If Jesus’ resurrection was the reverse of the curse of sin and death, then the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was the reverse of the curse of alienation and disunity. In Genesis 11, we read about how people were united in language and hubris. They built a large tower as a sign of their greatness and self-sufficiency. Displeased with this, God confused their language and people were scattered throughout the land. The confusion, animosity, and warfare between people has continued for millennium.
Pentecost was one of three feast where all the Israelites were required to come to the Temple to give thanks for the first harvest of wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates. (Deut. 8:8). On the first Pentecost after Jesus’ ascension, tens of thousands of Jewish pilgrims crowded into Jerusalem to present their thank-offerings to God. They were ‘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.’ (Acts 2:9-11). The Disciples must have remembered Jesus’ words when he looked out upon a multitude and said, ‘Open your eyes & look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.’ (Jn 4:35). This Pentecost would be a celebration of the first harvest of people for God.
Each of these people spoke their native language and a common language of Hebrew or Greek. While God could have had each person understand a common language, God had the Disciples speak in the native languages of all those gathered in. So, the first miracle of Pentecost was that God overcame disunity – NOT by making everyone speak and hear one language – by reaching out to people in the language they knew most intimately and trusted. God is in the business of reversing the curse by reaching people where they are, changing hearts and bringing people together.
When individuals humble themselves, repent of their sin, and are baptized, they receive the Holy Spirit. The Spirit brings down boundaries. As we see here, the Holy Spirit doesn’t make everyone the same, but binds everyone to God, and in so doing, binds them closely to one another. Paul writes in Galatians 3:28: ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’ When we look out across a world that is so fractured, the only hope is the powerful work of the Holy Spirit to bring people together. This happens one person at a time as people embrace the Pentecost proclamation: Jesus Christ is Lord.
Blessed to be a blessing,