Pentecost

Theme
OUR DIFFERENCES ARE ONLY SKIN DEEP!
Verses
Acts 2, 1-21
Hymns
188, 183, 539, 87

                                                          Acts 2:1-21

           When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” 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. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘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. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”

            See these two dimes.  Put them together.  The thickness of these two dimes is about 2mm, which is also the thickness of the skin on your body that protects your internal organs.  2mm!   

            But if you listen to some rabble rousers with a microphone today, they will tell you that this 2mm of skin divides people so violently, there can never be peace between them.  Or rather it’s the pigment of this 2mm of skin that builds a barrier that can never be breached.  Because of a difference of color in these 2mm of skin, people of different races can never live together in peace and harmony!  Can you believe that?

            Try an experiment!  Take an African-American mother from inner city Atlanta, a Caucasian mother from Omaha, an Asian mother from San Francisco, a Hispanic mother from Tucson, and a Native American mother from northern Michigan, then add a mother from Mosco, one from Tokyo, one from Zimbabwe, and one from Afghanistan, put them all together in one room, and ask them what is most important to them.  It won’t be any geopolitical position newscasters are claiming to be so important!  It won’t be a discussion as to whether you think capitalism is better than Marxism.  You want to know what is most important to each and every one of these women from all over the world?  They want a safe home for their family, where they have enough food!  They want their children to be healthy and strong!  They want to be able to send their children outside to play without being terrified for their lives.  They want their family to be safe!  They want their children to grow up healthy, get a good job, get married, and give them grandchildren.  That is what each one of those mothers will want!  No matter their nationality, their language, or what color that 2mm of their skin is! 

            There are outward differences between people in our world!  All very minor.  But the similarities between people all over this world is overwhelming. 

            This is the message the Holy Spirit gave to His people on that first Pentecost.  The Jews thought that if you weren’t Jewish, God will never accept you.  You are doomed to go to hell!  But on Pentecost, the Holy Spirit tells them, “You’re wrong.!”  It’s not your skin color or your language, or your nationality that is important.  God tells them, THOSE DIFFERENCES ARE ONLY SKIN DEEP!  Only 2mm deep!

                                                                                        I

            The Festival of Pentecost was one of three festivals that God expected His people to come back to Jerusalem to worship and make sacrifices.  So, the city of Jerusalem was busy and filled with people. “There were staying in Jerusalem, God fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.”  Pious God-fearing Jews came from their native homes all over the world to Jerusalem to worship their God.   

            But on this Festival of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus’ disciples in a very powerful way.  We read, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”  These fishermen from the backwoods of Galilee suddenly had the ability to speak in a different language.  And it’s not just that they spoke a different language, they spoke it like someone who had been born speaking that language. 

            And suddenly there is a crowd surrounding the disciples.  “When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken.  Utterly amazed they asked, ‘Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans?  Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?”  Jews who had been born and raised in Cappadocia heard the disciples speaking in Cappadocian!  Jews who had been born in Phrygia heard these Galileans speaking in Phrygian!   

            And it wasn’t that these disciples were sharing some simple little ditty that would be easy for a beginner to handle.  No!  They said, “we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”  The message of God’s love and God’s salvation!  The promises God made to His people.  The precious message of salvation spoken not in Hebrew which you would expect!  But in their own native language they were born in. 

            So, why did the Holy Spirit do this?  Why did He give the disciples the ability to speak in languages that people could understand?  Because the Holy Spirit was telling the world, “We’re going to do something new!  Something different!  We’re going to change things up a bit!” 

