Recently I posted a picture on Facebook that a friend of mine sent me, asking, “has this ever happened to you?” I said it hadn’t and reposted the picture, but (I guess with my technological incapacities) it came across as “look what happened to me today!” The picture was of the misunderstanding that took place when a Starbucks barista asked someone named Brian what his name was and he answered, “Bryan with a Y.” Clearly a misunderstanding!
We’ve started a sermon series entitled Intoxicated. The word comes from a misunderstanding about what was happening in the lives of the disciples when the Holy Spirit fell on them. It was such an inexplicable experience that those who were seeing the effects accused them of being drunk!
But something else was going on. Jesus has promised them the Holy Spirit in his bodily absence for work in their lives and work in the world, and he had gone to great lengths to explain what that was going to look like. Even though the world would misunderstand what was happening, they would know and understand what God was up to in the life of the follower of Jesus: they would have his constant presence: I will no longer be with you – there’s something better…I will be IN you! And they would have constant guidance: the Spirit will guide you into all truth, teach you about me and remind you of what I have said. And the Holy Spirit in the world would convict the world of its sin and brokenness, reveal God’s right way, and make way for the judgment: the impending collision of the world’s way and God’s way.
Now they were at that moment. The promised Holy Spirit, the promised power was poured out on them; and along with the misunderstanding came the unexpected!
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Acts 1:8
The disciples knew what Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would do. They just didn’t know how the Holy Spirit would do what Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would do. Jesus had generalized the “how” by saying, “When the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will receive power for…
Last week we listened in on Jesus explaining to his followers what the Holy Spirit was going to do in them and in the world and how that was going to be unexplainable to the world. But Jesus wasn’t a whole lot more specific with the disciples—here is what is going to happen. Here is how that is going to happen—you will receive power. The rest you will have to wait for.
So I think the disciples were surprised themselves. I think while it was unexplainable for the world, much of what happened when the promise of power was fulfilled was unexpected by the disciples.
What was the effect of the power of the Holy Spirit being poured out on the disciples?
Patience (Acts 1:12-13)
Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, a distance of half a mile. When they arrived, they went to the upstairs room of the house where they were staying. Acts 1:12-13
Jesus breathed on them the Holy Spirit (in John 20:22). It was a moment before the full-time fulfilling; it was an appetizer before the feast.
Jesus had told them and they believed that God was up to something and they would rather be about something with God than about something without him.
No doubt, in the excitement of the resurrection and the interactions with the living Christ they could have rushed out to do something for Jesus—but the power of the Holy Spirit had breathed into them the power of patience to wait because Jesus had said “wait.”
Unity (Acts 1:24)
Quite possibly the most stunning evidence of the power of the Holy Spirit descending on the disciples in a temporary portion before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit’s constant presence is found in verse 24.
Disciples whose history is arguing over who is greatest (Mark 9:33-35) and clamoring for prominent positions (Mark 10:35-45) shouldn’t be expected to be agreeable about who the replacement disciple should be or the process for selecting that disciple. But these disciples are different.
There is a spirit of unity…the Holy Spirit has fallen on them and they pray, “O Lord, you know every heart. Show us which of these men YOU have chosen…”
We don’t want what we want…we want what you want.
They were unified, aligned with God’s will more than their personal desires.
They had seen and believed that what God had for them was more and better and higher than anything they could procure for themselves. And so patient and unified, waiting expectantly for what Jesus had promised, the power they had experienced in measure now fell in all its fullness.
The Spirit Fell (Acts 2:1-4)
They were all together in one place and the Holy Spirit, the promised power came in the sound of a roaring mighty windstorm and flames of fire on each of them.
There is, of course, nothing necessarily sensory about the Holy Spirit. Yet God in his providence often accompanies his Spirit’s working by visible and audible signs.
Wind it is everywhere, constant; Ezekiel had prophesied of the wind as the breath of God blowing over the dry bones in the valley of his vision and filling them with new life (Ezekiel 37:9-14), and it was this wind of God’s Spirit that Judaism looked forward to as ushering in the final Messianic Age.
Fire as a symbol of the divine presence was well known among first-century Jews (the burning bush [Exodus 3:2-5], the pillar of fire that guided Israel by night through the wilderness [Exodus 13:21], the consuming fire on Mount Sinai [Exodus 24:17], and the fire that hovered over the wilderness tabernacle [Exodus 40:38]).
Luke’s main point is that this “sound like the blowing of a violent wind” that “came from heaven” and “filled the whole house” symbolized to all present—in a manner well within their appreciation—the presence of God’s Spirit among them in a way more intimate, personal, and powerful than they had ever before experienced.
And it happened to them while together…but the power of the Holy Spirit fell on – note these key words—”each of them and everyone…” No one was left out. Every believer received the Holy Spirit.
And this up-close-ness, this power produced in them…
Look what happened…disciples who had gathered in the upper room moved outside.
Before, in the post-crucifixion days, the disciples hid in the upper room out of fear of the Jews (John 20:19); they now gathered in great expectation of the promise of the Holy Spirit and when the Holy Spirit fell, they went out into the public arena—boldly, fearlessly, and faithfully to use the…
We will take a closer look at the varieties of gifts that are given by the power of the Holy Spirit, but in this instance, the power expresses itself in languages.
