Pastor Stephen Muncherian
May 17, 2015
There’s a story about a pastor who was going to be teaching on the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. He wanted to make his sermon very dramatic. So he called the church janitor to help him.
“Sam,” he said, “On Sunday I’m going to preach on Jesus’ baptism. I’m going to ask you to go up into the dome of the church and stay there. When I come to the high point in my sermon and I say, ‘and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him like a dove,’ I want you to drop a pigeon from the dome.” Sam - the janitor - promised to do as he was told.
On Sunday morning the pastor began his sermon. At the point when he said, “...and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him like a dove” he looked up at the dome. But there was no pigeon. So the pastor repeated the phrase a little louder. Still no pigeon. Then he yelled, “Sam, where’s the pigeon?”
Sam yelled back, “Pastor, the cat has eaten the pigeon. Would you like me to throw down the cat?”
Sometimes when we talk about the Holy Spirit there’s a bit of confusion in our minds - Who He is - what He does.
This morning we’re focusing on Pentecost - the coming of the Holy Spirit - the work of the Holy Spirit in birthing and empowering the Church. Pentecost - on our Free Church radar screen - isn’t something that we often focus on. But it is immensely important to each one of us.
We’re going to be looking at Acts 2 - the Pentecost passage - and looking at Pentecost from a perspective that hopefully will help us understand more clearly what God is doing - and some of what He desires to do in and through us. What difference Pentecost makes in our lives.
Before we come to Acts 2 we need to grab The Background of Pentecost. We want to back up in time a bit to John 21. John 21 records an event that takes place in the period of time between Jesus’ resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Its evening - the setting is the shore of the Sea of Galilee.
John 21:1 - After this - after the events of the resurrection - and the first two times the resurrected Jesus has been with the disciples - after this Jesus revealed Himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias - the Sea of Galilee - and He revealed Himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
On the Sea of Galilee fishing was done at night. Fisherman used torches to attract fish to the boat and then caught them nets. That night - even though these were skilled fisherman - that night they caught nothing.
Verse 4: Just as the day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.
In the twilight of the early morning - about 100 yards from the shore - it was impossible to see who was standing there.
Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered Him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!”
Therefore - meaning like déjà vu - a “we’ve done this before” moment of recognition. The disciple whom Jesus loved - who we know was John - John suddenly connects the dots and realizes who’s on the shore. John tells Peter, “Its the Lord.”
Going on in verse 7: When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.
When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn.
153 being an exact number. Point being that this really did happen and its not some fish story.
Verse 12: Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the of the disciples dared to ask Him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after He was raised from the dead. (John 21:1-14)
Let’s picture this scene together. The disciples had been through the betrayal - the trial - the crucifixion - Jesus’ death. Each of these disciples in their own way struggling within as they went through these gut wrenching events. Their faith was put to the test.
Then the disciples met the resurrected Jesus. Imagine - He died and now He’s alive. They’d seen the empty tomb - shared a meal together - seen Him pass through walls. Thomas worships Jesus when his doubts have been removed. A transforming experience for the disciples. Everything they’ve hoped and believed and lived for is really true and certain.
The response to all that’s just taken place comes in verse 3. Seemingly with nothing else to do, Peter says, “I’m going fishing.” After all that has happened the disciples go fishing - back to the life they grew up with - the companionship with the others - the memories of past times together - the familiar - the comfortable - the routine.
When the disciples get to shore - the fire is going - the fish are cooking - the bread is ready. Jesus says, “Bring your fish and come to breakfast.”
That whole scene is just a tad surreal. Isn’t it? The disciples sitting on the shore of the Sea of Galilee - a beautiful peaceful morning - having breakfast with Jesus. Who just a few days earlier was crucified. Is now resurrected from death. And now they’re having breakfast by the sea. Having breakfast with God.
We saw Jesus do that crucifixion thing. Which was kind of harsh. Jesus had us really worried. But now He’s alive again. So its okay. We can go on now. “John could you pass the bread?” “Jesus would you like another fish?” “Pardon me, but do you have any Grey Poupon?”
Have you ever been where these guys were at? Crisis can turn us towards God. Which isn’t a bad thing. In the midst of great drama - the really hard stuff of life - we tend to have a greater sense our need for God and to turn Him. That’s a good thing. Except for this: Crisis can turn us towards God. Calm - status quo - calm can turn us to complacency.
There’s a warning here for us. How easily we can slip back into the familiar - the status quo of life.
