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LECTIO DIVINA -- Acts 2:1-11


(Pentecost Sunday A)

1) OPENING PRAYER:
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and
kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your
Spirit and they shall be created. And you shall renew the
face of the earth.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct


the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy
Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His
consolations.

Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

2) READING OF THE WORD (What the Word


says): Acts 2:1-11

1 When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all
in one place together.

2 And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a


strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in
which they were.

3 Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which


parted and came to rest on each one of them.

4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled
them to proclaim.

5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem.

6 At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking
in his own language.

7 They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans?

8 Then how does each of us hear them in his own native language?

9 We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,

10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome,

11 both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the
mighty acts of God.
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3) EXPLANATION (What the Word means):

Jewish law required Jewish people to observe three pilgrimage festivals - annual festivals in Jerusalem that
Jewish men were expected to attend:

Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, observed


in March-April (Leviticus 23:4-8; Numbers 28:16-25;
Deuteronomy 16:1-8). These were originally two
festivals, but by New Testament times the Jewish people
had combined them. They celebrated the Exodus from
Egypt.

The Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), observed toward the


end of May or the beginning of June (Leviticus 23:10-21;
Deuteronomy 16:9-12) - also known as the festival of
harvest (Exodus 23:16) or the day of the first fruits
(Numbers 28:26).

The Feast of Booths (or Feast of Tabernacles), observed


in late September or early October (Leviticus 23:33-36,
39-43; Deuteronomy 16:13-15). This was a harvest
festival, celebrating the ingathering of the crops.
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v.1a: When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled,

Pentecost is also known as the Feast of Harvest. It is not


accidental, of course, that the birth of the church, this
great harvest of souls, should occur on this important
(harvest) festival (Cousar, 329).

Pentecost is also known as the Feast of Weeks. Leviticus


23:15-21 requires Jews to observe the Feast of Weeks
fifty days after the offering of the barley sheaf at the
Feast of Unleavened Bread. It says, You shall count
until the day after the seventh Sabbath, fifty days; then
you shall present an offering of new grain to the Lord (Leviticus 23:16).

Thus the feast became known as the Feast of Weeks, because the countdown was seven Sabbaths - seven weeks
- a week of weeks. Numbers 28:26-31 and Deuteronomy 16:9-12 provide details about offerings to be offered
and persons to be included.

The word Pentecost is Greek, meaning fifty, reflecting the fifty-day countdown. As already mentioned, it is
one of three great pilgrimage festivals (the others being Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles), which Jewish
males living near Jerusalem are required to attend and to which Jews from other nations make pilgrimage as
they are able. As many as 180,000 people attend two-thirds from foreign lands.

Scholars believe that, at some point, Pentecost became


primarily a celebration of Gods gift of the Law of
Moses to Israel, serving to remind the Jewish people of
the fifty-day interval between Passover in Egypt and the
giving of the law at Mount Sinai (Walaskay, 34).

Parallels between Moses experience and the first


Christian Pentecost include: Pentecost wind and fire
parallel Sinai thunder and lightning (Acts 2:2-3; Exodus
19:16); Peter parallels Moses as Gods spokesman (Acts
2:14-40; Exodus 31:12); The Spirit-inspired speaking in
languages by 120 disciples at Pentecost parallels Gods
gift of the Spirit at Sinai to the Seventy, who prophesied (Acts 2:1-4; Numbers 11:16-30); On both occasions,
there is a focus on the Lords salvation and the offer of a new relationship between the Lord and the people
(2:21, 38-39; Exodus 19:4-6) (Faw).

We might think of the first Christian Pentecost as beginning with the words of the angel to Mary, The Holy
Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you (Luke 1:35).
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v.1b: they were all in one place together.

These events take place in Jerusalem. For Luke, Jerusalem is not merely a geographical location but is also of
theological significance; it is the place of temptation
(Luke 4:9-13) and of death (Luke 9:31; 13:33; 18:31-32).

Thus, the way of Jesus is towards Jerusalem, where he


suffers, dies and rises.... By contrast, the way of the
church is from Jerusalem toward Rome (Acts 1:8)
(Randolph and Kingsbury, 3).

