Acts 2:1-13
Receiving The Promised Spirit

Authored By Rev. Hiroki Hattori, Assistant Pastor, Sasayama Church

1. "As the day of the Pentecost Festival came and the group was assembled as one, all of a sudden, a sound from heaven was heard like a severe wind blowing, it resounded within the house in which they were sitting. Then tongues like fire appeared in two parts divided and rested upon each one. Whereupon, the group was filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak in the languages of different nations, according as 'the spirit' made them speak," (The Acts Of The Apostles 2:1-4).

The Birth Of The Church

2. The biblical passage for this morning is on what happened at the descent of the Holy Spirit. When we fix our attention upon the event in Acts 2:2-4, the picture of the Holy Spirit's descent is depicted as a terribly amazing and mysterious phenomenon. But still, this stuff here might not seem to have significance in it even after making scientific and physical verification of it all. And why is that? The real core meanining in it is not the very phenomenon itself [of the mysterious winds and fires] as written in the passage but in the details of the situation around it.

3. "So, when [Jesus] was eating a meal with them, he gave this command, 'Do not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for what has been promised of my father, which you have heard from me before. For, John baptized you with water, but you will be baptized before you know it with a baptism according to the Holy Spirit," (Acts 1:4-5).

4. We must not forget that the miraculous working of the Lord God, which was clearly shown on this side of eternity, in a form visible to the eye, to the hopeful and waiting disciples, was the fulfillment of a promise. We must not forget that it was a final and one time only event that was put forth, which did assuredly take place within the history of the church's birth, the new Israel.

5. The biblical text begins with "As the day of the Pentecost Festival came." If we translate this literally, it would be "When the day of the Pentecost Festival was full." This event took place right on the day of the "Pentecost Feast." So, what kind of festival was this "Pentecost Feast" anyway? This festival is reckoned as one of the three main Jewish festivals along with "The Passover Festival" and "The Feast Of Booths, also known as The Feast Of Tabernacles." These festivals, all equally alike, originated in the events around the exodus from Egypt.

6. Before we take to reading this passage any further, one might deem it important to have a good ongoing understanding of the meaning of this day and to review the two big things that happened around the exodus from Egypt.

7. To make a simple review of things, first would be the events around the Passover during the exodus. Israel, which had gone down to Egypt through Joseph, had spent many months and years there and then Israel flooded [its population] out over the whole country. Obviously the blessing and grace of the Lord, this [fortune] took an about-face with the arrival of a new pharaoh who did not know Joseph. The pharaoh treated the Israelites like slaves, and worse still, he gave orders for the killing of any male infant. The time period in which Moses was born was a most harsh and miserable era. Sin and worldly powers had filled up, deliverance, hope and all that was good was nowhere in sight, the Lord God's hands, his plans, his rule seemed not to have existed, it seemed that Moses was born right when only the brute reality of a world of sin was ruling over humanity and their lives.

8. The first climactic moment during the exodus was indeed the event of the Passover. It was the event of the liberation of the slaves in the land from the country of Egypt. The plagues of the Lord passed over the Israelites' homes where they had daubbed with lamb's blood the entrance way to their homes on its lintel and two posts. The lives of the people were redeemed by their shedding the lamb's blood. The event of salvation, that indeed, is the core meaning of Passover. The Israelites observe "The Passover Festival" as a memorial to that.

9. The hour of the Lord was chock full as if it was poured drop by drop into a cup and soon filled, it then swelled with surface tension and spilled over when the last drop dripped down. Even though it is not understood as humans see, even if it were erased from memory, the promise of the Lord and his salvation, will certainly plow on through one step at a time and before too long it will all come to pass in the Lord's time.

