They were called the Resurrection Community. By the time that Jesus was crucified, there were about a hundred and twenty people who were regular and committed followers of Jesus. And it is this Resurrection Community, this gathered fellowship of believers who are all together in one place as the events of Pentecost begin to unfold. Luke is making a very important point here. There is a sense that this gathered group of believers has already realized the importance of the need that they ought to be together. There is something that is drawing them to one another. Most of them, in one way or another, have had a personal experience of the risen Christ. One does not encounter the risen Christ without wanting to be with others who have experienced the same thing.
And suddenly, without warning, in the midst of this gathered community, the wind began to blow, and the creative and empowering breath of God began to rush into the place where the believers were assembled, except that it wasn’t really wind. It was more than wind. Luke tells us that it was a sound like the rush of a violent wind that filled the house. It was a wild, awesome and completely supernatural sound that the believers heard. And it is obvious that Luke is having a terrible time trying to describe this because he has never encountered anything like it before in his entire life. This…phenomenon…is God’s doing, and God’s doing alone. It is well beyond the human creature’s ability to define. When God is at work, we almost always lack human words to describe it. It is, however, awesome, and amazing, and wonderful, even if it is totally beyond our ability to comprehend.
And, as if the noise was not enough to get the attention of the believers, the sight of fire rushing through their place of worship must have just about undone these people. Except, again, it wasn’t really fire. It was more than fire. It was fire that blazed away, but it was also fire that did not consume. This was fire that empowered the believers and gave them voices to proclaim the mighty acts of God. Both fire and wind, throughout the Scriptures, are symbols of God’s presence. And here in Acts chapter two, it is very clear that God is not only present, but that he is also visibly and audibly and powerfully at work in the midst of these gathered believers.
Now normally, when God shows up somewhere, people become completely undone, or in the language of the old King James Bible, they become “sore afraid.” In the Scriptures, when God shows up, believers need to be told to not be afraid. Now Luke doesn’t say specifically that this is what happened during this worship service on the day of Pentecost, but it makes much sense to me that when the believers heard and felt the wind, and saw the flames, that they most naturally would have become undone. There’s not one of us here this morning who could have stood idly and calmly by while all of this was happening, we most certainly would have become undone. So perhaps it was the Holy Spirit itself that whispered, “do not be afraid,” as it surrounded and filled these believers with power.
Worship, when the Scriptures describe it, always involves singing and shouting and dancing and the playing of many loud noise making instruments. But for some reason along the way, all of that has changed. Instead of worshiping God with all of our hearts, souls, minds, and bodies, we followers of Jesus began to check our bodies at the door, when we came to our houses of worship. Somewhere along the line, someone, and an evil someone at that, began to teach us that our bodies were evil and that they had no place in worship. Our bodies, sadly, were the outward expressions of our filthy and polluted minds. Only the heart was capable of responding to God in purity. And all of this is completely contrary to the clear teachings of the Scriptures. Our bodies are sacred. They are the wonderful creation of God. They bear the very image of God. And contrary to everything that we might wish to think about the human body, God willingly chose, in the deepest expression of his love for us, to take on a human body, and to become a human being. When the Creator takes on the form of the created, we have to know that there’s dignity in that. Jesus was fully human in every respect but sin. The human body is dignified in our Lord Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ we have a sure and certain hope for the resurrection and exaltation of our own bodies. God made this flesh and bone in which we live, and God himself was pleased to live in it. Let us re-learn to glorify our God with our bodies!
And in our passage this morning, there is no question that the sights and sounds of God’s presence among the believers had a profound physical effect on all who were gathered there. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and they began to speak in other languages. These were languages that they had not learned. This was the power of God at work among them that far superseded their own abilities. And, as the believers received this empowerment, they began to spill out into the streets, driven there by the power of the Holy Spirit. And as they went, a crowd began to gather. Luke says, “at this sound a crowd gathered and was bewildered…” I wonder what that sound was? Did the bystanders also hear the sound of the mighty rushing wind, and did they rush over to see what was going on, or did the crowd come together because they heard the believers speaking various languages that they could not have learned? I suspect that it is a little of both. Curiosity is a powerful motivator.
But what is more remarkable than the languages that the believers are speaking, is the content of their talk. The believers are praising God. They are telling and proclaiming God’s great deeds of power. They are telling God’s stories. The Holy Spirit has so filled and empowered them that they are out in the streets, using a divine, supernatural gift, to proclaim all of the good things that God has done. We can’t know exactly what these believers were proclaiming, but we can open our Bibles, read them, and find out all of that good stuff on our own. The Scriptures are jam-packed with some amazing and awesome stories about what God has been up to, and most of it involves compassion, and forgiveness and healing and restoration for a people who certainly do not deserve it, but who lavishly receive it just the same.
Whenever God is at work, we will always be able to discover some nay-sayers. There will always be nay-sayers. Everybody has an explanation for what God is up to that generally doesn’t include God at all. And the nay-sayers in this case have got everything figured out. There is no mystery or wonder here at all. These believers have been into the sauce. This isn’t God at work, this is drunkenness. This is foolishness. It is simply the result of the imbibing of too much spirituous liquor. The spirit of the fermented grape has undone these people. Do not confuse this with the spirit of God.
Now, think deeply. On whose side are we on? With whom do we most agree within the deepest recesses of our hearts? What spirit is at work here? One of the ironies of this passage is that the members of this Resurrection Community are proclaiming the mighty works of God from both the ancient and recent pasts. And yet it is also very obvious that while they are doing this, that God is doing yet another brand new thing. And it is this brand new thing that the nay-sayers are so strenuously opposing. And that is not so unusual is it? Always, when God does a new thing, there is opposition to it.
We live now in a world that is becoming newer and newer every day. We truly do not know what tomorrow will bring. We cannot predict a thing and so, we might legitimately ask, what is God up to? What is the new thing that God is doing, now that he has pushed the world’s pause button? I cannot say for sure what God is doing, because I cannot always know the mind of God. But I can say this: God is doing something. God is busy getting our undivided attention. He would not have pushed the pause button otherwise. That is undeniable. We cannot ignore all of the newness around us. But this we can do, until God reveals what he is up to. We can be busy telling God’s stories, both from the ancient and recent pasts. We are still very much the Resurrection Community that broke forth, under the power of the Holy Spirit, to proclaim the mighty acts of God. That has not changed. That is still our calling.