19 May 2013

Acts 2:1-21

"When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability." (vv. 1-4)


Pentecost in the Jewish tradition was 50 days after the Passover Festival. Those 50 days began with a celebration of God's greatest act of deliverance when Israel was brought in safety out of Egypt. They reached their climax when the Jewish community called to mind the original phenomena of Sinai, the voice of God announcing the law amidst the blazing fire (Exodus 20). Here Luke, the author of the Acts of the Apostles, transposes the Jewish Passover of the great deliverance into the Christian Exodus - a deliverance from death and sin accomplished in the Paschal Easter mystery of Christ's death and resurrection. So - in the same way - 50 days later, Luke transposes the blazing fire of Sinai and the giving of the Law into the living flames of the first Christian Pentecost and the descent of the Holy Spirit on the first Christian believers (verses 2-4).

The great themes of the Christian Pentecost are the good news of the gospel message, the gift of communication and the offer of salvation to all. The Holy Spirit gave the Apostles the power and ability to express themselves and the power to be understood - the Spirit setting up a two-way process (verses 4-6)!

The good news of the gospel is an account of the miracles and signs of Jesus of Nazareth and of God's total involvement and victory in the crucifixion and resurrection. Luke lists representatives of the entire known world (verses 9-11) as being present to hear and to receive a gospel message brought to life by the Spirit.

To Ponder

  • There are almost 7,000 languages spoken in the world today. Over 5,000 of these have some part of the Christian Scriptures in their native tongue.
  • Over 1,200 language groups have the New Testament in their heart language. Over 500 language groups have access to the whole Bible in the language they understand best.
  • If you had to condense the gospel message into a few sentences for translation into another language, what would you write?

Bible notes author

The Revd Prebendary Norman Wallwork

Norman Wallwork is a supernumerary Methodist minister and a retail chaplain in central Exeter. He is also a prebendary or canon of Wells Cathedral.