10. Second is the event of the giving of the law at Mt Sinai. It is the event on the day when the Israelites became the holy treasured people of the Lord, the birth of the Lord's people Israel. It is the event when they took their first steps with a mind for the law of the Lord. But then, why on this morning must we recall such an event? The festival of "Pentecost" originated in [another] festival. "Pentecost" is the festival they celebrate on the fiftieth day (which is called Pentecost in Greek) as counted from "Passover." There are two things of significance in this festival. Originally it was a festival for celebrating the harvest and for offering its first fruits unto the Lord. But, the Israelites had come to observe this day as an important one as a day to commemorate that the law was given them at Mt Sinai.

11. As we review the above points and direct our eyes to the Bible, it seems to look like one continuous flow.

12. Since they made a memorial day of "Passover," that is, the events of the exodus from Egypt, into a memorial of the liberation of the slaves from Egypt out of their misery, the events prior to "Pentecost" by a number of days, the last supper that Jesus took with his disciples during the Passover festival and the cross that begins starting from "the Passover meal" and the resurrection are clearly connected to "Passover." For, it became the day to remember when the judgment of the Lord God passed over in front of the Lord's people and the day to remember when the liberation from sin and from death that had come because of sin and from all its miseries. For that reason, we celebrate these festivals not as "Passover" but "Passion Season (Lent)" and "Easter Week (The Resurrection Celebration)."

13. Since they made a memorial day of "Pentecost," that is, "the covenant and the giving of the law (ten commandments)" on Mt Sinai as the birth of Israel, the Lord's people, then "The Giving Of The Holy Spirit, The Descent Of The Holy Spirit" is connected to "Pentecost." For, this very day became the day we remember the new covenant, the new Israel as the birth of the church. For that very reason, we celebrate "Pentecost (The Fiftieth Day Festival)" as "The Descent Of The Holy Spirit." The events that took place on "The Day Of Pentecost" were one with "the new Israel, the birth of the church."

Waiting For The Promise

14. So, what were they doing and where were they doing it on that day? The Bible records for us that "As the group was assembled together as one," (Acts 2:1). They had stayed in Jerusalem just as Jesus Christ told them to.

15. When Moses went up Mt Sinai and was cutting a covenant with the Lord, the first Israelites were all as one making a golden calf, praising it as the god who had freed them, and offered up idol worship and were all excited as they claimed it as a festival unto the Lord.

16. But, the people gathered on this day, that is on "The Day Of Pentecost," were a people totally different from them. "The group gathered as one" (2:1) and they "were fervently in prayer with united hearts," (1:14). That's what is written in the Bible. There we find the likes of these people, all of them gathered into one place, they united their hearts and prayed fervently. They were such that they firmly put their faith in the promise and waited for it. That is the figure we see of them.

17. Where does the difference between the two kinds of people come from? While one has the grace of the Lord upon it, the other kind of person is filled with so much sin, selfishness, and pride. So, which type of person was assembled there on "the day of Pentecost?" Looking back some fifty days before, they were the ones who had forsaken Jesus Christ. They were the people who betrayed him, were defeated by the power of sin, had succumbed to the powers of this world; that's who they were gathered there. They were a people who had known their own weakness and sin. They had lost hope and tasted desperation. They could not find anything within themselves to empower them to follow the Lord, said another way, you might say they had lost all hope inside. They were a people who could no longer find hope on their own power. The risen Jesus Christ showed himself to these people during his forty days after his resurrection and gave them a promise. That's what we had read about last week.

18. The differences between the two kinds of people is that one turned to all the different possibilities within themselves and the other lost hope. The difference is that one carried around a lot of pride and the other was crushed in it. The Lord had made promises to both types of people. But one did not wait for the promise, the other waited steadfastly. But more than that, it is the situation which we should not forget during "the day of Pentecost."

Receiving The Holy Spirit

19. "Whereupon, the group was filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak in the languages of different nations, according as 'the spirit' made them speak," (Acts 2:4).

20. Something miraculous is also happening here. It is that the people who were filled with the Holy Spirit had begun to speak languages from other countries.

