We are picking up about ten days after the ascension of Christ. It was during this time the celebration of Pentecost was happening in Jerusalem. Pentecost is also known as the Feast of Weeks. It is held at the beginning of June fifty days after Passover, hence the title Pentecost, which basically means fiftieth. This feast is the second of three major Jewish feasts which take place annually in Jerusalem. It was probably the most attended as well since the traveling conditions were the best this time of year.
Chapter two opens with all of the disciples assembled together in one place. They were all in one accord which means they were in the same physical place but also with the same mind and same passion. Suddenly a sound comes from heaven as a great and rushing wind that filled the house. This is one of three occurrences that is important for us to understand because the three occurences have a great symbolic meaning. The first is the wind. The Hebrew word for wind is ruah and the Greek is Pneuma; both of these words are used for the Holy Spirit. This is the moment Jesus spoke of and it was the time they were all waiting for. The Holy Spirit had come.
Next is the tongues of fire that were separated and came to rest upon them. Fire is the symbol of God’s presence. This is important to note it symbolically shows that the presence of God now rested upon each believer individually. Author and Pastor R. Kent Hughes says, “The emphasis from Pentecost onwards is on the personal relationship of God to the believer through the Holy Spirit.”
The third occurrence happens as they all began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. This sumbolizes the enabling of the Spirit. The result of being filled with the Spirit was that they began to do something that they could not do in their own power. According to Hughes, “In the O.T. inspired speech was regularly associated with the Spirit’s coming upon God’s servants. To the observant Jew, it was easy to see that the Holy Spirit had come.”
So what does this all mean? This special day that God had chosen becomes a day that God ordained to fill the believer with Himself. God Himself resided in the believer and they were empowered by Him to do a task He had called them to do. This applies to us believers today. We are empowered by the Holy Spirit.
This strange occurence is what made the onlookers marvel. These onlookers were devout Jewish men, religious men, pious men and educated men from all parts of the known world at this time. They saw these Galilean men speaking in their native languages and they could hardly believe their ears. The onlookers respond by saying, "Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans?” This was actually not a positive response. Galileans were not educated men, in fact they were despicable men, they were men from whom nothing learned nor polite was to be expected. Jesus was thought to be a Galilean, and his disciples really were unlearned and ignorant men. This is truly an astonishing thing for these onlookers to witness. These men were not uttering garbled words, they were speaking the language of "Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians." What they heard were the Galileans praising God for His wonderful works. The only reasonable explanation the onlookers could come up with was that these men were drunk and knew not what they were doing.
This was a strange day. The believers who were filled with the Holy Spirit were not just given help to do something. They were empowered by the Holy Spirit to something that they could not do in their own power and wisdom. Jim Cymbala speaks of this empowerment as, “a typhoonlike visitation of the Spirit of God.”
John Stott writes, “As a body without the Holy Spirit is a corpse, so the church without the Holy Spirit is dead.” Could this be the one thing that is missing in the church today? Is the church depending too much on their OWN strength and power and not really depending on the Holy Spirit? When was the last time you said, “God I am dropping my agenda and emptying myself of me so that there can be room for you in my life, my family, my work, and my church.”? We like to be in control of things and often times we get in God’s way when He wants to do something that will blow our minds. The key to a Spirit filled life is found when we empty ourselves of ourselves and allow God to fill us with Him.
Have you been filled with the Spirit? Now I don’t want you all getting weirded out and think that I am talking about handling snakes, speaking in tongues or stranger things. Have you truly emptied yourself of yourself and allowed God to empower you? Take a quiet moment today and allow God to empty you of yourself and fill you with His presence. Allow God to empower you to live the Spirit filled life. May you, like the Apostles, have God’s life giving Spirit in a more intimate and powerful way than you have ever known.