The Coming Of The Spirit On Shavuot Accompanied By The Sound Of A Violent Wind, Flames Of Fire And The Ability To Speak In Unlearned Languages; The Reactions Of Those In Jerusalem; Peter’s Explanation And His First Great Sermon
Something is very seriously wrong with humanity. The evidence is overwhelming and is in us and is all around us. Because of our rebellion against God, and our trespasses and sins, we are far from God and life and blessing and hope. We are not just a little sick, but we are spiritually dead! And, we are too sinful, too weak, too dead to overcome the very real and utterly ruinous forces of Satan, sin and death on our own. We have the greatest need for a great God-sent Savior! In his first book, Luke taught us that that great Savior has come!
Luke continues this greatest story of redemption with his second book, the book of Acts. For 40 days after He rose from the dead, the Resurrected One was still on Earth with His disciples. Presenting many proofs, He totally convinced them that He had overcome death, and had a new and eternal body, and if they remained faithful to Him, they too would overcome death and receive a body that will live forever! During that period between Passover and Shavuot, the Risen Rabbi taught them many things about the Kingdom of God – how God rules over the universe and over the world and over Israel and over Messiah’s chosen ones.
Messiah knew that He would leave them very soon, and they would carry on His great mission. Yeshua Himself would no longer be physically present on Earth, but they would. They were His body! They were His mouth! They had seen His miracles. They knew His teachings. They saw Him die, and then they saw Him do what no other human being had ever done – rise from the dead! They were His witnesses! They were His representatives and emissaries. They had the only true and saving message that could rescue mankind from our terrible condition.
For this great supernatural task, they would need great supernatural help – the Holy Spirit, which they were about to receive in a new and greater way!
Finally, the Son of God’s ministry to His specially chosen emissaries was accomplished! It was time for Him to leave them and return to Heaven, to the right hand of God, where He would continue watching over them and protecting them and helping them and directing them and empowering them – and many others who would experience salvation because of their witness.
From the Mount of Olives, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. Two messengers from Heaven appeared and let them know that when the time is right, the Very Same Person will return to that very same spot in the very same way!
They returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, where the 11 representatives, and other significant people joined them, and all of them were united and were praying continually.
It was good that there were 11 great Messianic Jewish Emissaries, but just as there were 12 tribes that made up the fullness of the nation of Israel, there needed to be 12 apostles to lead the Israel of God, and they prayed, and cast lots, and Matthias was added to the eleven apostles to replace the traitor, Judas. Now the foundational leaders of Messiah’s Holy Community were at their proper number. They were in Jerusalem as they had been instructed. Everything was ready for the next major outworking of the saving plans of God, which was connected to the next Jewish holiday – Shavuot – the holiday of the seven weeks.
Just as the other Spring holidays had to be fulfilled on their day, so did the holiday of Weeks. The harvest of the chosen ones of humanity into the Kingdom of God had to be extended to others – to the special Messianic Jewish firstfruits – the very first of the harvest of humanity; the first human beings to be gathered into the Kingdom of God! To these Jews the Holy Spirit came first!
The precious Spirit of God, who is so close to us, and does so much for us – connecting us to the Father and to the Son and to one another forever and ever; transforming us and empowering us and enlightening us and teaching us and guiding us; the Spirit, who will be with us forever, needed to come to us in a new and greater way.
When the day of Shavuot had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from Heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Think of the winds and the sounds generated by a powerful Midwestern windstorm. Think of the sound and the fury made by the winds of an F4 or F5 tornado – which are the most powerful kinds of tornados. Think of noise made by the winds of a powerful Category 5 hurricane.
The Holy Spirit is everywhere. He is not material. He is not physical. Why then was the coming of the Spirit accompanied by a noise from Heaven like a violent, rushing wind? Earlier in Israel’s history, the coming of God had been accompanied with storms and powerful winds (see Job 40, Ezekiel 1, Psalm 18, Zechariah 9). The coming of the Spirit accompanied by a noise from Heaven like a violent, rushing wind revealed to those who were there, and to us, that this Spirit is from Heaven, from God, from the Father and from the Son. This Spirit has a heavenly origin. And, if we are ever to be properly connected to Heaven, and be welcome in Heaven, and have a heavenly future, we need to receive this Heavenly Spirit.
