‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 “‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. 25 David said about him:
“‘I saw the Lord always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest in hope,
27 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
you will not let your holy one see decay.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.’
29 “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
35 until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.”’
36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
This part of the Bible story takes place some weeks after Jesus has been resurrected. After he’s raised, he spends 40 days on earth appearing to various people and urging his apostles to spread the gospel (Acts 1:3). At the end of the 40 days he’s taken up into heaven, and the first Christians are left to carry out their mission.
Just before Jesus goes, he tells the apostles not the leave Jerusalem until they’ve received ‘the gift my father promised’, which is the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5). At the time, the Apostles don’t really understand what this means (Acts 1:6).
So when the Spirit comes upon them a short time later (2:1-4), they don’t know what to expect. And what happens is really weird and amazing!
Christians today don’t always agree about what it looks like to have the Holy Spirit. But it’s clear that whatever is going on here, at this point in the story God is acting in a way that isn’t normal. He’s doing something extraordinary for the first believers.
Why does he do that?
Peter stands up and explains what this strange spectacle is all about.
Quoting the prophet Joel, Peter reminds the crowd that God has promised to pour out his spirit on all people (v17,19) and to show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below (v19), before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord (v20). These signs will happen so that people know God is coming to judge and to save—so that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (v21).
That’s the point of the miraculous signs: to point to the miraculous work of God.
Peter goes on to explain, quoting David this time, that Jesus’ work on earth was part of this movement of spectacular things that were promised to happen before God’s final day of judgment. Jesus did miracles, wonders and signs to show that he was from God (in fact, he WAS God).
And what did the people do?
They killed Jesus.
When some of the people understand, they are cut to the heart (v37). Their response is exactly right. They now recognise who Jesus is, and they feel heartsick because they haven’t responded the right way. They want to know what to do.
Peter tells them: Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (v38).
The call is the same for us. And the promise is the same for us.
Repent and be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ. And you’ll receive the Holy Spirit.
It might not always look as impressive as it does here. Sure, sometimes the Spirit does move in amazing ways through God’s people. But the Bible has promised that no matter what it looks like—whether or not you speak in mysterious tongues, or perform amazing signs, or experience other miraculous things—if you repent and belong to Jesus, you’ll have his Spirit living in you.
And the great miraculous wonder will happen on that last day, when Jesus comes back. By the power of the Spirit, our bodies will be resurrected—just like Jesus—and we’ll live forever with him.
Head: Having the Holy Spirit doesn’t always feel as exciting as this picture of how it works in Acts 2. How do you know you have the Holy Spirit in you? (See Acts 2:38; Ephesians 1:13-14)
Heart: In vs 37, the people are ‘cut to the heart’ when they understand who Jesus is. Can you think of a time you felt this way about how you’ve treated Jesus?
Hands: If you want to be miraculously resurrected like Jesus, what do you need to do now? If you want others to be raised to life too, what do you need to tell them?
Prayer: Heavenly Father – your ways are wonderful, and you do miraculous things on the earth and in our hearts. In the Bible you’ve shown us how you worked in not-normal ways to bring our attention to the not-normal work of Jesus, when he performed his miraculous solution for our sin—his death and resurrection. Thank you for the Christians who have gone before us, like Peter and the first apostles, who were specially gifted by the Spirit to record the happenings in the early church for our benefit now. Help us to listen to their words in the Bible and follow in their footsteps, repenting and following Jesus, so that we are resurrected to eternal life with him. Move us to tell others about Jesus, and may your Spirit work in their hearts so they will also repent and call on his name for salvation. Amen.
A song to listen to: O Breath of Life
Kamina Wüst- Creek Road Presbyterian Church- South Bank