We did the Resurrection Sunday thing. That was pretty neat. But kinda fading in our memories. A lot has happened in our lives since then. There’s another potluck at the end of the service today. School’s almost over. Summer’s coming. We’re thinking about vacation. Personally we’re pretty much okay. Reasonable health. Income - kinda happening. We can go down this mental list and feel pretty comfortable.
Bible study starts to lose our sense of need to be in the word and our openness to the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we get lazy and start reading what others think about the Bible rather intentionally reading and studying and marinating in it for ourselves.
Prayer looses its urgency - our sense of desperation and crying out need when we’re in crisis.
Worship together becomes routine. Something that will still be there next Sunday. Almost like all this is about us. Somehow we loose sight of the astounding reality of being drawn together before the holy God our creator - who saves us by His grace not our merit.
We give - maybe tithe - and feel free to spend the rest as we choose. Sharing our faith happens - kinda. But not intentional. Service is on our time.
Let’s be honest. We all can slip into comfortable patterns of a complacent life where we forget the urgency of what we’re involved with. Church - relationship with God - where we’re comfortable enough with what is.
Pentecost - especially for us today - Pentecost is God popping our little bubble world that we cocoon ourselves in - a reality check about what it means to live life as a follower of the resurrected Jesus Christ - empowered and under the control of the Holy Spirit. We live in touch with the living almighty one true holy creator God - our creator. We’re in the midst of the spiritual battle for the eternal destiny of mankind. When we live in the reality of Pentecost there is no way to live complacent in the reality of all that.
God empowers us - to live life on the edge - out of our bubble. Life with purpose. Life lived in the hands of the living God living out the reality of His resurrection power in us. That is the fullness of life that - bottom line - we all crave to experience. We have been created to live. Way different than what we often settle for - the mediocrity of stumbling through life by our own whit, wisdom, and working.
Coming to the book of Acts. In Acts 1:4 - Jesus commanded His disciples - His followers - those who believed - “not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father” In Acts 1:8 Jesus says, “You will receive power - the power to live and do what I’ve commanded you to do - you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and - then - you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Pentecost was the second of the three great yearly Hebrew festivals.
The first - in the order of how these festivals were celebrated during the year - the first festival on the calendar was Passover. What Jesus had celebrated with His disciples.
The second festival was Pentecost. Pentecost is Greek for… 50. Pentecost took place 50 days after Passover.
The third festival was Tabernacles that came at the end of the harvest approximately 4 months after Pentecost. In the fall - in September or October - depending on how it falls on the calendar.
Pentecost on one hand was connected with the harvest that was taking place about now. But Pentecost - in the time of Jesus - Pentecost was also tied to the giving of the Ten Commandments. Moses on Mount Sinai. Which - according to Exodus 19 - which took place 50 days after the Exodus. Exodus meaning Passover. Pentecost - Moses on Mount Sinai - 50 days later.
Which is an important link for us to follow. Hang on to something.
Passover being the festival that celebrated God’s redeeming Israel - buying them out of their bondage in Egypt - think bondage to the sin of this world. God delivering them - saving them from all that - through the shedding and application of the blood of the Passover lamb.
Israel’s first born live. Right? Because... the lamb’s blood is applied to the door posts and lintels. God passes over His people. Egypt’s first born get dead. And God’s people get out of Egypt free.
Hearing in that the cross and our redemption from bondage to this world and our sin - and our deliverance - our salvation - by the blood of the Lamb of God - Jesus - is intentional.
Pentecost - the giving of the Ten Commandments - what unites God’s people together in what it means to be God’s people to live as God’s people in obedience to God - is tied to that. If we can hear in that God giving the Holy Spirit to form the Church - the body of Christ - and to empower us to live as God’s people - witnessing of Jesus - there’s intention in that as well.
The third festival is... Tabernacles. Which is the harvest festival that takes place in the fall. Four months later. Meaning between Pentecost and Tabernacles crops are planted - raised - and in the fall… harvested.
Can we hear Jesus saying, “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest… I sowed. You reap.” Luke records Jesus saying, “Pray for harvesters.” (John 4:35-38; Luke 10:2)
The work of the Church - saved by the blood of the Lamb - Passover - united and empowered by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost - harvesting - until the return of Jesus - Tabernacles - when we - His harvest - are gathered in and up to heaven.
We’re together? How these festivals fit - where Pentecost - and the coming of the Holy Spirit - is all part of what God has been intentionally doing since before Adam. The significance of Pentecost for us today.