The people who are gathered together in 2:1 are


presumably the 120 disciples mentioned in 1:15 -
although they could be only the apostles (v. 14). The
mention of a house in 2:2 suggests the possibility that
they have returned to the upper room. In any event, they
move outdoors to preach to the crowd.

v.2a: And suddenly there came from the sky

Jesus disciples retreated into hiding after the crucifixion and waited quietly for God to act. Now the time has
come!

This gift of God comes from the sky - from God.

v.2b: a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.

At the creation of the world, the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his
nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being (Genesis 2:7). Then God breathed breath into
Israel, the first people of God, and their dead bones came to life (Ezekiel 37:7-10). Now at Pentecost Gods
great wind/breath breathes life into the new people of God - the church.

The heavens roar. But it isnt the wind that fills the house, but a noise like a strong driving wind.

The purpose of this sign is to announce the presence of the Spirit. No tornado or hurricane is required - just the
sound will do.

v.3: Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.

In the Old Testament, God showed his presence as a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch (Genesis 15:17) -
and a flame of fire out of a bush (Exodus 3:2-6) - and a pillar of fire (Exodus 13:21) - and smoke and fire at
Sinai (Exodus 19:18) - and a devouring fire (Exodus 24:17).

God used fire to demonstrate his power and the powerlessness of the prophets of Baal - and to execute judgment
on the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:17-40). God used fire to execute his judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah
(Genesis 19:24) - and Egypt (Exodus 9:23-24) - and the Israelites who made the golden calf (Exodus 32:20).
God also instructed Israel to make offerings burned with fire to atone for their sins (Exodus 29:18).
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v.4a: And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit

The Spirit responsible for the birth of Jesus is also


responsible for the birth of the church. The birth of the
church in Acts 1-2 parallels the birth of Jesus in Luke 1-2.

The gift of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 fulfills the prophecy


of John the Baptist in Lukes Gospel, He will baptize
you with the Holy Spirit and fire (Luke 3:16).

Jesus alluded to the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost when he told his disciples to stay here in the city until
you have been clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:49). He restated that in Acts, saying, You will be
baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now (Acts 1:5).

The Spirit that fills the disciples (Acts 2:4) is the same
Spirit that descended upon Jesus at his baptism (Luke
3:22).

Jesus began his ministry Spirit-filled (Luke 4:1), and so


does the church (Acts 2:4, 38).

Jesus told the disciples not to worry about what they


would say when brought before the authorities, because
the Spirit would teach them (Luke 10: 11-12) - a prophecy that we see fulfilled in Acts (4:8; 5:29-32; 6:10; 7:1-
55; 13:46-47; 16:35-39; 21:37 - 22:39; 23:6-10; 24:10-21; 25:1-12; 26:1-32; 28:23-30).As the conclusion of his
Pentecost sermon, Peter says, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that
your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (2:38).

When Peter and John are arrested and required to appear


before the council of rulers, elders, and scribes in
Jerusalem, Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, addressed
the council with a compelling sermon (Acts 4:8).

After Peter and John are released from jail, they gather
together with other Christians to pray, and they were all
filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God
with boldness (Acts 4:31).

When the work of feeding widows fairly becomes more


than the apostles can handle, they direct the church to
select from among yourselves seven men of good
standing, full of the Spirit and wisdom to take care of
that task (Acts 6:3.5).
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When Stephen is stoned to become the first Christian


martyr, he is described as filled with the Holy Spirit as
he gazes into heaven to see the glory of God and Jesus
standing at the right hand of God (7:55).

When Saul has his Damascus road encounter with Christ


and Ananias comes to lay hands on him, Ananias says,
Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on
your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your
sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit (9:17).

Barnabas is described as a good man, full of the Holy


Spirit and of faith (11:24).

When Paul encounters the magician Elymas in Cyprus,


Paul is described as filled with the Holy Spirit (13:9),
while he describes Elymas as full of deceit and villainy
(13:10).
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Peter is the great preacher this day, but note the emphasis
on the community of faith: They were all together
(v.1); A tongue rested on each of them (v.3); All of
them were filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to
speak (v.4).

