[Adapted from my sermon this morning at Bethany City Church on Acts 2:1–13. A couple of more posts will follow…]
The first Pentecost was loud. It was an interruption.
Today, we may prefer a quiet, safe, uneventful Pentecost Sunday with God minding his manners. But on the first Pentecost, we have the Spirit of God exploding onto the scene in a tumult. At Jesus’ baptism in Luke’s earlier volume, the Spirit seems to fall gently and peacefully “like a dove.” That moment (unlike in Mark) is a rather lovely, irenic scene.
In Acts 2, the Spirit does not come like a peaceful dove. He falls like a violent storm.
“Suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.”
And this startling sound fills the room—there is no escaping it. There is no quiet corner in this house. It is fully infiltrated by a stormy explosion. This is the sort of sound at which folks may shout “take cover!,” “look out!” But this rushing violent wind is indoors. There is no place to hide.
One cannot take cover form the coming of the Spirit of the God of both Peace and Storm. This Stormy God is doing something, something loud, something noisy.
There is a ruckus, a divine ruckus. The winds of God have burst out of heaven and into a room full of unimpressive Galileans on the high festival day of Pentecost.
“There came a sound…“
I think Luke expects us to be reminded of that scene in Ezekiel 37. The prophet is staring into a corpse-strewn valley, a valley of deathly dry bone piles. And “suddenly, there was a noise” (Ezek 37:7) as the Spirit of God blows like an unstoppable wind. Ezekiel’s vision is a scene of God’s people, who feel dead and forgotten, being reconstituted and resurrected into new life by the breath of the Spirit of God into their brittle bones.
Luke wants us also to think of a similar scene in Genesis 2:7. The Greek word used for “wind” in Acts 2 is the same word used when God breathes his Spirit into dust to form Adam into a living being. The Spirit of God creates—gives birth to—the people of God.
In Acts 2 we have nothing less than the formation of a new humanity, a new work of new creation as God forms a new people indwelled by his Spirit and made alive in Christ. This is what is happening with the stormy Spirit-wind that blows on Pentecost.
And then there is fire. “Take cover!” “Look out!” But, again, there is no place to run. They cannot take cover. In fact, the fire seeks out each individual gathered. There is no getting away. Strips of flame stretch out over every single person in the room.
It is at this point that they speak… and it is marvelous.
Pentecost was full of the noise of God making a new humanity. And for Luke, the mark of this new age of re-creation is divine speech voiced in Galilean accents into a world full of its own self-directed and self-generated speech, words that are insulated from heaven and sealed off from Eden.
Yet Pentecost cracks the soundscape. So let’s open our Galilean mouths and speak…
[Next post: “Power from on High”]