But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ ”
Speeches, chiefly of Peter and Paul, comprise (approximately) one third of the Book of Acts, Luke’s sequel to his gospel. Our passage is part one of Peter’s Pentecost address to Jews who have come to Jerusalem for the great feast of Pentecost (Shavout), the concluding festival of the grain harvest.
The extraordinary event which ‘the believers’ have just experienced as wind and fire, has resulted in a loosening of their tongues. This enthusiasm has caused a wider commotion. To any who will listen, Peter, no longer the broken man who fled from the scene of his Lord’s crucifixion, now interprets the event in the light of Easter. It is nothing less than the coming of God’s Spirit long promised in the scriptures in ‘the last days’ . He turns to prophet Joel for confirmation and finds there the vision of God’s Spirit set loose amongst God’s people. What was promised is now happening. The gift of prophecy is being distributed regardless of class or gender.
To speak the prophetic word, regardless of ridicule or disbelief (‘not drunk as you suppose’) is now part of the Christian’s duty. God’s Spirit is no less active now, as it was then. If that makes us and our hearers uncomfortable, it is both a wake up call to us, and a call for change in how we live. Since God’s Spirit is active throughout the world (‘upon all flesh’) we should expect to find kindred spirits both within and outwith the church. To work with others requires a generosity of spirit from all who share the vision of a changed world, and we in the church should not be found lacking.
Generous God Your Spirit is ever active amongst us prompting us to speak your truth. May we have the courage of our convictions to speak out at the right time, and in the right manner, so that all who share your vision may be gathered together into one commonwealth. Amen.
The Rev’d John Young is a retired minister of the Synod of Scotland and member of Giffnock URC