Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were bewildered, because they were each one hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and marveled, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? “And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? “Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.” And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others were mocking and saying, “They are full of sweet wine.”
“No one ever had anything bad to say about him,” is a quote of which I read in a recent obituary. I knew the the man, but not well and as far as I am concerned, I certainly don’t have anything bad to say about him. Nevertheless, is that how one should wish to be remembered? Do I want my eulogy to read, “No one ever had a bad word to say about him, some even had a good word? He neither offended anyone nor made anyone feel uncomfortable; the ultimate people pleaser.”
I also have recently read some very disturbing news; news of which I struggle on how much I am able to reveal without compromising lives. The situation is that serious. The pen is mightier than the sword and if I write too much, I risk life and limb of not only myself but also of my friends. It’s a horrifyingly true story, unfamiliar to those of us in the United States–so far. It also won’t be covered by the media, but it’s true nonetheless.
A dear friend, I know fairly well, has many powerful people saying many bad things about him. And not only do they say bad things, they have a plan and plot to purge him and his family from the face of the earth. His crime? Speaking the truth–he is a pastor, and a good one. I certainly have nothing bad to say about him, knowing him well. In fact, I am in absolute awe of the Holy Spirit working through him. A man of small stature, he is undoubtedly the most effective pastor I have ever met. He makes a thousand decisions a day, oversees a large flock, and all the other local churches and missionaries. I have personally seen him go with two hours sleep because he was “needed” by many people, over a 72 hour period, never missing a beat or shutting down a cylinder. Kindly and generously he seeks to make his home a better place for everyone to live, and to walk with God. And for this, his government wants him dead, but only after they kill his family first, so that his suffering will be extraordinary.
“No one had a bad thing to say about him.” I am not sure this is how I want my eulogy to read. I think I would rather it be written by my detractors, saying something like, “he was full of sweet wine, don’t trust anything he said.” That way, I would resemble the apostles and not the world. But I have a long way to go and a short time to get there.
Notice today’s text and consider the context. The great reversal of the tower of Babel has happened, where God once confused the one language into a myriad of languages, now the Spirit speaks through the apostles in the languages of those there. “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born?” A miracle of miracles which was mocked; “They are full of sweet wine.”
Think about that, ponder and dwell on the unbelievable unbelief. Let’s dig deeper into the text to highlight the hypocrisy. “Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were bewildered, because they were each one hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and marveled, saying, ‘Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.”
Why then did some think that they were drunk? People from all around Persia, Pontus and Asia, are hearing from the Spirit, the mighty deeds of God, through his humble, human servants. And yet, many mocked. Seriously, what more proof did they need? I am in great distress concerning my pastor-friend who had to flee from earthly forces with his family. Yet I am also comforted because history repeats itself–we’re promised persecution but also promised paradise. I don’t know what the fore-futue holds for my friends but I know what the far-future holds for them and for their detractors. Paradise for the family and for the unbelieving, wrath, unless they have a change of mind. I pray for the latter.
Nevertheless, there are only two types of people in the end, as C.S. Lewis has said, “those who say to God, ‘thy will be done,’ and those to whom the Lord says, ‘thy will be done.'” People from all nations and tribes and tongues have, are, and will be, invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb. But this is not new, even in the Law of Moses, God was looking for the stranger, foreigner and alien.
We read in Leviticus 19; “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” Few things truly change in the world except for the New Covenant in Christ’s blood. When the Holy Spirit came, God reversed the curse of the Tower of Babel and had his servants speak in the Spirit, to those present, in their own tongues.
And yet there were, as there always has been and always will be, mockers. Notice that the mockery wasn’t centered on the eschatological beliefs of the apostles but on their speaking in foreign languages. Nor did they mock them for indiscernible noises and chatter of glossolalia but for xenoglossy. The apostles were not using meaningless words such as, “imma imma oommpapa baba baba oo pa pa pa ba ba coonta.” Notice the context; “And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were bewildered, because they were each one hearing them speak in his own language.” And not only one or two languages, but multiple languages. “Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs.”
