Pentecost is a Christian festival that does not have the profile of Christmas or Easter. There’s nothing on sale in the shops to help remind us. But if it hadn’t happened ,…..well, Christianity would not exist. Why is that? Well, at Pentecost we remember that God sent his Holy Spirit to live in his people just in the same way that the Spirit had lived in Jesus.
Last week we looked at Jesus reappearing to his disciples after his death and who was the ghost in that situation. Tonight we are looking at the actual events when the Holy Spirit was given to the disciples.
Last week we saw how Jesus was a human being and yet he had been able to show his disciples that to live in relationship with God his Father was to live the life of human being filled with the Holy Spirit. But Jesus had now returned to live with his Heavenly Father – the posh word is “ascended” – God wanted to make possible for the disciples or any other people who wanted to follow him to be able to live full of the Holy Spirit. Jesus – through his death and resurrection had proved that it was possible. That meant that his disciples could now do the things he had done. Wow!
So at Pentecost the Holy Spirit was given to God’s people in just the same way that it had been given to Jesus and what people who were there saw were flames of fire dancing above the heads of the people. What”s so great though is that the Holy Spirit is still ready to live with any of us who say we want to be like Jesus.
Luke the writer
The story of Jesus is so impressive-God among us! God speaking a language we can understand! God acting in ways that heal and help and save us!-there is a danger that we will be impressed, but only be impressed. As the spectacular dimensions of this story slowly (or suddenly) dawn upon us, we could easily become enthusiastic spectators, and then let it go at that-become admirers of Jesus, generous with our oohs and ahs, and only in our better moments inspired to imitate him.
It is Luke’s task to prevent that, to prevent us from becoming mere spectators to Jesus, Of the original quartet of writers on Jesus, Luke alone continues to tell the story as the apostles and disciples live it into the next generation. The remarkable thing is that it continues to be essentially the same story. Luke continues his narration with hardly a break, a pause perhaps to dip his pen in the inkwell, writing in the same style, using the same vocabulary.
The story of Jesus doesn’t end with Jesus. It continues in the lives of those who believe in him. The supernatural does not stop with Jesus. Luke makes it clear that these Christians he wrote about were no more spectators of Jesus than Jesus was a spectator of God-they are in on the action of God, God acting in them, God living in them. Which also means, of course, in us. Let’s take a look and see what the Luke actually writes;
When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force-no onecould tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.
There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were thunderstruck. They couldn’t for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, “Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues? ……..”They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!”
Their heads were spinning; they couldn’t make head or tail of any of it. They talked back and forth, confused: “What’s going on here?” Others joked, “They’re drunk on cheap wine.”
Acts 2 1-13 (The Message)
What’s happening here?
Let’s face it this does all seem a bit weird doesn’t it. Why if God gives his Holy Spirit to the disciples does it have to be in such an unusual way – tongues of fire, speaking in strange languages. What’s God trying to say to us here?
The disciples were already gathered to celebrate Pentecost, this was a Jewish festival, also known as the Feast of Weeks in which Jews celebrated the anniversary of the day God gave the Torah (the five books of Moses – now in the Christian Old Testament) to the entire Israelite nation assembled at Mount Sinai. It was also harvest time for the Jewish people a time when the barley was out of the fields and the wheat was coming out of the fields. It was a good time to rest at the end of the spring harvest. A time to come together and say thank you for the bountiful harvest God had given Israel. It was during this Festival that God chose to give his Holy Spirit to the followers of Jesus.
I’m going to play a track now which has probably never been used in this way but it was the only song that came to mind when I was thinking of the flames of Pentecost. You may have to use some poetic licence but as you see the lyrics just try and work out whether its God or the disciples speaking!
To watch/listen go to
You shake my nerves and you rattle my brain Too much love drives a man insane You broke my will, oh what a thrill Goodness gracious great balls of fire I learned to love all of Hollywood money You came along and you moved me honey I changed my mind, looking fine Goodness gracious great balls of fire You kissed me baba, woo…..it feels good Hold me baba, learn to let me love you like a lover should Your fine, so kind I’m a nervous world that your mine mine mine mine-ine I cut my nails and I quiver my thumb I’m really nervous but it sure is fun Come on baba, you drive me crazy Goodness gracious great balls of fire Well kiss me baba, woo-oooooo….it feels good Hold me baba I want to love you like a lover should Your fine, so kind I got this world that your mine mine mine mine-ine I cut my nails and I quiver my thumb I’m real nervous ’cause it sure is fun Come on baba, you drive me crazy Goodness gracious great balls of fire I say goodness gracious great balls of fire…oooh..
Could any of you keep your feet still? Doesn’t it create an energy and a sense of fun in the room? I can imagine that in some way the energy and the passion in the room where the disciples had gathered might have been somewhat similar? Those that were watching observed that the disciples were like those who were drunk!
The Festival of Weeks celebrated the giving of the Torah, books which had bound the Jewish people together, they had given them a blueprint for a life lived in partnership with their God and yet they had turned them into a book of laws and rules which had made it very difficult for people to draw close to God. Some had found their way to God through them but many had been deterred.
God chose this time to offer the gift of the Holy Spirit because Jesus had shown that the life of a human being lived and empowered by the Holy Spirit had actually been able to draw people closer to a living friendship with God. It was the Torah mark 2, What was different this time was that people did not need to come back to some special central place. They needed to go out into every corner of the world, hence the number of different languages that began to be spoken. Through giving the disciples the Holy Spirit God was again coming to the human race and offering his friendship. The disciples can now be just like Jesus. – we can be just like Jesus. The work of the Holy Spirit is to make us into the likeness of God our Father, just like Jesus was.
But what does that mean for us? I’d take us back to Jerry Lee Lewis
passion and energy. If our walk with God is lacking those two things then maybe we’ve lost touch with the Holy Spirit or maybe we’ve never invited him into our lives.
Anxious – Jerry sang that he chewed his nails and he twiddled his thumbs, he was anxious about how the relationship was going. Maybe that’s where we are tonight?
Challenge – he also sang that the love he was experiencing rattled his brain and broke his will. Are you wrestling with God over something at the moment?
The musicians are going to come and perform apiece called Your love has captured me. Maybe as you listen or sing, the Holy Spirit will make the words a reality in your life.