In the past, God has set his Spirit on a chosen few, but in
the era that begins with this first Christian Pentecost, God
gives the Spirit to all who belong to the believing
community.

v.4b: and began to speak in different tongues, as the


Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

Speaking in different tongues at Pentecost is different


from the speaking in tongues that Paul addressed in 1
Corinthians 12-14 - and is probably different from the
two occasions in Acts where people are said to speak in
tongues (Acts 10:46; 19:6).

At Pentecost, speaking in other languages is for the


purpose of communication - making it possible for each person to understand in his or her own language. No
interpretation is required. There is no record of apostles using this gift elsewhere in their missionary work,
probably because it was unnecessary. Most Jews understood Aramaic and/or Greek.

At Pentecost, the disciples are NOT said to be speaking in tongues. The word tongues appears in 2:3, but
those are tongues, as of fire - symbols of the power that the Spirit has conferred on the disciples. To confuse
those tongues of fire with speaking in tongues would constitute a distortion of the text.

The speaking of tongues of which Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians 12-14 is ecstatic speech that hinders
communication unless an interpreter is provided. Paul regards it as a legitimate gift, but neither as the greatest
gift nor as essential (1 Corinthians 13:1).

There are numerous references in the book of Acts to Christians who have the Holy Spirit (2:4; 4:8, 31; 6:5, 10;
7:55; 8:17; 9:17; 10:19, 44-47; 11:15-17, 24, 28; 13:2, 4, 9, 52; 19:6; 20:23, 28; 21:4) -but on only two of those
occasions is there any mention speaking in tongues (Acts 10:46; 19:6). It is not clear whether these two
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occasions (10:46; 19:6) constitute intelligible speech, such as that in Acts 2 - or speech that requires an
interpreter, such as that mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12-14.

The fact that the speech in Acts 2 is not labeled as speaking in tongues leads us to believe that the speech in
Acts 10 and 19 is a different phenomenon - more like the ecstatic speech of 1 Corinthians 1 12-14 than the
intelligible speech of Acts 2.

The church of Christ still speaks in many tongues, and if her speech is not now normally of the supernatural
order that marked the day of Pentecost, the message is the same - the mighty deeds of God (Bruce, 53).

v.5: Now there were devout Jews from every


nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem.

Devout Jews would be Jews who observe the


law. It is natural that it would be devout Jews -
observant Jews - who would come to Jerusalem
for this Pentecost observance from every nation
under heaven.

Only a devout Jew would go to the trouble and


expense of a trip to Jerusalem for this festival.
But their devoutness will not insure their
salvation. Peter will later call them to repent and
be baptized so that your sins may be forgiven
(2:38).

The time will come when Peter will proclaim Christ to Gentiles, but his first appeal is to Jews (Romans 1:16;
2:9).

v.6: At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them
speaking in his own language.

Some scholars have noted that Pentecost reverses the curse of the Babel story, in which the Lord confused the
language of all the earth; andscattered them abroad over the face of all the earth (Genesis 11:9).

But other scholars have noted that at Babel one language became many, and at Pentecost they continued to be
many. The confusion that took place at Babel was permanent. The miracle that took place at Pentecost was
limited and temporary - designed to communicate in a special way for this crowd only.

v.7: They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, Are not all these people who are speaking
Galileans?

Judea, home of Jerusalem, is urbane, and the people of Jerusalem regard Galileans as peasants - likeable
enough, but unsophisticated - people whose dialect and manners mark them as different. They dont expect
much from Galileans - certainly not mastery of foreign languages. Thats why they are astonished when these
Galileans start preaching in a dozen different languages.
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Of the oratory that pours from these Galilean mouths, one commentator says, The language of the Spirit is not
communicated with perfect or heavenly diction, free from the marks of human identity; it is the language of
particular human groups, spoken in their idiom (Wall, 58). God often uses very ordinary people to do
extraordinary work.

