When the day of Pentecost came, the believers were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like a mighty rushing wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw tongues like flames of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Pentecost is a Christian festival celebrated the 49th day (the seventh Sunday) after Easter Sunday. It commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus while they were in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Weeks (Acts 2:1-31).
The term Pentecost comes from the Greek Πεντηκοστ? (Pentekoste) meaning "fiftieth".
If we read the whole passage, we learn that this must have been a very traumatic experience to the Apostles and all others gathered together in that house in fear of the authorities. Christ, their leader, had been crucified and then raised from the dead. Many had seen Him and were witness to His resurrection and were there when He was raised to Heaven. Now they were in hiding. Confused. Not knowing what to do next.
Suddenly there's a mighty sound and flames of fire on their heads.
Now I don't know about you; but if my few hairs suddenly turned into instant combustion, I'd certainly not sit there quietly praying.
We do not have a record in Acts of how the followers of Jesus reacted to the fire; but we know what happened next.
They were filled with the Holy Spirit.
This means that, the Holy Spirit, the third person in the Trinity, let's call Him the Spirit, (soul) of God, descended on them and became one with their very souls.
Their soul and the Holy Spirit were one. And this union of the human and the Divine manifested itself in many ways. For a start they all had the courage to speak up. They were no longer afraid. These very people who days before had ran away when Jesus was arrested, suddenly gained new courage given them by the Holy Spirit.
They knew the truth about Jesus and His Resurrection and they were no longer afraid to keep the secret to themselves. They had the courage to stand up and shout their truth to all willing to hear. They were not afraid of the consequences.
Jesus had sent them His Holy Spirit as promised.
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because He abides with you, and He will be in you."
And what's more, by receiving the Holy Spirit the followers of Jesus gained a new ability as well as courage. They were all able to speak in different languages that up to then they knew nothing about. There were many people in Jerusalem at the time.
There 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 - we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”
To the early disciples, the Holy Spirit was real indeed. They had experienced the power of the Holy Spirit. They received Him at Pentecost in tongues of fire and they were able to speak to the crowds that gathered in different languages. Peter explained to the crowd that the disciples had received God's Holy Spirit.
The disciples, and early Christians, now knew for certain that the one and only living God they believed in, whom Abraham, Moses, and the prophets had spoken of, had sent His only Son Jesus to earth. Because they had met Jesus. They also knew that Jesus had sent His Holy Spirit upon them, because they had experienced the Holy Spirit.
To them this was all a reality. Something they had seen, experienced and understood. Not some sort of Holy Trinity puzzle of three in one yet each one separate from the three.
Because the disciples had experienced the Holy Spirit, He became such a force in their lives, giving them strength to spread the Good News that Jesus had taught them, enabling them to live as Jesus had lived.
It was they who handed on to us this mystery that in one God there are three Persons. Because they had experienced it in their lives.
Can you imagine that? Imagine that you suddenly not only had the courage to proclaim your belief in God at work, or at the supermarket, or in the street; but you also could speak your beliefs in French, German, or any other language that you do not know to make yourself understood by your audience.
Think about it for a moment. Not only do you suddenly have the courage to speak up; but you can do it in any language.
To the followers of Jesus gathered there on that day, receiving the Holy Spirit was a real event in their lives. It was not something they had read about in some old scrolls, or heard about it from some prophet. To them this was real indeed. And it became real for the rest of their lives. When they met and spoke about receiving the Holy Spirit they meant exactly that.
And afterwards, even though some people had been baptised as followers of Christ, it was not until they too had received the Holy Spirit that their lives truly changed. (Acts 8:14-17).
Imagine for instance some major event happening in your life. In future, when you describe this event to others who had not been there; to you, this event was and will always be a reality. It happened. You witnessed it. You were there. And now you can tell others about it.
Sadly though, with the passage of time, the story of Pentecost, or more precisely, the significance and understanding of receiving the Holy Spirit, has been diluted over the years.
People these days do not understand what it means to receive the Holy Spirit. Some don't even believe it. Others think that it was a once in a lifetime event. It happened years ago the the followers of Christ. What has it to do with me right now, today?
The reality is that we can all receive the Holy Spirit into our souls today. All we have to do is to believe it is possible; and to sincerely ask God to send us the Holy Spirit.
I have known people with the Holy Spirit. They are usually more at peace with themselves and the world than the rest of us. Assured of God's love and protection. Always calm and able to speak God's Word and to give advice when needed in a peaceful reassuring way.
I find it difficult to describe such people and their demeanour and attitude to life. But believe me, once you know someone with the Holy Spirit you will certainly know and notice that they are different to other people.