Acts 2:1-21

Commentary Excerpt by Tom Boomershine

This story is of such importance that it deserves to be fully told. It has great energy in it for the transformation of congregations. This story could be the central part of a festival of storytelling to celebrate the deeds of power done by God in the establishment of the church.

This is a long story, primarily because of Peter's speech but it needs to be told as a whole,not truncated as in the lectionary readings. Without Peter's speech, the story of Pentecost loses its full impact. Pentecost is a prelude to the conversion of the people of Jerusalem.It is the birthday of the church because it is when there were significant numbers for the first time. I strongly recommend that you tell this whole story because Pentecost is a day like Easter or Good Friday when we tell long stories.

The Structure of the Story

The first part of the story describes the sign of the divided tongues of fire and the gift of other languages. This event is significant because the Holy Spirit empowers the disciples to go out and speak in many languages. The languages are listed in the third episode,which is a kind of tour of the ancient near east. This part of the story ends with people asking what it all means. Some say the disciples are just drunk. This cynical response leads into Peter explaining the meaning.

As Peter explains, the gift of languages means what was promised by the prophet Joel has been fulfilled. It's the fulfillment of prophecy and the sign of the dawning of the new age of God. The sign of this is the resurrection of Jesus. After the quotation of Joel, Peter tells the story of what happened: Jesus was attested as the Messiah, was crucified, and God raised him up. Peter gives a summary of the gospel story.

Next Peter provides proof by creative exegesis of the Psalms. He connects the Pentecost event by interpreting the Psalms as prophesies. Peter first recites David's song that says,"For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One experience corruption." This is the crux of Peter's argument: David did not prophecy about himself,because he died and was buried in the tomb. Rather, he was speaking about the resurrection of the Messiah.

Then Peter repeats the story of Jesus: "This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses." The interpretation of the apostles speaking in many languages is then: "Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you both see and hear."

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