Imagine the Pentecost scene. The city of Jerusalem is teeming with tourists in town to offer the first fruits of the spring wheat harvest. Certainly there is still a bit of a buzz over this Jesus character who 50 days earlier was said to have risen from the dead after being crucified at the hands of Rome. His disciples, dutifully following the directions Jesus gave them, are waiting and praying for the Advocate to come and guide them in what is coming next, when all of a sudden, the room is filled with noise and light and heat and flame. The disciples, about 120 of them, begin to speak in a cacophony of voices that fill blocks upon blocks of the city with sound. To everyone’s amazement, amidst all this noise, they are able to hear the testimony of God’s deeds of power – presumably in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus – in their own native language. Luke tells us that the crowds response was to be “amazed and perplexed.”
The Greek literally says that they were “beside themselves” with amazement and “wholly at a loss” for what to make of what was happening right in front of them. In the midst of this nearly out of body experience of awe and confusion, some were led to assume that the disciples were merely drunk. This wasn’t beyond the realm of possibility. According to my HarperCollins Study Bible, wine was viewed in the Oracles at Delphi as an enhancement to prophetic speech. While this response is humorous, and probably grabs our attention, the more important reaction comes from the majority of the crowd as the wonder:
“What does this mean?”
What does it mean that devout Jews from the diaspora, all in Jerusalem to take part in one of the less popular Jewish feasts, were given the privilege to hear a word about a subversive Rabbi who was put to death for claiming to be the Messiah? What was God doing in that moment? Looking back, it makes sense that the coming of the Holy Spirit would coincide with a Jewish festival as it seems certain that in that moment, God was using the law to set people free from the corrupt Temple system and invite them into a new covenant with him through the resurrected Messiah.
What does this mean? It means that it is God’s deepest desire that the whole world be restored to right relationship through the saving power of Jesus Christ. It means that beginning in Jerusalem, with faithful Jews, the Good News of Jesus would spread to the whole world. It means that God has a plan for salvation history, and that no matter when we come to faith, we have a role to play in that plan. The Pentecost event is amazing and perplexing, but it is by design, for the sake of the whole world.