Old Testament worship of God was limited to only a certain bunch of people.  People couldn’t come to God anytime they wanted, in any way they wanted!  There were certain requirements that must be met before you could come.  You had to be a Jew!  Or if you were a Gentile, you needed to submit yourself to all the laws and regulations of the Jews.  You had to live according to the laws and regulations God had set down in the Bible.  You had to be a morally acceptable person.  And you had to understand Hebrew!  Hebrew was the language of the Bible.  Hebrew will be the language of the worship service!  Hebrew will be the only language used in the worship of God.  If you want to know what’s going on, if you want to participate in the worship service, if you want to hear the precious message of God’s love, you need to know Hebrew.  We’re not going to dummy it down for people.  We’re not going to come down to your level!  If you want to worship God, then you better know Hebrew or you will be lost!  And so, all these God-fearing Jews had to learn Hebrew!

On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit, said, “We’re going to do things differently now!  We’re going to make some changes.”  No longer will the Word of God be proclaimed only in Hebrew!  We’re going to preach it in any and every language these people understand!  Worship of God will no longer be limited to Jews, or those who try to be Jews.  Worship of God will no longer be limited only to those who show that they are good and decent people.  Anyone and everyone will be welcomed to worship God.  Salvation is no longer a matter of an individual proving himself to be worthy of God!  Salvation will be God coming to each and every individual wherever they are, at whatever point there are in their life, in whatever language they speak, and it will be God coming to them, to rescue and to save them.  Salvation is no longer reserved just for those who speak the right language, and have the correct skin color!  Salvation is for every person of every nation of every language and every skin color!  We are no longer separated and divided by a wall based on the color 2of mm of flesh!  That wall came down on Pentecost.  Every one of us is exactly the same.  We are sinners separated from God because of our sin.  We are sinners who need help from God.  And we are sinners for whom Jesus died!  And because of His death for us, we are all precious children of God. 

                                                                                             II

            When the people asked the disciples what this all meant, Peter told them that this was a fulfillment of what Joel the prophet said.  God is going to pour out His Spirit on his people and there will be some major changes!  In the Old Testament, only certain men could prophesy, only those chosen by God.  Anyone else would be considered a false prophet and should be stoned to death.  But not anymore.  God will pour out His spirit on His people and they will all prophesy.  “I will pour out my Spirit on all people.  Your sons and daughter will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.  Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.”  Not just a select few!  But all of God’s people will be proclaiming the grace and mercy of God. 

            But perhaps the greatest change of all?  Those last words.  “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  “Everyone!”  Not just those who are the right nationality, or the right skin color.  Everyone!  Not just the good and pious!  Not just the cream of society.  Everyone!  Even that criminal who is terrified of dying!  Even that avowed atheist, who is brought face to face with death, and finally in fear realizes that he needs God.  Everyone!

            “Who calls on the name of the Lord.”  Not just those who have studied Hebrew!  Not just those who have shown they are worthwhile!  Simply calling on the name of the Lord.  Simply saying, “Lord help me!” 

            “Will be saved.”  That is a given fact!  You call on the name of the Lord, and you will be saved.  There’s no question!  There’s no conditions!  There’s no hesitation.  It’s not that God says, “Well, let me think about it!  “Let me see how you do over the next few years to see if you are really sincere!”  You will be saved.  And there’s no question.  Sometimes, even though we are Christians, we fail God miserably!  We may even curse God because we’re so hurt and angry!  And suddenly we wonder if God will hold that against us!  Will God ever get fed up with us, and just say, “I am sick and tired of our foolishness, and your fickleness.  I’m done with you.”  No!  The Holy Spirit says, “Because you are covered with the blood of Jesus, because you believe in His sufferings and death for you, you WILL BE SAVED!  That’s God promise!  That’s God’s grace!  That is my only comfort and peace!   

            It seems that many people today are trying to build up walls between people simply because of their ethnic background, or their nationality, or their skin color, and they are telling us, these people can never get along!  There will always be war between them.  But for us Christians, Pentecost paints a different picture.  Every person on this earth is exactly the same!   A sinner who needs to hear that he has been redeemed by Jesus!”  Different language?  Different nationality?  Different skin color?  THOSE DIFFERENCES ARE ONLY THIS DEEP, 2mm, ONLY SKIN DEEP!  But our union in Christ?  That is eternal.