Acts 2

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Verse 1: When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. (NRSV)

  • Luke was not an eyewitness to this event as far as we know. He knew about it from others. Paul was not here either, of course.
  • Pentecost was a Jewish harvest festival long before it was a Christian one, celebrating the first grain coming in.
    • This time of year in Jewish tradition was about the giving of the law and the old covenant between God and God's people. Christian Pentecost is about the giving of the new covenant, the new relationship with God and way of interacting with God (Barrett).
    • This was the first major festival after Passover, also called the Feast of Weeks (Fitzmeyer 233.) Pentecost was what the Greek Jews called it. Leviticus 23:15-16.
    • There were several other Pentecosts, though—as its meaning is based on a period of fifty days. One of them was the Pentecost of New Wine (Fitzmyer 234, 235), which makes the jokes of the people make a lot more sense. But it is almost certain that this is the festival of weeks.
    • The Feast of Weeks happened fifty days after Passover.
  • 120 followers of Jesus were all together in one accord, agreeing and waiting to be endued with power from on high, with the promised infilling of the Holy Spirit—the comforter to abide with you forever. They weren't separated to their homes, or divided, but united as one and staying in one place for weeks.

Verse 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. (NRSV)

  • Notice that there isn't any real wind, just the sound of blowing wind, which was probably the loudest sound that the people really knew before explosions and machines.
    • This is also not the term that is used for “spirit”, which can also mean “wind.” Luke is specifically making sure that we don't think the noise is actually the Holy Spirit, but just a notice of His arrival.

Verse 3: Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. (NRSV)

  • Interestingly, verse three's word for “tongue” is literally fire in the shape of a person's tongue apparently, though the same word is used in verse four to talk about languages.
    • Traditionally, God's fire comes to a place outside of people. But here, the fire does not come apart from the people. It descends individually on the disciples, not separately from them.
  • Wind and fire were traditional symbols of God's presence. This is making it very clear that God came down on them that day. Visible evidence of an invisible presence.
    • Fire, smoke, and the visitation to an individual--such as Adam, Noah, Enoch, Moses, etc., as chosen people--was traditionally how God appeared to the people of God. This was the first major time when God came to individuals in a group and not secretly in the Holy of Holies or in big impersonal clouds of smoke/fire.

Verse 4: All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. (NRSV)

  • There has been a lot of confusion about speaking in tongues.
    • Verse four indicates that the disciples all of a sudden knew additional languages, or were, at least, speaking in new languages that they had not known.
    • Verse six indicates that the disciples are speaking just one language and yet foreignors heard whatever language they themselves knew. Either way, it is a divine empowering of languages and gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Verse 5: Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem (NRSV)

  • By this time in history the Jews were scattered all over the Mediterranean Sea and beyond. Together they probably knew a hundred or more languages with 30+ nations represented. But, every year around this time they all came back to Jerusalem in a pilgrimage.

Verse 6: And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. (NRSV)

  • The Jews came to the disciples not because of their speaking, but apparently because of the noise that the Holy Spirit made
  • All of the disciples probably spoke a smattering of several languages, Aramaic, Hebrew, and possibly Greek. Maybe even a couple knew a bit of the language of the Roman conquerors, Latin. But, what we are talking about here is not just the major languages, but every language around was understood miraculously.
    • There is no indication here at this time at all for either a language that only the disciples would understood, or speaking these languages privately or in prayer.
  • This is what was prophesied by Jesus. Acts shows that the promises Jesus had made come through.
  • This narrative also illustrates the universal nature of salvation. God is represented to the entire world, not to one people or group only. From the beginning everyone and every tongue could be involved and everyone could be reached.
  • This entire account is in sharp contrast with the beginning of Luke, as God speaks only to Zechariah while everyone else is outside. At the beginning of Acts, God comes and speaks through everyone, to everyone. Also, Zechariah couldn't speak, in Acts they could speak in ways they never could before.
  • There is also a parallel with the tower of Babel. There everyone had one language, came together to rise up against God, and left speaking different ones. Here they came together to love God, speaking many different languages and left understanding each other.

Verse 7: Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? (NRSV)

  • Apparently, Galileans had a bad accent, where they didn't enunciate or pronounce some letters right (Longenecker 68). People looked down on them because of this. Think of it like a thick southern or cockney accent.
  • The word used here for “amazed” is the same as in Genesis with the tower of Babel and people being thrown into “confusion” (Barrett 19).
  • I am not sure if “Galilean” was an insult to where they grew up, or just remarking that there was no way these men had ever heard the languages they were speaking.

Verse 8: And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? (NRSV)

  • Today, even the most obscure language can be heard by people all over the world, but not then. This was extraordinary.
    • In that day and place only specific languages were ones used to write official communication, or even to be sent from one place to another.
    • Some languages did not even exist in written form, but only verbal because they were small languages and the administrative writing all took place in a different tongue.
    • Most people never really moved very far from where they were born. And if they did, they didn't use their native language but the language of the place they were in.

Verse 9-12: Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God's deeds of power.” All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” (NRSV)

  • The list of places is literally the entire known Western world at the time. Some of them weren't even Jewish initially but were converts. These people definitely didn't speak Hebrew or probably Aramaic as their native tongue.
  • This is truly a bizarre situation for the people involved. A horrible noise comes, you run over there, and all of a sudden people come rushing out speaking a language you know only five people in the entire city speak. It only makes sense that they would be asking “what does this mean?”

Verse 13: But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” (NRSV)

  • The initial reaction of some people was to assume that the disciples were drunk. The custom of the time was to add wine to water so that it killed some of the bad stuff in the water, and hid the nasty taste without making you drunk.
  • By saying they were drinking “new wine” it probably is talking about drinking wine that isn't watered down.

Verse 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. (NRSV)

  • If Peter needed to stand up and decry the people's opinions of them then there was probably a lot of mocking and laughing at them.

Verse 15: Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o'clock in the morning. (NRSV)

  • I love that Peter's first defense of the Holy Spirit was that it's too early to be drunk.

'Verse 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 prophecy, and your young ment shall see viions, and your old men shall see visions. (NRSV)

  • Interestingly, it's the old men (John) in the New Testament that has a vision, and there isn't a lot of prophesy. The quotation from Joel (in verse 17) doesn't seem to fully apply, only the first half.
  • Barrett thinks that the old men and the young men are in fact having the same experience using different words. So everyone, young old and in between will be prophesying.

Message Ideas/Scripts/Liturgy That Use This Chapter

Pentecost Openness1-48Jesus' life story can be the story that drives our lives and brings us to God.Holy Spirit
Life Stories
GeneralPentecostMessage Idea
The Promise of Pentecost1-40Pentecost birthed the Church, and empowered the people to be the obedient people of God they could never be before.ObedienceGeneralPentecostMessage Idea