First Reading: Acts 2:1-11

Gift of the Spirit

Popular Translation

1 When Pentecost day arrived, everyone gathered together in one place. 2 Suddenly, a noise came from heaven that sounded like a violent wind. The noise filled the house where they sat. 3 Then fiery tongue spread out and sat on each person there. 4 Everyone was filled with the Holy Spirit. And they began to speak foreign languages as the Spirit directed them to.

5 Devout Jews from all over the world lived in Jerusalem at the time. 6 When they heard the disciples speaking, a large number of these Jews gathered together. The people in the crowd were confused because each one of the disciples spoke to them in their own language. 7 They were stunned, and kept wondering, "Aren't all these people from Galilee? 8 We hear them speak in the language where we were born. How can this be? 9 There are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites here. There are also people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, and Asia Minor. 10 We can see those from Phyrgia and Pamphylia, Egypt, and parts of Libya by the Cyrene. 11 There are those visiting from Rome, both Jewish born and converts. There are even Cretans and Arabs. 12 All of us hear God's greatness proclaimed by these people in our own languages!"

Literal Translation

1 On arrival of the day of Pentecost, all were together in the same (place). 2 Suddenly, there was a sound came from heaven, like a violent wind brought forth, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting, 3 and tongues like fire completely spreading out were seen by them, and (the tongue) sat upon each one of them, 4 and all were filled with the Holy Spirit and they began to speak in other languages as the Spirit was giving them to speak out.

5 There were Jews living in Jerusalem, reverent men from every nation under heaven. 6 As (there) were these voices, a (large) number (of Jews) came together and were confused, because (they) were hearing each one (of the disciples) speaking to them in their own language. 7 They were amazed and kept wondering, saying, "Look! Are not all these speaking Galileans? 8 How do we each hear in our own language in which we were born? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, the (ones) living in Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, and Asia, 10 both Phyrgia and Pamphylia, Egypt, and the areas of Libya by the Cyrene, and the visiting Romans, 11 both Jews and converts, Cretans and Arabs, we (all) hear them declaring the greatness of God in our tongues!"

2:1 "day of Pentecost" The word "Pentecost" is literally "fifty." The festival referred to the Feast of Grain Harvest which was celebrated fifty days after Passover (the Feast of Unleavened Bread). While it was an agricultural feast, it gained an association with the reception of the Law on Mt. Sinai. Although the feast began to lose its agricultural significance in the inter-Testamental period (300 B.C. to 100 A.D.), most scholars believe this connection was finally made after the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. Pentecost was one of three feasts that encouraged pilgrimage.

2:2 "it filled the entire house where they were sitting" Sitting was the position of education. Hence, Luke painted the disciples as students of the Spirit.

2:5 "living in Jerusalem" is a loose term that should not be confused with residency. Luke portrayed the city with a cosmopolitan flavor and as a pilgrimage stop. The crowd could contain both locals and visitors. Luke's point was not the composition of the crowd as it was the universal import of the mission and the message.

2:6 "As (there) were these voices" is literally, "As the sound happened." While the sound could have been the noise like the wind or the proclamation of the disciples, the context argued for the later interpretation.

Breathing and life go hand-in-hand. While we might take both for granted, deny our breath and we will panic about life.

To the ancient peoples, breathing was the sign of spirit, a person's life force. In fact, spiritus (Latin), pneuma (Greek), and ruah (Hebrew) all mean breathe and spirit.

When applied to the God, these words mean breeze or wind; many ancient people believed that winds were the result of God's breath. And, by breathing, God gave life. In Genesis 1:2, God breathed his Spirit upon the waters as a mighty wind and life began.

Among Jew, the once agricultural feast of Pentecost [1] now celebrated the reception of God's Law on Mt. Sinai. Luke changed this feast into the reception of the Spirit by Christians. God's breath filled the house like a mighty wind, and new life began in the followers of Jesus. [2].

Then, flames spread over the followers like a wind driven wild fire. This was a sign for enlightenment (fire in the mind) and passion (fire in the belly) [3]. With insight and motivation, the followers of Jesus spread the Good News to others in ways that were clearly understood [4-6].

As a center for worship on a major feast day, Jerusalem swelled with visitors from all parts of the known world. These visitors (mixed with locals) gathered around and heard the proclamation of God's great acts in their native tongues [7-11].

At the first Christian Pentecost, God breathed his Spirit and changed the followers of Jesus. They were new creatures, for God's very Spirit dwelt within them. With their words proclaiming God's mighty acts, Jesus' followers breathed out God's Spirit on others. And God's People were gathered together.

As the place whether God's Spirit dwells, we are his instruments in the world. What we think and say and do spreads God's life giving breathe to others. How do we measure up to this privilege and responsibility?