Now we finally come to the event that the opening verses of the book prepared us to expect: the coming of the Holy Spirit. This is a very significant event as it marks the beginning of the Church. Since there is so much to cover with this event I will be breaking this up into several posts.
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.
5 Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 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. 7 They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of
Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.” 12 And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others were mocking and saying, “They are full of sweet wine.”
First, the author provides for us the date on which the Holy Spirit was given: the day of Pentecost. This is a Jewish feast and it is dated 50 days from Passover. So, since Jesus was crucified on (or near) Passover*, rose 3 days later, and presented himself alive to the apostles over a period of 40 days following his resurrection before he ascended (see 1.3), we can conclude that approximately 10 days have passed since Jesus’ ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit.
It’s easy to skip over details like this, that seem to have no other purpose than to provide a date, but I would advise you not to do so. Such details are incredibly important. Details like this, and the genealogies (especially the ones in Matthew and Luke), tie Christianity to historical events, dates, and people. Christianity is based on historical events, such as the resurrection of Jesus, his ascension, and the coming of the Holy Spirit (all of which have been recounted to us by this point in the book). Christianity is not a philosophical system that someone produced in a vacuum. Christianity doesn’t hinge on a particular doctrine, but rather on the historical event of Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. Christianity is only false if these events did not happen.
As a side note, Mike Licona has some great resources (free and paid) to take advantage of if you are interested in investigating the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection. His site is: RisenJesus.com.
It is this relation to actual historical events that sets Christianity apart from most, if not all, of the other major religions of the world. It is also this relation to historical events that I personally find to be the most persuasive aspect of Christianity. If there lived a man who claimed to be God, was killed, rose again, and ascended into heaven I have to explain those events somehow and come to a conclusion about them; I can’t merely dismiss them as fiction if they actually happened.
We can see an example of people trying to explain to themselves a supernatural phenomenon in this passage. When the Holy Spirit came there was a noise, and tongues of fire came and rested on the Apostles. When the noise was heard the people who were in Jerusalem, people from every nation under heaven, gathered together and were perplexed because they heard men who were from Galilee speaking in their (the people in Jerusalem, i.e. not the Apostles) own language (for the languages see the list in vv. 8-11). We can see two different attitudes to the event: 1) some are perplexed and bewildered and seeking to understand how this could be possible; 2) others are dismissive of the event and mock the Apostles as simply being drunk. Neither group is doubting the event happened, but rather is trying to make sense of it.
So to recap this passage: when the Holy Spirit came there was a noise, the people of Jerusalem gathered together when they heard the noise and found the Apostles speaking in their (the people of Jerusalem, i.e. not the Apostles) own native languages. This perplexed them because they identified the Apostles as being from Galilee who likely did not learn the languages in which they were speaking. Pay attention to these events and remember the signs that accompanied the coming of the Holy Spirit, it will be important later.
That wraps up this post. Maybe finishing chapter 2 in the next post. And that’s a big maybe, there’s a lot to cover in the rest of the chapter.
*I’m not going to reconstruct a timeline here, but you can see the sequence of events by starting with Matthew 26.17; Mark 14.12; Luke 22.1; and/or John 13.1 and reading the rest of the account(s).