by Ray Tetz—
Peter was not very good at telling jokes. In Acts 2:15, when he says, “These people are not drunk—it’s only nine o’clock in the morning,” this is an example of a joke that didn’t quite work. The people don’t want Peter telling jokes; they want him to explain what had just happened at Pentecost.
Fortunately, Luke is the one telling the story—and he knows how to spin a tale. He rushes right past Peter’s failed joke and quotes Peter quoting Joel 2, a familiar text for everyone listening. They have been reciting this portion of scripture—about a people in trouble—for a thousand years. Peter stands up and says, “In the last days, God says, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy,your young men will see visions,your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy” (Acts 2:17-18, NIV). (Did you notice? Both men and women.)
When he quoted these words, people were reciting with him, because they knew them by heart. But then he added something unexpected: “These words are fulfilled.” Peter was placing the fledgling church smack dab in the middle of God’s providence. The people listening thought the Messiahwould come and change everything. They didn’t know that the Messiah would come and create a churchthat would change everything.
The phrase “the spirit came upon” is used in the Old Testament to describe when God interjects Himself into a situation. In Numbers 11, the Spirit of the Lord came down on Moses and he shared the Spirit with the 70 elders and they prophesied. When Saul was hunting David, the Spirit of the Lord came on him and all of a sudden he was prophesying. The Spirit of the Lord came on Balaam and he couldn’t curse Israel like he wanted to. The Spirit of the Lord came on Gideon and the Lord gave him an amazing victory. Three times, the Spirit of Lord is recorded as coming on Samson. These are all great stories—but none of them are Acts 2. These were all individuals receiving the Spirit, but in Acts 2 the Spirit of the Lord was given to the whole church.
Amazing! The rest of that phrase—“pour out”—is also important. The term was often used to describe what happens when blood pours out from a sacrifice. It also means to pour out your lifeblood. I poured out my life for that kid. I poured out my life for this church. I poured out my life for that cause. That’s the association. It’s amazing that God pouring out His Spirit means the same thing as a person pouring out their lifeblood.
And so when Peter says, “The Spirit will be poured out,” he’s claiming something for the church that’s never been claimed before. When the people ask, “What just happened?” Peter says, “Pentecost just happened. It’s a deluge. It’s God, pouring Himself out on the entire church. This has never happened in the history of the world and it will probably never happen again.”
It’s a torrent, you’re drowning in it, flooded by it, soaked to the skin. It changes everything. Acts 2 is the Niagara of the Spirit. It’s the Mariana Trench of transformative grace. It’s the tsunami of righteousness. This is beyond anything that anyone’s ever seen. That’s what God calls us to be. Even Peter is astounded by what’s happened, and he tells us: we are called from the dream to being the dreamers.
We’re called from the prophecy to being the prophesiers. We’re called from the future into the present. We’re called from the imagined to the enacted. On the most ordinary day, in the plainest of circumstances, on the train you always take to work, while you’re reading in your favorite chair, when you got up to get a drink during half time, at the table where you always sit for lunch, in the middle of another call, halfway through shaving, on the way out to get the mail, while you’re just reaching for the phone, just outside your kitchen window, as you turn to tell your companion something or ask a question, by the time you reach the end of the chapter, before anyone knew what was happening, before church was over, out of the blue with no warning—not a cloud in the sky—life barges in. Pentecost: a deluge. You’re drenched by God. You get filled up, swamped, transformed, sent straight over the cliff. That’s what Pentecost is.
The unexpected happened because God poured out in His lifeblood, His Spirit, on the people of God to make them His church. Every moment of our lives, every moment of worship, every time we gather, every time we open the Scripture, every time we bow our heads in prayer, every time we turn our hearts toward God—even when we don’t, even when we’re ignoring God, even when we think that God is nowhere around, even when we’re doing things that God has nothing to do with and that we hope He doesn’t see, even those times where we’re completely absorbed with something else—in every one of those moments, the potential exists for Pentecost.
This is an amazing thing. This is what is remarkable. This is what makes the church the body of Christ—so different from what was expected. It’s not external anymore. It’s first person personal. Suddenly, when we realize that the same thing can happen for us and for the entire community of faith, we see that this is what God’s been doing all along. Pouring out, pouring in, pouring through people’s lives.
Ray Tetz is the director of communication and community engagement for the Pacific Union Conference.