And, His coming was loud, like the sound made by a very strong wind, showing the Spirit’s great power. Just as a very strong wind can powerfully impact plants and animals and the things that human beings build, so the Holy Spirit can powerfully impact us. Just as a tree that bends before a mighty wind survives, but a tree that proudly refuses to bow may be broken, so we must humbly yield to this powerful Spirit. The coming of this Spirit with a noise like a violent rushing wind teaches us that He intends to influence us and move us in the direction He wants to carry us, and break those who resist Him. Have you yielded to this Spirit, and are being carried by Him in a good direction, or are you stubbornly resisting Him?
Not only was the coming of the Holy Spirit from Heaven accompanied by the sound of a violent rushing wind, His appearing was also accompanied by another unusual phenomenon. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. Why fire? The coming and presence of the Infinitely Holy and Almighty God was often associated with fire, like the burning bush and the fire on Mount Sinai. Fire is a symbol for holiness.
This Heavenly Spirit is holy – absolutely free from anything impure or wrong in the slightest degree. He is pure, righteous, and good. His purpose is to come into us and purify us, and remove all the moral filth, all the impurities in our minds and hearts that oppose God, and transform us into the image of the Holy God, and the Righteous Messiah.
Under the right conditions, a fire can quickly spread and affect a huge area. This Spirit that came and rested on them would be given to many others. Starting from this small group, this Fiery Holy Spirit would spread His influence and His presence like a wind-blown fire among dry wood! These men were the beginning of a heavenly movement that would radiate the fire of God, the light and warmth of Heaven, truth and victory and salvation and purity to a dark and cold and impure world.
When the Holy Spirit came, the first thing He did was supernaturally empower them to communicate. He enabled these men to speak in languages that they had never learned. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other languages, as the Spirit enabled them. Why did this Heavenly, Powerful and Holy Spirit enable them to do this? While a sudden multiplicity of languages might seem like another Babel, this is actually the beginning of the reversal of the curse of Babal, when united humanity which spoke one language and was working against God was given many languages, and lost the ability to understand each other and was divided.
This is the beginning of the restoration of fractured humanity. This is the beginning of the one new man, a new and united humanity made from many nations, coming together and being able to understand one another and work with God – not against God. You want peace among humanity, and the peoples of the world to unite? This is the way!
Something very special was going on. Something radically new had happened to Rabbi Yeshua’s followers. This was another powerful evidence that Yeshua was indeed the Messiah! He wasn’t dead! He was alive and the Savior! He had poured out His Spirit from Heaven on His disciples! Fantastic! Praise the Lord!
Even though He was the Father’s great Servant, the majority did not esteem Yeshua. We despised and rejected Him. Along with His resurrection, this was another powerful evidence that God had vindicated Yeshua. The rest of Israel needed to know this! This had to be made known to everyone! And, the Spirit moved these men in just that direction!
Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under Heaven. And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. The nation of Israel, which the Lord of the world strategically placed in the very center of the nations of the world, had been dispersed throughout the world. When the Lord told us He would scatter His people, He told the truth! We were thoroughly scattered around the Mediterranean and beyond, from the East to the West. There were Jewish communities in Europe and Africa and Asia. We were in the previous world empires and the current larger one, Rome. We were almost everywhere – except perhaps the farthest eastern regions like India and China.
We might have been scattered among the nations, but some had returned home from their exile to live in our capitol – Jerusalem. Men who were serious about God and their Faith and the Scriptures were in Jerusalem during this holiday. These devout and religious men suddenly heard a group of mostly Galilean men speaking their native languages. Luke tells us their reaction. They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes (Gentile converts), Cretans and Arabs – we hear them in our own languages speaking of the mighty deeds of God”.
