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. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them 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? 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.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words.
As a young person, I often found myself confused by this Acts passage. Obviously, growing up in the Lutheran church, I knew about the Trinity. I knew about the Holy Spirit and his working faith in our hearts. I had read about the Spirit showing up at Jesus’ baptism as a dove, accompanied by God the Father’s voice. But, in this instance, we see the Spirit descending on the Apostles not as a dove, but as “tongues” of fire. While we do not exactly know what this may have looked like, it could have been very frightening for those who witnessed the Pentecost.
I mean, imagine if you saw someone with their head on fire. What would they look like? I always pictured burning flesh and hair, screams of pain and terror, and a horrible smell. However, Paul goes on to illustrate a scene that did not look, sound, or smell like that. Once the apostles had the fire, they could, all of a sudden, speak all sorts of different languages.
Here is the other thought that I used to ponder: If we have the Holy Spirit now, why was the fire necessary? Unfortunately, God doesn’t give us a specific answer to this question, although I scarcely believe that I am the only one to ponder it. I think that the answer might be in the reaction of those around them. This happened in Jerusalem, the largest city in the entire area. One can only imagine the awe of those people who saw. The reading mentions that the people were “Bewildered…, amazed, and astonished”. These men were all roughly from the same area, yet they were speaking the languages of people all around the world!
Maybe God is showing us what sharing the Gospel should look like. God’s work should be catching the attention of all people, and you can help. The way we, as Christians, act toward people, is noticed. When people, in the name of God, put people down or judge them, this gives unbelievers the perfect excuse to reject their place in God’s family.
However, when Christians are loving, kind, and forgiving even in the face of unfair treatment, that is also noticeable. This could be a little bewildering, amazing, and astonishing. This could also provide the opportunity to share with those who desperately need to hear the Word of God. For an additional reading, check out 1 Thessalonians 1:1-8. This passage tells us how the Holy Spirit was helping the Christians in Thessalonica to be examples for those around them. You can do the same!
Dear Heavenly Father, please send your Spirit to help me to love those around me by example. Bless those who are touched by my works, that they might see You in me. Allow my witness to bring people closer to You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
- What are some of your vocations (Roles) in life? How can you use these to set an example for those around you? (You can look at the Table of Duties in your Catechism for help)
- What are some ways that you can strengthen your faith in your daily routine?