As a kid we were asked to draw a picture of this scripture in RE – I miss heard what was being said so instead of tongues of fire I just drew a picture of the disciples being licked by giant tongues… did not warm myself to the RE teacher who thought I was tacking the Mick – oh if she could see me know…
WHAT CAN I SAY I was confused….
It seems to me though that confusion is one of the underlying themes of this biblical story.
The events that happen are beyond comprehension so much so that event those who experienced it were hard pressed to describe what was happening. In 2:12 we see that the crowd gathered were Amazed and confused – do much so that they had to keep asking each other what had happened here…. This is weird stuff
So much so that the only possible explanation from an on looker is Ah Yes – They must be drunk.
So as we explore this scripture this morning the question, “What does this all mean?” is probably a good place to start…
Well firstly the word “Pentecost” means 50…
50th day after the Passover.
The festival they celebrate on this day we would probably call first fruits, or harvest.
It’s one of three Pilgrim Festivals in the Jewish calendar – pilgrim because they are connected to pilgrimadges to Jerusalem… So to see devout Jews from every nation in Jerusalem on this day shouldn’t surprise us.
What happens to them obviously does surprise them and us…
The idea behind these feast is that they were to remind people of who they are.
Coming to Jerusalem, re emphasises that too,
It’s an excuse to tell the world your story,
- who they were
- how they were created
- and how they were redeemed
And in light of all this then the festivals helped reestablish their identity showing them how they were to live as God’s People.
At Passover they remember who they were gathered out of Egypt in the middle of the night and rescued
At Tabernacles which is like an end of year celebration they remember the 40 years in the wilderness and the establishment of the temple.
Sandwiched in between is this Pentecost, festival, of course they don’t call it Pentecost - In Hebrew they call this – Shavuot
-it’s a Festival with a double barrel meaning for the Jews.
1. To the giving of the Law
2. And to the first fruits of the harvest.
Giving of the law –
If you remember the story of Moses – the Pharaoh ordered the killing of the boys of Jewish women but the girls were allowed to live.
I guess there are two ways to quash a nation of people:
- You can put them all to death by the sword
- Or you can dilute and pollute their blood lines.
In killing the boys that is precisely what Pharaoh intended
When the sons of Jacob, the sons of God’s promise came to Egypt they were God’s people
Over time that got diluted so much so that as they exit Egypt the writer describes them in Exodus 12:37+38 as 600,000 men not including women and children and a mixed crowd….others…
The 600,000 we might call people who had stuck to a pure blood line
The others, were people of mixed blood – not true Jews but not Egyptians either – somewhere in between
People who aren’t really Jewish but wouldn’t fit with the Egyptians either, God fearers, immigrants, half castes we might call them a Motley Crew
In Exodus 19, they gather around the foot of God’s Mountain, to wait to hear God speak
Verse 16 on wards…
A cloud appears, trumpets blasts, everyone in the camp trembled.
The whole of Mount Sinai was covered in Smoke because God had come down on it as Fire…
When Moses went up the mountain he was given the commandments that would be used as a basis of how this motley crew should now live.
The ten words on two stone tablets at Mount Sinia the giving of the law God establishes a covenant with his people
Basically God said – If they follow his law he will be there God, they will be his people.
God has rescued them out of Egypt but it’s only in the giving of the law the establishing of the covenant – if you like that they truly become God’s people.
Without the covenant they are just another people group, the only difference between them and anyone else is their noses and a love of humous.
But with the covenant they have become a Priestly Kingdom and a Holy nation.
So covenant is important – it’s worth celebrating
Prior to the Giving of the Law they were a collection of odds and sods - loosely related to each other descendents of Abraham but also a mixed race
At Mount Sinai in the giving of the Law – the Covenant was established - they became one people, one race.
But Wait there’s more because for the Jews– Pentecost/ Shavout is also about Harvest –
The Fifty days prior being the time of the Grain harvest –
So in their farming calendar Passover to Pentecost is when they harvest grain..
