).  [Reference graphic]

 

 

Those manifestations of the faith-producing Spirit approve the Gospel’s increasing movement.  On Pentecost, our Lord’s Gospel exploded into Judea and Jerusalem, shown by God’s Spirit unfettering the first Christians to speak in other languages.  In Acts 10, when the enlivening Word of Jesus reaches Samaria, the Spirit, once more, substantiates the fulfillment of our Savior’s prophecy.  Later, in chapter 19, beyond both Jews and Samaritans into the Gentile world, the Heaven-Sent Spirit manifested Himself through the use of tongues.

Brood over Pentecost and its value for us today.  For no one, including the charismatics, finds God validating His Word with the sound of mighty rushing wind or quivering flames atop people’s heads.  What am I as a pastor to do if the Spirit doesn’t give me the ability to converse in a foreign language never studied before?  This and always this.  The Lord Jesus is in the Word, whom the Spirit uses to generate faith and in whom we are to trust.  Through the working of God, this Word, Jesus, follows through and brings us to the Father.

Part of Pentecost is God condemning us for our wrongdoings.  The rush of wind and the tongues aflame testify to this.  For this fervent Spirit is a purging tongue of fire, accusing the failings of the fallen, calling those who wander from the Word to repent and return.  The purpose of repentance is for forgiveness (Luke 24:48).

All the more, Pentecost testifies to God cleansing us from sin.  The wind is now the gentle voice of Jesus moving among His people, making you clean.  In His mercy, God gave His Son to die for you and, because of Him, forgives you all your sins.  Spirit-laden tongues can now confess the Faith, which we repeat every Sunday in the Creed.  With the assurance of the faith-bolstering Spirit, we learn He is nourishing our trust in Christ by His working, using the Word (1 Corinthians 12:3).

On this glorious feast day, rejoice and thank the Holy Spirit.  For our faith is not another human set of opinions or the philosophies of wise and learned men.  No, our belief is a gift from the Spirit Himself.  Through words, moving molecules of air like wind, He teaches and upholds us in true faith.  Now, Paul’s command to Pastor Timothy makes all the more sense.  “Preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2).  All because “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).

In both Word and Sacrament, Jesus promised to be present with His Gospel to create belief and strengthen our confidence in Him.  To remain our precious Redeemer, our guide in the Word, our hope in distress, our comfort in sorrow, our strength in weakness, our Savior is here.  Only by being present for us, can He be our life in the hour of death, and yes, our joy on the Day of judgment!

For Jesus still encourages us: Though Heaven and earth disappear and perish, not so for the life-giving and holy Word (Luke 21:33).  The Jesus-sent Spirit makes this our reality because He delivers Jesus to save us, here and now, which means His kingdom is yours.  Amen.

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