Not only did the Spirit of the Father and of the Son enable these Hebrew or Aramaic speaking Jews to speak languages that they had never learned, but He also directed them what to say. They were speaking about the great things that God had done – perhaps His great works of creation, and the great things He had done in Israel’s past to save us, and perhaps the new and mighty things that God had just done through the Savior – Yeshua, raising His Son from the dead, and bringing Him back to Heaven, where Messiah poured out the Spirit on His followers.
These first Messianic Jews were speaking about the mighty things that God had done, and that needs to be the focus of our conversation too. We need to concentrate on having conversations about God Himself, and His reality, and our alienation from Him, and the powerful things He has done through creation and through redemption – first creating us, and them making salvation possible, especially through the coming of the Messiah.
They got a mixed response – as will we. And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” The first and better group were those who were curious and wanted to know more. Then there was a second group who were not interested in knowing more and rejected the truth and made fun of Messiah’s followers. But others were mocking and saying, “They are full of sweet wine”. This second group decided that this unusual phenomenon of Galileans speaking in many languages could best be explained by the over-consumption of alcohol.
How sad that one of the most significant events in history was taking place, and they were to too far from God, too insensitive to spiritual things to investigate something so significant. And sadly, so much of humanity is in this second category. But, there are some in the first category, who will be curious, and listen and learn, and come to saving faith! We must endure the mocking of the second group to reach the first.
And Simon Peter was ready and equipped to do just that. The one who only a short time earlier had denied the Messiah three times, was now a different man. He knew that Yeshua was the Victorious Lord and Risen Savior. Peter had been taught by Rabbi Yeshua, before he died and especially during the 40 days after Yeshua’s death, burial and resurrection. Simon Peter now knew the Scriptures. Now he really understood how they pointed to the Messiah, to His First Coming to suffer and die and rise, and then to His Second Coming with great power and honor. Peter was now well schooled in the Scriptures, and he was empowered and filled and directed by the Holy Spirit. He was now bold, courageous, fearless. Peter became the spokesman for the Israel of God and gave a great message about the coming of the Messiah, and His rejection, and His vindication, and the giving of His Spirit, and how that is what true Judaism is all about. From Peter’s first great sermon on this special Shavuot, we can learn how to speak to those Jewish people who are knowledgeable about the Scriptures.
But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: “Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day. The objection that they were drunk didn’t make sense. It was nine in the morning – too early to be drunk. Most serious drinking takes place in the evening and night – not in the morning.
Peter now gave the real reason why the men of Jerusalem had been hearing Galileans speaking in many languages about God. What was happening was something so momentous that God had revealed to our prophets that this would happen. But this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall be in the last days’, God says, ‘that I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on My servants, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit and they shall prophesy. And I will grant wonders in the sky above and signs on the Earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come.
The Lord had told the prophet Joel that humanity would enter into a new period of salvation history that would be characterized by the pouring out of the Spirit of God upon many. A new age had begun! They were now in the Ah-cha-reet Ha-Ya-meem – the Last Days! Maybe not the last part of the Last days, but the beginning of the Last Days.
Messiah had come! Immanuel had been among them! Yeshua had made salvation possible, overcoming our greatest and deadliest enemies that have destroyed us, enemies that we could not overcome on our own! Yeshua, the Risen Messiah and God the Father had begun pouring out from Heaven the Holy Spirit on receptive human beings. That is the reason why these Galileans were speaking in languages they never learned. They were full of the Spirit of God, who had just been poured out on them – followers of the Risen Messiah!
And, the people of Jerusalem needed understand these realities and believe. Also quoting from the prophet Joel, Peter challenged them to respond in the right way to these powerful new realities that God had brought about: And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’. They needed to know that Yeshua is Adonai – the eternal Lord. They needed to believe in Him, and call out to Him with apologies and with welcome and acceptance if they wanted to be saved – saved with a salvation that the blood of bulls and goats and lambs and rams and pigeons couldn’t provide; saved with the great and only salvation that God had planned from the beginning of the world.
We won’t be able to cover the rest of Peter’s first great evangelistic sermon, which took place on Shavuot. I encourage you to come back in two weeks, which is right around Shavuot, when, Lord willing, we will cover the rest of it – and more!