O Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your people, and kindle in us the fire of your love. Amen! The Word of God for today is the account of Pentecost, found in the book of Acts, chapter two. (Read text) In the name of Jesus, who promised to send the Spirit, and who has sent the Spirit, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ.
I remember the first day of a German class I was taking in college. The first words of the class were these: “Only German will be spoken in this classroom for this semester.” The professor then proceeded to say, “Willkommen bei German-Klasse! Wenn Sie nicht wissen, wie man Deutsch sprechen oder verstehen, dann werden Sie nicht passieren diese Klasse.” Wait, what!?! All of a sudden I was starting to wonder if this was really the class I should be in. Later on the professor called on me to answer a question. I thought I could understand the question but I had absolutely no idea how to answer it, I was pretty much helpless.
I wonder if this same feeling was similar to how the people of the Babel account felt, where God confused the languages of the people, bringing to this earth all the different languages – or the roots of all of them – which exist today. Can you imagine the helplessness which the people must have felt as they arrived at work the next morning? Can you imagine the helplessness of trying to communicate with someone in a language which you’d never, ever heard? It must have been completely hopeless! I empathized – a little – with those people as I struggled to learn a new language.
That feeling of helplessness may be okay in the classroom, even somewhat amusing, But what about if I’m injured, or if my life is on the line, or someone else’s life? In that situation, not being able to communicate could be a horrible thing!
Even worse, what if someone’s spiritual life is on the line? It’s one thing to be injured, or even to die. It’s a far, far worse thing to go to hell, to spend an eternity in suffering, apart from God. Now that – that would be horrible.
By nature, every one of us is helpless in regards to spiritual matters. Scripture teaches us that we’re born dead in transgressions and sins. No, we’re not just weak. No, we’re not just sick. We are dead. Enemies of God. We deserve to be sent to hell.
Consider briefly the Tower of Babel account. Very simply, God had told the people after the flood that they were to spread out and inhabit all the world. The people’s answer? “No! We’ll build a city, and a tower which reaches to the heavens, and we’ll build a name for ourselves.” And we think, “What arrogance and stupidity! The Flood had just taken place not that many generations previous. Did they not take note of the mighty acts of God?” They sure weren’t speaking God’s language; they seemed deaf to His words.
In our text we see it again. The acts of God are clear – the sound of the mighty wind, the tongues of fire, the ability of the apostles to speak in other languages. And yet how do some of the people react? “Some, however, made fun of them and said, ‘They have had too much wine.’” Again we think, “They sure seem deaf to God’s Words, seem to be helpless to hear Him!”
But the sad fact is, you and I, we’re no different. We fail to hear our God just like they did. In fact, by nature we’re unable to hear God, to listen to His words, or to take them to heart. By nature we hear the Words of God and they strike us as complete foolishness.
Think about it from a strictly logical point of view. The Bible teaches that the son of a Jewish carpenter is actually the Son of God and He was really born of a virgin. The Bible teaches that Jesus – that son of the Jewish carpenter – was executed as a horrible criminal, and that three days later He rose from the dead. And, the Bible teaches that because of all that, your sins are forgiven, and mine too. Does that make any logical sense at all? Not at all. And our sinful nature does not – indeed, cannot – hear that language. It doesn’t make any sense at all to our sinful minds.
But the Holy Spirit didn’t want it to stay that way. Instead, the Holy Spirit wants you to know some things, indeed, the most important things in the world. And so the Holy Spirit came to you and revealed the most important things in the world to you. Most importantly, all that “crazy” stuff we talked about just a moment ago – that “illogical stuff” about Jesus – the Holy Spirit has convinced you that it’s all true, that it’s real. He’s opened your ears, so now you hear it. And, now it even “makes sense” to you.
And the Holy Spirit was willing to do whatever it took to get that message to you. We can see it in our text in a variety of ways. First, there is the flames of fire. Did you notice? “They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.” We know for sure that the apostles were gathered there. The 11 had again grown to 12, because they had chosen Matthias to replace Judas. And, it seems likely that there were more there as well, because in the chapter before it talks about 120 believers being gathered, and in the beginning of chapter one it says that they were all together. So, was it the 120? Very possibly. And the tongues of fire went where? Onto each one of them. Yes, God could have put one big blob of fire above them all, and that would have been fine. But He chose to have tongues of flame on each one of them. And what did it say to them?
Perhaps it was a reminder of an important truth – that the Holy Spirit works with each of us individually, and because Jesus died for each one of us personally, each and every one of us are just as important to God as the next person. For the disciples, Matthias had a flame – so did Peter. Matthias was just as important as Peter; Peter was just as important as Matthias. Of course, if the 120 were all there, as seems likely, then believer #59 was just as important as Peter, too. And believer #82 was just as important as James, and Thomas was just as important as believer #23, and believer #120 was just as important as all of them.
And if you had been there, there would have been a flame on your head, too, because you’re just as important as all of them. Jesus died for you just as much as for them.
And then the disciples went outside. And what did they do? They proclaimed the wonderful works of God in all sorts of languages, languages which they’d never studied, but languages which were spoken by the people who were there. And why? Because every one of those people there in Jerusalem were just as important as all the disciples. And the Holy Spirit wanted each of them to know about Jesus, too, and that Jesus had died and risen for them, just as much as He’d died and risen for the disciples. And in this instance, the best possible way for those people to hear about it was for the H.S. to give the disciples the ability to speak in those other languages, so that those people could hear about Jesus in a message which they understood, because every one of those people were just as important as the disciples, because Jesus had died and risen for each of them, too.
And if you had been there that day, one of the languages would have been English. Why? Because Jesus died and rose for you just as much as He died and rose for the disciples. You’re just as important to God as Peter, as James, as John, as Matthias. And, the Holy Spirit wants you to KNOW that! He wants you to HEAR it! And so He’s come to you and convinced you that it’s true.
And so He will continue to do that until that day when Jesus returns. And most remarkably, He’ll do that through people like you, people like me. And no, He probably won’t be giving us the ability to speak in other languages in that miraculous way, like He did on Pentecost Day, so we’ll need to learn, to study. But the Holy Spirit will work through people like me, people like you, so that others can come to know, can hear in their own language, that Jesus died and rose for them, just as He’s died and risen for you. The Holy Spirit … He wants you to KNOW! Amen.
(Rom 15:13 NIV) May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.