New Wine Indeed

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested[a] on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” – Acts 2:1-13

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From my backyard photo safari. Photo taken April 2017

The issue of speaking in tongues has been an issue with which the church has deal – sometimes in greater degree than others. At this time, it seems to be a non-issue in most churches. On the other hand, however, we have here a bit of controversy about a legitimate expression of the phenomenon. The disciples are praying (again!), waiting for the fulfillment of Jesus’ promises: “You will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”, and “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you…” (Acts 1:5, 8).

Now comes the Holy Spirit – at the hight of one of the Jewish religious holidays. Pentecost would see Jerusalem swell from a population of 50,000 to as many as 300,000 people. People from all over (Parthians, Medes, Elamites, residents of Mesopotamia…) would find themselves there for the festivities. Then comes the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Dramatically. Decisively. Disturbingly. What does this mean?

We will hear Peter’s sermon, and see how he connects this event with the prophecies of Joel. That will come to us as we consider the remaining part of this account. For now, however, I am struck with the detractors who, upon seeing this unfold conclude that the disciples were fill with new wine.

Their comment is meant as dismissive: they are drunk. They are not to be listened to. They are just jabbering. But look at what is actually happening. This is no babbling expression of verbal nonsense. People from all different places are hearing in their own tongues the mighty deeds of God. This is intelligible. This is not mere emotional overflow (sometimes appropriate, but not always edifying). This is God’s word to people he loves in a language they dream in: their heart language. This is not the work of new wine.

Or is it? Jesus says that you don’t put new wine in old wineskins; new wine goes into new wineskins. And that’s exactly what is happening: the new wine of the Holy Spirit’s presence in the lives of God’s people is taking shape in the new wineskins of the nascent New Testament Church. This is new wine writ large. God is up to something new. Something more. Something remarkable. This is new wine but not to be dismissed.

1 comment
  1. I can’t take my eyes off the way you’ve expressed God’s Love for us in this sentence, “This is God’s word to the people he loves in the language they dream in; their heart language.” As I wipe away some sweetly uncontainable tears over this statement, I must continue and only say … what a generous, generous God we have … words just seem inadequate here. New wine, indeed! I SO appreciate all of this post.

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