So Jerusalem is packed with people. In the midst of this large crowd gathered for Pentecost and the festival - are these 120 disciples doing what Jesus commanded them to do - waiting together in Jerusalem.
Acts 2 brings us to The Experience of Pentecost.
Acts 2:1: When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
This is what Jesus said would happen - the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes with wind - which represents God’s power in our lives. He comes with fire - which represents God’s purifying of our lives from sin. He comes and gives the use of tongues - which were languages known to those who were around them. Languages - which enabled the followers of Jesus to boldly - with clarity and sincerity - witness of Jesus Christ.
Verse 5: Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound - the rushing wind - the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them - the disciples - speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?
The Greek word translated “language” is “dialektos” which is where we get our English word… “dialect.”
In Armenia they speak... Armenian. But a village in one valley can speak a different dialect of Armenian than a village in another valley. Same basic language. Different words. Different accent. Makes it easy to recognize where someone is from because of how the speak. Hard to understand what they’re saying if we don’t know they dialect.
For example. The word in Armenian for bride is “hars.” In one village that word is pronounced “horse.” Instead of “I married my hars.” “I married my... horse.” Which can get confusing.
Point being: These are uneducated fisherman - from Galilee - which has its own dialect. And they’re speaking using the local dialects of the people gathered in Jerusalem from all over the place. The disciples not only have the different dialects right - all the local vocabulary and idioms - they’ve even got the accent down. They’re speaking like they were natives - born and raised in all those different places.
The word for “bewildered” has the idea of brain freeze. These devout men from all these different places were hearing this and their brains locked up - overloaded - by trying to process all that.
Verse 9 - tells us where these people were from: Parthians and Medes and 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 Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”
Looking at the map just makes what the Holy Spirit is doing here so much more bewildering. Notice that all the four corners of the compass get mentioned.
Which is true of our service today. All four corners of the compass and all the continents - besides Antarctica - are being represented the languages we’re hearing in today’s service.
“Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia - are all to the east of Jerusalem - then to the north - Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phyrgia and Pamphylia - Roman provinces of Asia Minor - then south and west to - Egypt and the parts of Lybia belonging to Cyrene - in northern Africa - then west - visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and - lastly southeast - Arabs.
From all over the known world - from every nation they’d come to Jerusalem for Pentecost - with the sound of the rushing wind this huge crowd had been attracted to these 120 disciples - and now they said, “we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”
The Application of Pentecost Verse 12: And all were amazed and perplexed - literally astonished and a at a total loss - with no explanation for what they were hearing - saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” Meaning, they’re drunk.
That question resonates. “What does this mean?”
If we were to keep reading in chapter 2 - which I encourage you to do - not now but maybe this afternoon. If we were to keep reading in chapter 2 - Peter gets up and Peter gives the answer to the question. This is what this means. Rather than read through Peter’s whole sermon - here in a nutshell is his answer.
The reason for the wind and the little fires and all these people speaking in different languages - your dialects - the reason for Pentecost - isn’t because they’re drunk. Its because they’re Holy Spirit empowered witnesses. This is about God at work. God doing what God said He would do. God who’s been working through out our history. God who raised up from the dead the Jesus whom you crucified. Jesus who is both the Lord and the Messiah - the Savior.
Peter who’s waited in Jerusalem. Peter who’s been empowered by the Holy Spirit. Peter who answers the question - witnessing of Jesus. And about 3,000 people repent of their sins. Become followers of Jesus. They become Holy Spirit empowered witnesses of Jesus.
Processing all that… What does this mean for us?
We can get so distracted by so many peripheral issues. Too often when we hear about Pentecost we end up in a discussion about being “Pentecostal.” Discussions about people drooling and rolling on floors and running around sanctuaries. Sometimes even Christians can mock Christians. Just saying.
We get locked up in debates about if these are known languages or a heavenly language? Some special prayer language? Is everyone suppose to speak in tongues? Did this just happen back then? Can it happen today? What about being baptized in the Spirit? What about prophecy and visions and dreams? The debate goes on and on endlessly creating division and distraction from the purpose of the Church.
Please hear this. If we are believers in Jesus Christ - then we are pentecostal. The Church of Jesus Christ was born on Pentecost. We shouldn’t let the abuse or misuse, by some, of being pentecostal, keep us from trusting the Holy Spirit in our lives and experiencing the blessing and joy of being pentecostal. God has a work that He desires to do in us and through us.