“What does this mean?” Many asked this question and yet others mocked. Peter is about to address both but first we must see the scenario through the Scriptural lens, putting aside preconceived notions and presuppositions because Peter is about to decimate dogmatic, dispensational discourse.
Pentecost is the celebration of the giving of the Law, traditionally, not Scripturally. Scripturally, it’s the feast of weeks and first fruits. First of the pilgramage festivals is the Passover, followed by the closely related, feast of weeks. Jesus died on the Passover and the Holy Spirit came on the feast of weeks and bore the first fruits, spiritually speaking. Like the nation of Israel before us, we tend to teach tradition rather than truth and those who try to teach truth, are mocked or worse, marked for death. History repeats itself as prophecy fulfilled leads to the circular circumstances because time is not only linear but cyclical. Why else would Jesus die on the Passover and the Holy Spirit come at Pentecost? We’re running over the same ground of which the apostles did, a doubting world that wants us dead, except for one thing; Jesus saves and he sent his Spirit to convict the world of sin.
The Lord never said to celebrate the giving of the Law during the feast of weeks. He said, “You shall count seven weeks for yourself; you shall begin to count seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the standing grain. Then you shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks to the LORD your God with a tribute of a freewill offering of your hand, which you shall give just as the LORD your God blesses you; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite who is in your town, and the stranger and the orphan and the widow who are in your midst, in the place where the LORD your God chooses to establish His name. And you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and you shall be careful to observe these statutes.” “And you shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks, that is, the first fruits of the wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the turn of the year.” We must understand how and why the pilgramage festivals were fulfilled and their spiritual significance. However, this is a lot of ground and cyclical history to highlight.
Peter is about to do just that, hit the highlights. Lord willing, over the next few missives we will see what Peter saw as the Holy Spirit came to not only bring in the first fruits but also the ingathering, which is the feast of booths. Peter proclaims the problem with mockery and the promise prophesied by the prophets and the festivals concerning the Christ and his cross and his Spirit. No one ever had a bad thing to say about Peter, did they?
We’re all sojourners on this earth and we all make mistakes, big ones. God has a list of all the bad things that can be said about us. But for the true believers that list has been nailed to the cross, as Paul promised the Colossian church. There is no Law to follow which can save and no tradition which translates to righteousness, there is only the cross. The Spirit came to convict the world of sin, Jesus came to cleanse. There is simply no other way.
“No one ever had a bad word to say about him.” We’ve lost what it means to be a Christian. Heavily relying on tradition, mega-church and midi-church pastors, wolves in sheep’s clothing, are leading us astray. Promising peace and prosperity, health wealth and happiness, they neither consider the context nor speak from the Spirit. Turn them off and open wide the Bible for yourself, considering the context, author’s aspirations, genre, examples and divide rightly the word of truth. Let the Scripture interpret Scripture and lay aside treacherous traditions. Let a bad word be said of me, that I stood against the prominent pastors. Better yet, let me be forgotten and let the CAGED method of Biblical hermeneutics be remembered.
Remember my friend and his flight. A good pastor seeking to be silenced by the powers that be. Remember all the persecuted people in this earthly dwelling. Persecution is promised to the true believers. Where does that leave us? Mockers have always been there. Ask Moses and Elijah, Elisha and Ezekiel, Jeremiah and Jesus. The dogmatic dispensationalists feel mocked by the new generation, the generation that doesn’t believe that “this generation” means “the generation alive in 1948.” That’s not mocking, that’s the truth. Though history does repeat itself.
Israel was always open to the foreigner and alien, but this comes to a mighty fruition in this passage. The Spirit opens wide the kingdom of God to all the nations by having the apostles proclaim the deeds of God to those present in their native languages by non-native speakers. Spiritually, this is the first fruits shadowed by the Law. People from every nation, coming to the Lord, despite the mockers, and despite the traditions of the elders.