Like the sound of wind and tongues of fire, these languages attract peoples attention. There is something
compelling about hearing ones own language while traveling far from home. Their ears perk up as they hear
the disciples speak in their hometown vernacular.

v.8: Then how does each of us hear them in his own native language? v.9: We are Parthians, Medes, and
Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, v.10: Phrygia and
Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, v.11a: both
Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs,

Luke not only tells us that the crowd has gathered from every nation under heaven (v.5), but also lists the
nations (listed below with rough present-day equivalents):

Parthia = Northern Iran, southwest of the Caspian Sea

Media = Northern Iran, southeast of the Caspian Sea

Elam = Southwest Iran, near Kuwait, north of the Persian Gulf

Mesopotamia = Iraq and eastern Syria


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Judea = The West Bank of Israel and west to the Mediterranean

Cappadocia = Eastern Turkey

Pontus = Northern Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) on the Black Sea

Asia = Western Asia Minor (Turkey)

Phrygia = West-central Asia Minor (Turkey)

Pamphylia = Southern Asia Minor (Turkey)

Egypt = Northeast Africa on the Mediterranean

Libya = West of Egypt on the Mediterranean

Cyrene = A small part of Libya on the Mediterranean

Rome = Rome, Italy

Crete = A large Greek island located southeast of mainland Greece

Arabs = Saudi Arabia

To see the scope of the nations involved, look at a modern map of the area. Start with Rome, and move east to
Turkey and Iran then move west and south through Iraq and Saudi Arabia then move west through Egypt
and Libya and then move north across the Mediterranean to Rome. You will find that you have traced a
rough circle with Judea and Jerusalem at the center.

Three thousand members of this crowd will be baptized at the conclusion of Peters sermon (2:41). We can be
sure that they carried the word of their Pentecost experience - and their testimony to Jesus - to all of the places
listed above - and more.

In a day when Roman rule imposed its rule on all these peoples, this list of nations points to a day in the future
when Christ will reign in the hearts of men and women throughout the world.

v.11b: yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.

All are amazed to hear in their own languages. It is clear that they understand, because they speak of a message
of Gods deeds of power.

4) MEDITATION (What the Word suggests to me):

a) We read the Word again.

b) Select the word or a brief phrase which touched you or impressed you. Repeat this word/phrase aloud and
slowly 3 times. Between each repetition allow a moment of silence to allow the Word to penetrate into our
hearts.
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c) We will remain silent for 3 minutes, and let the Lord speak to us.

d) We now share what the Lord has given us in this word. We will avoid discussions or sermons or comments
on what others have said. We share what the Lord has told us personally by using such expressions as, To me
this word has said

5) QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: (What the Word asks me)

a) Do I frequently remind myself of the Holy Spirits presence in me?

b) Do I pray and rely on the Holy Spirits power in my daily life?

c) What in my life prevents the Holy Spirit from bearing fruit in my life?

d) Do I use for the building up of the Body of Christ the special gift the Holy Spirit has given me?

6) WORD OF LIFE (What the Word reminds me):

Filled with the Holy Spirit

7) ACTION (What the Word invites me to do):

Often during the day I will invoke the Holy Spirit.

8) PRAYER (What the Word makes me pray): The Sequence

Come, Holy Spirit, come! And from your celestial home shed a ray of light divine!

Come, Father of the poor! Come, source of all our store! Come, within our bosoms shine.

You, of comforters the best; you, the souls most welcome guest; sweet refreshment here below;

In our labor, rest most sweet; grateful coolness in the heat; solace in the midst of woe.

O most blessed Light divine, shine within these hearts of yours, and our inmost being fill!

Where you are not, we have naught, nothing good in deed or thought, nothing free from taint of ill.

Heal our wounds, our strength renew; on our dryness pour your dew; wash the stains of guilt away:

Bend the stubborn heart and will; melt the frozen, warm the chill; guide the steps that go astray.

On the faithful, who adore and confess you, evermore in your sevenfold gift descend;

Give them virtues sure reward; give them your salvation, Lord; give them joys that never end. Amen. Alleluia.

And may the blessing of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit descend upon us and with us remain
forever and ever.
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