21. In this part too we recall an event in the Old Testament. It is what happened at "The Tower Of Babel." The story that we have written in Genesis chapter eleven is about an event that symoblizes human pride, sin, confusion and destruction. The Lord God confused the languages (Babel, babble) and made it so nobody could understand the other person's words. Then it says that they were scattered to all the lands by God's hand and the plans of man and his pride were crushed.

22. In a certain sense, the same thing is going on in this passage. They began to speak different languages. They began speaking in the languages from around the world at that time. For some watching, this whole thing must have seemed like confusion (Babel, babble) [revisited]. The text says there were some who mocked them saying, they "are drunk with wine."

23. However, what happened here is definitely different from what happened there at "The Tower Of Babel." What happened was that the people who had come to gather from many countries had seen something that they could not have ever made happen. They heard right there in their mother tongues "a great miracle of God." It was an instantaneous event in which the gospel was opened to all those people who had been scattered in every land and who had been under the power of sin and death.

24. And the text says all these events are not things that originated from within humanity, in no sense whatsoever is it of human power or works. It shows that it is the work of the Holy Spirit.

25. "When the Holy Spirit falls upon you, you will receive power. Then, you will be my witnesses, not only in Jerusalem, but in Judeah, all of Samaria, and unto the end of the earth," (Acts 1:8).

26. The hour of the Lord's promise is now full. So, the promised Holy Spirit has descended upon the Lord's church. And the work of proclamation has gotten its start in the world by means of that Holy Spirit.

27. As for the events that took place on "The Day Of Pentecost" there is one more besides, it was the "Inauguration Of The Proclamation Of The Gospel Into All The World."

28. As a result of that work, as the fruit of their proclaiming the gospel, we now are linked to the Lord's church. The work of the Holy Spirit which was begun on "The Day Of Pentecost" is coming to pass right now, right here, right on us. The Lord's grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness, far from losing its splendor, is shinning even more as a very real thing in this world. We are linked to the Lord's church today, it is the plain truth that we are made as the new Israelities, I testify to this fact.

29. But, whenever we take a look just once on the realities in this old world, it's a world that will swallow us, its brute reality is so far from the Lord but lies in every misery with the world in control of it, filled with the power of sin, confusion, and strife. It has unending sorrow, pain, and troubles.

30. That's the reason we look up to the Lord. That day, that hour the kingdom of God had certainly come. And we were made residents [of his kingdom]. Even though we possess a rotting flesh, we began a walk opened to eternity. We were made a people having a citizenship in heaven.

31. The people assembled on "The Day Of Pentecost" stayed in Jerusalem. That area was a land that made them remember their sins. For these people who had forsaken and betrayed Jesus Christ, this land was unbearable for them to remain in. Now more than ever it was a land filled with the power of sin, where persecutors existed and that made them fully realize their weaknesses. But, they believed the Lord's promise and waited in Jerusalem. Here came the power of God. The promised Holy Spirit had descended.

32. Now, the world into which we are placed may not have gotten much better. These may be surely days when we are reminded of our weaknesses. For that reason, we are being told about the figure of those people who once stayed in Jerusalem.

33. What are we waiting for? We are continuing to wait for the fulfillment of God's kingdom and the second coming of Jesus Christ. For, the hour when the Lord's timing will be full will surely come.

34. How shall we wait? We will wait in the Lord's church, all of us as one, uniting our hearts, praying fervently as the worshipping people of the Lord. For, that's what the Lord expects.

35. What shall we do as we wait? We will wait and make known "The Works Of The Lord." We will wait and preach the gospel.

36. On this day as that day, we have been assembled by his grace and by invitation of the Lord. We have assembled under the cross of Jesus Christ. The brute realities of this world still surround us. The power of sin makes us feel our weaknesses all too much. Our persecutors may not be few.

37. For all this then, we will keep our eyes and our hearts on heaven, on the Lord himself. We beseech him for "the filling of the Holy Spirit" and that the power of the Lord would cover over us. The Lord will surely grant it. [He will] in the church of Christ.

 
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