Reflecting on Pentecost Sunday Part 3 – Flying Apostles versus Speaking in Tongues

In this last installment of Pentecost Sunday, I want to discuss this whole “speaking in tongues incident”. It’s probably one of my least favorite subjects because of all the baggage associated with it.  Case in point is the scene in Bill Maher’s Religulous where televangelist, Robert Tilton, is babbling on for several minutes and then wraps it up by saying, “I love you” and flashes his Crest white smile.  Regardless of how I feel about the rest of the movie, I laugh every time and then I want to cry when I realize he is connected to my faith. It’s not tongues, I know a few people who take the gift of tongues very seriously, they either have it, been used by it, have witnessed it, etc., they would not support that nonsense.  That’s not the type of “tongues” Acts 2 is describing.

On the day of Pentecost, the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and they spoke in different languages, ones they did not know. I tried to explain this to my Senior High Sunday School class a while back. For today’s audience, speaking in different languages isn’t that impressive, in fact, most people already know a few. Some local schools are teaching their students Spanish in third grade. And of course, there’s that adorable Dora. Yep, even cartoons are bilingual – not much of a miracle.

While we can assume that many of our beloved disciples knew parts of several languages (Aramaic, Greek, Hebrew), what was incredible was that they were speaking languages that they did not know. And everyone knew that they should not know them, that’s why it created a scene. (This is why Luke goes through the trouble of mentioning all the different ethinicites that were gathered for the conclusion of Passover, the Feast of Weeks). Oh and all of them were speaking them at the same time.  Oh, and one more thing, they started preaching that Jesus had risen from the dead and He was Lord.

It is pretty incredible but for years, I admit, I sort of missed the point. Pardon my arrogance, but here’s another instance, where if I was God, I would have done things a bit differently. I would have sent the Spirit and made them do something really spectacular, like fly around Jerusalem or make the Temple disappear and then bring it back but some place else or empower them with super-human strength and round up all the Romans and crucify them and then give Peter a moment with Pilate, “You asked earlier what truth is? It’s … (some really, really cool line – in a different tongue!)”. You might make the mistake and think that I have quite the imagination but I’m really just repeating a variety of Mel Gibson movies.

I know that’s ridiculous – that’s completely absurd (sigh). But why is it absurd? I mean a few pages back, Jesus walks on water, feeds the 5000, then 4000, heals some people, casts out some demons and raises a guy back to life, all before He is resurrected. Flying apostles would seem to fit right in. So again why not?  I’ll try to keep this part short but it has a lot to do with motive. Jesus never performed this miracles to create publicity or cause a spectacle.

It’s necessary to understand that the miracles are always done to serve people. (I know there’s a reformed brother/sister reading that just shouted at the screen “AND to bring glory to God.” I know, I know, but when everything gives glory to God, it seems the miracles had a more special role). And that’s an important aspect of Pentecost, the disciples are empowered by the Holy Spirit to preach the good news of the risen Jesus to the whole world. What better miracle then the one God performs?

That’s the part I had been missing.  This was a Gospel for all people of all nations and tribes and what better miracle than to have masses of people from all over the world to hear the message in their own language.  Consistent with the idea of Incarnation (where God comes near), the Word comes near – through the disciples empowered by the Holy Spirit.

What is among the many lessons in all of this?  For me, it is when faithful believers allow the Spirit to fill them, the hope, truth, and love of Jesus is proclaimed.

Speak Your Mind