Lots can happen in 50 days. You can go from winter to summer weather. You can change jobs. You can move. You can go from very healthy to very sick. An economy can take a sharp turn for the better or the worse. You can go from the afterglow of high school graduation to the anxious preparation for freshman year of college. Lots can happen in 50 days.
It’s that way now, and it was that way 2000 years ago. Think of the last 50 days or so from the disciples’ point-of-view. Jesus died. On the third day He was alive again. He kept appearing to them on Sundays, even up in Galilee. Finally, 10 days ago, He ascended into heaven. But that wasn’t the end. They had to wait for this day. A week ago they ordained St. Matthias to be an Apostle. Today the Holy Spirit came down to them from heaven. They began to courageously preach for the rest of their lives.
They went out from Jerusalem to preach the love of Jesus. That’s what the Holy Ghost gave them. How did He do that? He filled them with the words of Jesus. You heard Jesus say: “The Paraclete, The Holy Ghost, Who The Father will send in My Name, HE will teach you all things and He will remind you of everything which I said to you.” The Holy Ghost on Pentecost inspired them – that means He put His Word on their tongues. He reminded them of everything written in The Scriptures they’d studied all their lives, of everything Jesus said to them during those 3 years. They remembered it all then. So they preached.
They preached the love of Jesus. What does that love look like? Today’s world thinks love is something that tolerates everything, everything except when you say something is not A-OK but is a sin. The world thinks love justifies anything and everything so that what is wrong is now right, which means that what is right is now wrong. If you don’t go along with it, if you don’t approve of whatever the world approves, if you don’t affirm the false realities people construct for themselves, you are truly evil. Thus saith the world.
The disciples preached the love of Jesus. Yet the love of Jesus isn’t about affirming people however they are. The love of Jesus changes. It remakes. It renovates. It renews. It turns sinners into saints. It reconciles. It builds up. It encourages. It leads us to desire what is good in God’s sight, not in our own sight. It forgives. It absolves. This is because the love of Jesus preached by The Apostles is the peace of Jesus. Jesus came to make peace between God and man. He came to put an end to the war Satan started. He came to free Satan’s bondsmen from his evil army. He came to make them “the people of His pasture, the sheep of His hand.” He came to turn them away from evil and turn them to good. He came to show them His love, so they might love Him and then also love others. He came to free them from the deep and utter darkness of sin that the Tower of Babel clearly pictures for us.
When God created all things, He made a family: Adam and Eve. They and their children all spoke the same language. This didn’t change while they were alive. It didn’t change before The Flood. But there was a Great Flood. Why? Because, God says, man’s thoughts are only evil continuously from his earliest days. He says this about mankind both before and after The Flood. It was this evil that led to Babel.
What is the nature of evil? It leads us to want to make a name for ourselves. That seems OK at first. Who doesn’t want praise for something done well? Who doesn’t want to be successful? But those ziggurat-builders wanted to make a name for themselves. They didn’t just want to be rich and famous. They wanted to spit in God’s face. They didn’t want to glorify His Name. They knew God had flooded out the whole world and wanted them to inhabit the whole earth, not just a small part. But man in His wickedness always thinks he can pull a fast one on God, can come out on top, can win the war. After all, our wickedness is from Satan who wanted to do that, and from Adam and Eve, who decided to be their own gods.
They failed. They were punished. He sent them out throughout the earth. Our ancestors ended up in Europe and Asia and Africa and the Americas. But not before their tongues were confused, not before the first language was divided, not before they began to speak in many languages, not before the continuing-to-this-day development of languages began. Now we can’t understand people who don’t speak English unless we learn their language, and pastors need to learn Hebrew and Greek to understand the Bible in its original tongue and Latin and German to read our Lutheran Confessions as they were written. We don’t think of it this way, but this is a reminder from God that we are sinners, sinners who need and can receive His help.
That’s what happened on Pentecost. God helped The Apostles. He sent a great wind. You’ll hear Jesus say next Sunday “the wind blows where it will” (the Greek word for wind is also its word for spirit) and on this day The Spirit blew to bring people to The Apostles. He lighted upon them in flames and they preached in all the native tongues of the people gathered there. What did St. Peter preach? He preached that they crucified their God but God raised Him from the dead. When they repented, he told them and their children to be baptized to receive the forgiveness of their sins. He urged them to save themselves, to separate themselves, from the wicked generation. In response they devoted themselves to the apostolic doctrine and the fellowship of the Church, to the Holy Communion and to the prayers of the Church. The Holy Spirit gave him the words and He worked through those words to create saving faith in Jesus in those who believed and were baptized that day. They then lived out that faith every day of their lives.
We are just as evil as those people who drowned in the Flood, as those people who built Babel’s Tower, as those who crucified our Lord. We set out to make names for ourselves and crucify the Lord anew when the culture controls our lives, when we let the world take away from Jesus our time. This happens when we let things, like work or play, family or friends, get more important than God is, when we want to impress people and forget we need to please God first, when we forget our purpose in life is to pray to God, praise Him, and give Him thanks. Then we’re at war with God. Repent.
Repent, and then rejoice. Rejoice because The Spirit brings you Jesus’ peace. He tells you Jesus cared more about you than about Himself. That’s why He went to The Cross and died. He died to rescue you from yourself. He died to stop the war we were waging with God. He died to give us the victory over our sin and deserved death. He rose to give us eternal life. He put His Name on you to say you belong to Him, you live for Him now.
So The Holy Ghost from heaven came today. He hasn’t left. He’s still preaching Jesus’ Word to you every week, every day. He’s still baptizing. He’s still absolving you. He’s still bringing communion to you. He’s still bringing your prayers to God’s throne. He’s still proclaiming to you the peace which forgives your sins, which gives you eternal life, which saves you from sin, death, and Satan. He will do this until your life ends, and then you shall be with Christ. And then He Who gave you new life in baptism’s waters will give you the resurrected life for all eternity. So let us glorify His Name.