Is there anything that can shake us out of our apathy and fear and make us an intrepid people? That can inject enthusiasm and joy, confidence, and courage into our lives as God’s people?

Come with me to the events of Pentecost that we read about in Acts chapter 2. It was six-weeks after Jesus’ resurrection. Let me identify three questions that emerge.

What happened?  When the day of Pentecost came, the disciples were together in an upper room in Jerusalem. ‘Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came…  Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them… All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.’

Pentecost is the Jewish festival celebrating the giving of the Ten Commandments. In Exodus 19:18 we read that violent wind and tongues of fire had enveloped Mt Sinai at the time God gave Moses the law. However, as Israel’s prophets repeatedly observed, the law was not changing people’s lives: it failed as an instrument to change the world.

Now at Pentecost some twelve hundred years later, God was coming again with fire and wind, not to impart more law, but to impart his Spirit. The mighty wind symbolised the power of Jesus; the fire symbolised his purifying and cleansing work; and speech pointed to the good news of Jesus reaching every nation.

Luke, the author of Acts focuses on speech. He tells us: Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. … And everyone was bewildered because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each (2:5).

The crowd came from the Caspian Sea in the east to Rome in the west, from modern Turkey in the north to Africa in the south. ‘How is it?’ they were asking, ‘That we can understand them in our own native language?’

The cynics in the crowd mocked, saying the disciples were drunk. But Peter wasn’t silenced: ‘The bars aren’t open yet,’ he said. ‘It’s only nine o’clock in the morning’. This was the real Author of speech, reversing Babel.

The disciples, previously demoralised and defeated, now had a new enthusiasm, confidence, and joy. Peter, who had denied Jesus, was no longer a coward but a courageous preacher. What had brought about the change? The coming of the Spirit of God, ‘Another Helper’ as Jesus had promised (John 14:16, 26).

For many, Christianity is little more than a moral code they struggle to observe or a creed mindlessly to recite each week. But in John 14 Jesus had spoken of a Companion who would enable his people to experience a life-changing personal relationship with him.

What did it mean? The Holy Spirit was turning cowardly disciples into intrepid apostles. From verse 22 Luke records Peter’s speech: “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.  …And you, …put him to death …but God raised him from the dead, …”

People today mock the idea of Jesus’ miracles. Yet first-century historians such as Josephus, agreed that Jesus was ‘a miracle-worker’. In his speech Peter called the miracles signs. Just as a sign-post points to the road we might follow, so Jesus’ works pointed to the power and authority he wielded. “If I by the finger of God cast out demons,” Jesus had said, “then the kingdom of God is come upon you” (Luke 11:20).

The climax of Peter’s speech is in verse 36: “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this, God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

Peter had a logically developed progression of ideas – not a frenzied set of phrases. He explained that Jesus’ cross and resurrection reveal God’s extraordinary love. The Son of God had put aside the glory of heaven and come amongst us, giving his life as the one perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world.

Human authorities had judged Jesus a threat and did what autocratic leadership so often does – stamped out the opposition by fair means or foul. They nailed Jesus to a cross. But from his position of chief justice in his supreme court, God overturned the judgement of the human court and raised Jesus to life. As we talked about last week, we live in a porous universe.

Does all this matter to us? It happened so long ago. Peter’s hearers that day were cut to the heart…, “Brothers, what should we do?” they asked (Acts 2:37f). When Jesus was dying on the cross, they had mocked him. Now they knew the truth they were utterly ashamed. God’s Spirit was at work.

Peter’s response is one that we all need to hear: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven (Acts 2:38). Peter didn’t tell his hearers they needed to turn over a new leaf and start living moral lives. Rather, he focused on their relationship with Jesus. Repent. ‘Come to your senses about Jesus,’ he says. ‘Reckon on the reality that he is the Lord. Turn to him and ask him for his forgiveness.’

Three thousand responded to Peter’s call that day. God’s Spirit was taking up the work of Jesus the Messiah in the world, opening blind eyes and changing hearts.

Significantly Peter continued: And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him (Acts 2:38f). From now on God’s Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, would come into the lives of all God’s people (see also Romans 8:9). This is what Paul the Apostle means when he says that God’s people are in Christ (for example, Colossians 1:27). Christ, through his Spirit now lives in us.

What God did that day, and what he has been doing ever since, matters. God’s delight is to draw men and women from all over the world, from every race and nation – people like you and me – into a personal, living relationship with himself.

And we have a part to play. Let’s not be fearful. Rather, let’s pray for the Spirit’s strength and wisdom to be an intrepid people – taking up opportunities we have, to introduce family and friends, colleagues, and people in the wider community to Jesus. Why not invite a friend to join you in finding out who Jesus really is through ‘The Word 121’? It’s not a course or a program. Rather, it is a ministry that opens up the Gospel of John. Families are using it to grow in their understanding of Jesus, God’s Son who has come amongst us. The Word One-to-One is available online at: www.theword121.com.

A Prayer for Pentecost / WhitSunday. Almighty God, who taught the hearts of your faithful people by sending them the light of your Holy Spirit: so enable us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things and always to rejoice in his holy comfort; through the merits of Christ Jesus our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip us all with everything good that we may do his will, working in us what is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

You may like to listen to the Keith Getty and Stuart Townend song, Holy Spirit, Living Breath of God.

© John G. Mason