Notice, what the disciples are speaking are known languages. They are not speaking in tongues—a gift we will hear more about in a couple of weeks. They are speaking in languages that they had not learned but were common to the people who had gathered from all over the region.
The people who hear this phenomenon are bewildered. Galileans had difficulty pronouncing gutturals and had the habit of swallowing syllables when speaking; so they were looked down upon by the people of Jerusalem as being provincial (cf. Mark 14:70). Therefore, since the disciples who were speaking were Galileans, it bewildered those who heard because the disciples could not by themselves have learned so many different languages.
Why this gift at this moment? Verse 11 gives us some guidance—so that the people who had never heard the “wonderful things God has done!” can hear and understand!
And so we are given an answer to why the power of the Spirit comes at Pentecost to live in the life of every follower of Jesus…
By the Holy Spirit’s power, patience, unity, fearlessness and gifts are all manifested, poured out and given to the followers of Jesus for…
The Announcement of the Wonderful Things God Has Done
The disciples do this as a Holy Spirit-filled group and in the section immediately following, Peter does this as an individual. He steps up to preach.
We will see that not everyone is a proclaimer, but everyone, by the gifts that the Holy Spirit gives, is to be an “announcer of the wonderful things God has done.”
If we return to Acts 1:8 and to the description of what Jesus says we will do when the power comes upon us, this is what he says: “you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere.”
That word witness in the original language is martus. You don’t have to be a language scholar to figure that word out do you? Do you know any other word that sounds like martus? How about martyr? This is the same word—Jesus says, “When the Holy Spirit comes you will receive power—and the result of that is that you will give your life for this—telling people about me everywhere and announcing the wonderful things God has done.
The power of the Holy Spirit falls on the disciples today because the Holy Spirit does what needs to be done in the lives of the followers of Jesus so that God can do through them what needs to be done in the world.
Is there scatteredness? The Holy Spirit unifies.
Is there anxiety or fear? The Holy Spirit instills a spirit of fearlessness.
Is there concern for a lack of giftedness or ability? The Holy Spirit pours out gifts.
So that the purposes of God might be accomplished in the world; and what is this purpose?
That all may know him, know his love and experience the new life that only God can give.
God doesn’t give people the Holy Spirit in order to let them enjoy the spiritual equivalent of a day at Disneyland. Of course, if you’re downcast and gloomy, the fresh wind of God’s Spirit can and often does give you a new perspective on everything, and above all grants a sense of God’s presence, love, comfort, and even joy. But the point of the Spirit it is to enable those who follow Jesus to take into all the world the news that he is Lord, that he has won the victory over the forces of evil, that a new world has opened up, and that we are to help make it happen.
And for the accomplishment of this purpose, God promises every Christian power.
Is there a misunderstanding on your part of who the Holy Spirit is or what the Holy Spirit does? The Holy Spirit is the constant presence of Christ, the constant guidance of Christ in you. The Holy Spirit gives the promise of power to overcome our impatience, disunity and our fears; the Holy Spirit fulfills the promise of power to gift you to do the work of God in the world.
A.W. Tozer was a pastor from rural Pennsylvania who spent over 30 years pastoring, preaching and writing in Chicago. His down-to-earth nature has made his writing popular for over 50 years now. I try to start my morning at the office by reading his devotional for the day and this past week he had something for me that clarified what an amazing gift God gives us in the power of the Holy Spirit. And he raised it in one sentence—“we have to ask ourselves are we simply holding on to the painted mane of the painted horse, repeating a trip of insignificant circles to a pleasing musical accompaniment?”
Let me explain what was clarified for me: on an almost daily basis I am persuaded by the world that I live in a mechanistic world where I am what I produce. I can believe, quite easily, that I was created to pick up a screw put it in a hole, pick up a screw put it in a hole, pick up a screw put it in a hole, clock out and go home. In that kind of world, I can question why I am here and whether what I do really matters in any way beyond the provision of goods and services and the earning of an income. I can feel like I am simply holding on to the painted mane of the painted horse repeating a trip of insignificant circles to a pleasing musical accompaniment.
But – God says, “I have a plan for you.” And that plan goes beyond loving me and redeeming me. He didn’t suffer, die and live again so I could joyfully play in the yard for the rest of my life, oblivious to his plan that moves from promise to power to purpose.
I am God’s plan for turning the world upside-down. You are God’s plan for turning the world upside-down. And for this reason, Jesus promised and God pours out power on every follower of Jesus.
Power that unifies also emboldens and gifts for the purpose of telling the wonderful things that God has done in our own unique way. So that the power of the resurrection let loose in us is let loose through us into the world.
And so dear friends, you might not have expected this…but let there be no misunderstanding…there is power promised to you because you are God’s plan for telling the world the wonderful things He is doing!
The power of the Holy Spirit is given to every follower of Jesus, but sometimes it is hemmed in by our rushing out to do something for Jesus ahead of the Spirit. And sometimes the Holy Spirit is hemmed in by our reluctant spirit to do anything at all. Sometimes the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives is hemmed in by our fears or our convictions that we aren’t gifted enough. Jesus, turn the power of the Holy Spirit loose in my life.