There’s a day of judgment coming - a harvest - and the church needs to be about the work of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Being witnesses of Jesus to the ends of the earth. Or, geographically - in terms of distance from Jerusalem - if Merced isn’t the end of the earth you can see it from here. Welcome to the mission field.
When eternity comes the Church - those of us who are in Jesus - the saving blood of the Lamb having been applied to our lives - the Church will enter into eternity with God. The opportunity to invite others to join us in eternity will be gone forever. Language - signs - spiritual gifting - these are all tools - means - to accomplish the great purpose of the Church on earth - which is to proclaim the salvation of God - to be witnesses of Jesus Christ. Amen!
And yet - too many churches today spend time and energy endlessly debating issues that lead no one to salvation. Issues that have very little impact on where people really live their lives. Many churches sleep in a religious stupor or traditions dreaming about the past. Our own little religious bubble worlds.
Too many Christians live in a self-indulgent complacent comfort zone - wasting God’s resources - while the time to share Jesus with our neighbors grows shorter - their bondage grows stronger - their desperation grows greater.
There is a great need today - perhaps greater than there has ever been - a tremendous need for men and women - for churches - to be where God wants us to be - waiting upon Him - to be led and empowered by the Holy Spirit - to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.
A few years back a number of pest control companies from California to Florida put microscopic bar codes on 350 cockroaches and set them free in 14 cities in 13 states. Did you hear about this? If someone actually caught one of these cockroaches - depending on the bar code - a person could win anywhere from $100 to a Volkswagen Bug to the grand prize of $1,000.000.
how bazaar that was - thinking about the size of the US
- what opportunity would anyone have of finding the
million dollar cockroach?
Its impossible. (1)
Which is often how we feel about the Christian life. Its hard - knowing where most of us live our lives - its hard to get a grip on Pentecost - on pentecostal living. God empowering His people to transform the world of men - compelling us to move beyond the familiar - the ordinary. Most of us are just trying to reach ordinary.
We hear the wake up call. The alarm goes off. But we hesitate. We often see ourselves as inadequate for what we know we’re called to. Which nags at us.
We can compare ourselves to others: “They’re more educated. They’re more gifted at sharing. They’ve got more time or more experience.”
Or looking at Creekside we can compare ourselves to other churches: “Such-and-such a church has X number of people attending. They have this ministry or that staff.”
Who cares? What God may do through others isn’t the issue. Our feelings of inadequacy - what often are excuses we hide behind - all that isn’t the issue.
The question is: How does God desire to use us to impact the places where we do life with His gospel? What does that mean?
Billy Graham, in his book, The Holy Spirit, shares about a man who looked at the obituary column of his local newspaper. Have you heard this? To his surprise he saw his own name - indicating that he had just died. At first he laughed about it. But pretty soon his stunned friends and family began to call to inquire and offer sympathy to this man’s immediate family.
Finally, in irritation, he called the newspaper editor and angrily reported that - even though he had been reported dead - he was very much alive. The editor was apologetic and in a flash of inspiration said, “Don’t worry. I’ll take care of it. Tomorrow I’ll put your name in the birth column.” (2)
Here’s the spiritual truth: We need to die in order live. We need to first come to the Passover. To let go of our idea that life is about us and what we do for God. To trust God with our lives.
Imagine the disciples trying to go out and witness - obeying God - living for God by their own power and cleverness. Ever been there? Real quick we come face to face with our own inadequacy. Living and witnessing of Jesus in our own power only proves our inadequacy. No wonder we hesitate. Why would anyone ever be attracted to Jesus if all they see are our stumbling efforts at doing life?
Jesus said, “Wait in Jerusalem.” To wait is to die. To totally surrender ourselves to God - His timing and work in our lives. To die to ourselves so that the only thing living in us is of God. So that when people look at our lives they see only God at work. The witness is of God.
Jesus said, “Don’t be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Matthew 10:19,20)
Which is Pentecost. The world-wide witness of the Church is impossible without the indwelling and empowering of the Holy Spirit. Dying leaves us wide open to the work of the Holy Spirit in and through us.
The Holy Spirit came. He took these 120 disciples - gathered together - held together only by a mutual experience with Jesus Christ - He baptizes them into one Body - infills them - empowers them - transforms them into the Church of Jesus Christ - to boldly proclaim the gospel - beginning with that crowd in Jerusalem - and transforming the world of men.
1. AP Broadcast Publication date: 2000-05-03 - KCBS web site
2. Billy Graham, The Holy Spirit, Word Books, Waco, Texas, 1978, page 211
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.