When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from Heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak as the Spirit enabled them. (Acts 2:1-4)
Imagine the scene. It had been 50 days since Jesus rose from the dead and 10 since He ascended into the sky, encased in clouds. Since then, Jesus’s disciples had been in a constant prayer meeting.
But now it was Pentecost, an annual Jewish festival that celebrated both the firstfruits of the spring harvest and the anniversary of God giving the Law to Moses. But for the disciples, this year was different. They were waiting for the promised Holy Spirit that Jesus had mentioned multiple times during the seven days leading up to his bloody crucifixion (John 16:7, for example) and then again after His resurrection (Luke 24:49).
How would the Holy Spirit appear? Would He come into the upper room descending like a dove, as He did when He rested upon Jesus after His baptism (Luke 3:21-22)? Would He come flying in like a majestic eagle, with glory and great might?
The anticipation built as the wind stirred up to pre-hurricane force. I imagine shutters clattering and papers flying when the doors blew wide open and in comes the Holy Spirit. And how does this mighty being, the third Person of the Trinity appear? What form does He take? A dove? An eagle?
The Are ‘Bout To Get Wild
He bursts in as “tongues of fire.”
Yup, tongues of fire.
Now I’ve seen cow tongues before in the meat section of the supermarket. Cow tongue could easily win “the ugliest piece of meat” award at your local butcher shop. Why in the world would the Holy Spirit choose, on this blessed Day of Pentecost, to appear to the disciples as a fiery tongue?
But wait, the craziness doesn’t stop there. The tongues of fire separated and landed on all the disciples.
And immediately something amazing happened: All of their tongues were set on fire. They began to speak fluently in earthly languages they had not previously known. These “hick” Galileans were turning the phrases and articulating other languages and dialects they had no knowledge of.
But the crowd of Jews who gathered to celebrate the Pentecost did.
And what were the disciples saying? Acts 2:8-11 fills us in:
“Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 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!”
The Marvelous Message
There’s nothing more wondrous than the Gospel. The Holy Spirit set the disciples’ tongues on fire with the Gospel, and they declared it in various languages they had not previously known.