When God Pours Out His Power

Pentecost

A sermon based on Acts 2:1-21.

The Big Idea

God has thrown his arms wide open to invite, receive, and enlarge his forever family. When we celebrate Pentecost, we’re celebrating the day that God demonstrated this desire by empowering his church to proclaim the good news of Jesus to all people by the indwelling presence of His Holy Spirit. And the church is forever different because of this empowerment!

Acts 2:1-21 NRSV

[1] When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. [2] And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. [3] Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. [4] All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

[5] Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. [6] And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. [7] Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? [8] And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? [9] Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, [10] Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, [11] Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” [12] All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” [13] But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

[14] But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. [15] Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. [16] No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

[17] ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. [18] Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. [19] And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. [20] The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. [21] Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

Aside from the resurrection of Jesus, no event in the history of Christianity has created as much awe and wonder as the Day of Pentecost, when the church left behind by Jesus gathered and experienced an outpouring of God’s Spirit and powerfully gave witness to Christ.

The point of Pentecost has been the subject of debate amongst various scholars and denominational traditions for hundreds of years now. What we can certainly agree on is this: The church was never the same after this day.

Until Pentecost, we see the disciples confused, immature, and hiding. After Pentecost, they are boldly facing persecution and powerfully giving witness to the risen Christ.

Whether you believe that this day was the beginning of a new kind of spiritual baptism or simply the mass empowering of God’s people once and for all in this present age, perhaps the bigger points of the story are these:

  1. God shows his power. He doesn’t leave us hanging forever. We see in this story a God who shows up, in his own way, in his own timing, and for his own purposes.
  2. God shares the moment. The disciples, themselves, participated in the greatest miracle of all on that day – the sharing of the good news about Jesus with people from all walks of life. And we still participate in his work today.
  3. God draws more people. Seventeen languages were understood that day, demonstrating that God wasn’t merely interested in a Jerusalem-based Jewish movement but was planting the seeds for a worldwide, multi-cultural movement to spread the very good gospel to the ends of the earth.

I’ve never attempted to stage a repeat of the Day of Pentecost, even on those biggest of Sundays when the crowd is at its largest. But I do believe we should hunger to enter into the empowering work God began that day. And I believe God invites us into it anytime we’re ready.


About the Cover Art: JESUS MAFA. Pentecost, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.

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