They call this SHAVUOT which sounds bit like SABBAT or as we might say SABBATH
The harvest is finished and the land is about to rest, before replanting
What would happen is that on this day an offering by each farmer of two loaves of bread would be made in the temple….
While there as he offered the bread he would remember the story of his people
Deuteronomy 26:5 –
Then you shall declare before the LORD your God: My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous. But the Egyptians ill-treated us and made us suffer, putting us to hard labour. Then we cried out to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression. So the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with miraculous signs and wonders. He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey;
Harvest is an important occasion in establishing themselves as a people
– the reason they ended up in Egypt in the first place was because the harvest failed they had nothing to live on and so were forced to submit to an enemy people in order to survive.
At Sinai they become God’s People again
they are to be brought into their own land the harvest is not because they grow crops wells
- it’s a sign of God covenant with them,
- his care for them
- God is the source of their prosperity
Without God’s covenant they are not a people,
Without God’s Covenant they have no land
– the harvest will never be their own.
For the Israelites despite the fact they would wander around in the wilderness way longer than they had to through SHAVUOT they are moving to Sabbath – rest from wandering – for them it’s a cause of celebration – a feast, a party…
So In the City of Jerusalem there were Jews from Jerusalem and religious men from all over the world gathered…
Ready to give thanks to God for making them One People – his People.
Ready to re establish their identity as God’s people once more
As they Gathered around the temple expecting to hold up a couple of pieces of bread and give thanks to God for making them a people God breaks in
– like he did at Mount Sinai
As they remembered there story – a historical story of how God had once upon a time revealed himself to the People of Israel,
of how in smoke and fire and noises from heaven, the rescued reestablished people of God had become God’s People.
God Moves again
He enlivens their story
What was just a time to remember who you are suddenly comes alive
but God does something new as well…
Where around the Mountain the work of God was contained – the people were warned DO NOT Cross the boundary of many will die, now God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit is blowing wild…
The building cannot contain it
The people who are touched by the Spirit cannot contain it either,
The Spirit draws them out into the town square where they tell of the amazing things God has done.
Way back in genesis, God scattered the people by confusing their language.
Here on Pentecost morning – the motley Crew from the ends of the earth hear God speak in their own languages
The curse of Babel is reversed.
Sinai is back in business,
God is moving again drawing in the immigrants,
Reaching out to the half castes,
Creating one people again
On that morning four major things happen
1. On that morning the Church is born, A New Covenant is established -
With the rule of the Holy Spirit written on the hearts and lives as opposed to pieces of Stone
Under the High Priesthood of Jesus – who has become our once and for all Sacrifice
2. A New Tribe is established –
Not born of Flesh, but born of Spirit
Not Born form direct family lineage to a wandering Aramean who went down into Egypt way back in history. But gathered out of all the nations of the earth
3. A New Homeland is established –
Where once the people of God had a specific, geographical, piece of dirt, they called their promised land. Now everywhere is a potential land of promise.
As we pray and act in the name of God in this world, then his new Kingdom Comes.
It’s not bound by geography or location but by the gathering of people in God’s name,
Through the work of the people in God’s Name.
4. A New Place of worship is built
The Journey of God’s people led them from a mountain, to a temple, to an upper room to the Street.
Where the Temple was central to all that God’s People did in worship, through Christ the curtain has been torn the street, the market place is as much a potential place of worship as the grandest cathedral.
As the Stories Converge…
The Holy Spirit, “the shy member of the Trinity" reveals himself, breathes life into the dead bones of the religious observance of God’s people.
There are new beginnings
New Possibilities for God’s Mission
And New Life is possible
This can be a present reality for us…
The promise of Pentecost is that we too can hear God’s Voice speak to us
That we too can become his people
– wherever we have come from
– and whatever we have done.
In Acts 2 there is a convergence of many ways in which God has acted in the past and continues to act in the present,
So what does this all mean?
It means the doors are open for us all to have the Spirit’s fire breathe life into our tired faith
Or to ask God to breathe life into us for the first time.