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Day of Pentecost
Light of Christ Anglican Church
The Rev. Mike Moffitt, May 23, 2021

The Evidence Was Undeniable

Text: John 14:8–17

On June 29, 2012, Teresa and I were having dinner with some friends at their home in Roanoke. While sitting around the table in their dining room there came a loud sound of a powerful wind like nothing I had ever heard before. It just suddenly showed up with incredible power. We could see outside and the trees bending over, it was clear that something major was happening. We would later find out that it was called a “derecho” and it ended up being one of the deadliest and most destructive fast-moving thunderstorms in the history of North America. It may have impacted our community here on the Northern Neck, but this was before I even knew where that was.

During the afternoon and evening of Friday, June 29, the intense, long-lived line of thunderstorms raced eastward at nearly 60 mph from the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic coast. The destructive wind at times measured wind gusts at 91 mph and in its wake, these storms left behind a swath of destruction that killed 22 people, caused 2.9 billion dollars in property damage and caused massive power outages in major urban areas along the storm’s path. From the time it started in Illinois and swept out into the Atlantic Ocean on the east coast 18 hours had passed. I had never heard the term but later found out that meteorologists use the term “derecho” to describe this special type of violent and long-lived windstorm. The temperature in Roanoke that day had reached 104º F and stayed in that range for the next few days. We were without power for almost three days. Fortunately, we were able to stay with friends until our power was restored. The brutal storm hit us all of the sudden and came with such intensity that whatever else we were doing was forgotten until it passed on.

As I reflected on our passage from Acts 2:1–11 where the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit came suddenly, without warning, I imagined that no one there could deny that something major and powerful had happened. Even the skeptic or unbelievers would have been saying, “What was that? What just happened?”

When God is moving in the midst of his people, it never goes unnoticed for long. We can find in the Scriptures that when God is moving in the midst of his people it stirs things up and brings a hunger and thirst for more of Him. If God’s presence is not being realized in the midst of His people, there should be a concern. If He is not moving and no one notices, it’s likely they have grown accustomed to a comfortable mediocrity that has numbed their spiritual senses. It is the indication that religion has taken the place of the intimate relationship with God that we were designed for.

Today we celebrate Pentecost and remember that God doesn’t hold back or turn away from those who are seeking Him. Instead, he offers a level of intimate relationship that changes our focus from the desires of the flesh to the hunger for life in the Holy Spirit. That is where our focus will be today.

This week as I prayerfully considered our Scriptures for today, I imagined what it was like for the disciples as they “waited for the promise of the Father.” They were like many who had followed Jesus throughout his ministry, but they had the distinction of being a select group who were still hanging in there, without really knowing what that would mean. Acts 1:12–14 sets the stage for our reading in Acts 2,

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away. And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

Luke writes that around 120 people gathered together waiting for something to happen. The last thing that Jesus said to the disciples before he ascended to the Father,

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

This time of waiting was much different from when they gathered together in fear and numbness behind closed doors after Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. This time they gathered as those who had encountered the resurrected Messiah who told them to wait for the promise of the Father.

Power was coming, whatever that meant, but I doubt they had any idea what the power would be like, but it surely was going to be something wonderful. I really like Luke’s account that we read last week of the last words of Jesus before he ascended, Luke 24:44–49,

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

I feel confident that everyone there waiting with the disciples all were experiencing one thing in common—a holy anticipation, and it was drawing them closer together into a community of faith. For the disciples, Jesus had opened up their minds to the scriptures and the power of the truth, and that set them apart from who they had been. Now they had new clarity but that was not all they needed.

We should see the importance of the unity that they were developing even before the day of Pentecost because, within the story of the Book of Acts, we see that part of the promise had to do with building the community of faith who lived to have a deeper walk with Jesus and to bring glory to God.

Remember the Old Testament lesson from Genesis 11:1–9, the story of the Tower of Babel. Everyone on earth spoke the same language and drew together for the same purpose—to build a tower of bricks reaching to the heavens. They were striving to make a great name for themselves, to have significance and immortality as they reached for the gods. Their pride was in their own abilities and, like Adam and Eve, they were going to exceed the boundaries set for them by God. He commanded them to fill the earth, but they wanted to do things that glorified their own might and power—they would reach for the heavens. They didn’t feel they needed God but would strive to be the gods of their own destiny.

God came down and responded to their arrogance by confusing their language and scattering them around the world. He gave them a different name than they were looking for: Babel, which means confused. Not only would they have different languages and be unable to understand each other, but they would also develop different cultures and practices. After a little time many would end up being enemies.

As a side note, it’s interesting that in the next chapter (Genesis 12) God makes a covenant with Abram and gives him an everlasting name, Abraham, father of many. He would be the servant who magnified the Lord’s name. “He was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:10)

In our Gospel story and the Book of Acts, God was bringing his children back together and instead of many languages and goals, he would give them the Holy Spirit who would bring unity and the common purpose of glorifying God, building His kingdom together as the people of God. They would be invited to return to the mission—having dominion over God’s creation that He intended from the beginning and He would provide the way and the power to do so.

Let’s return to our passage in Acts and then briefly focus on our Gospel reading, John 14:8–17.

Acts 2:1–4,

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 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.

Pentecost is also called “the Feast of Weeks” because it was seven weeks after Passover and the “Feast of Harvest” because the first fruits of the harvest were gathered. The connection between the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the celebration of Pentecost was to signify the Holy Spirit’s New Testament teaching of the “first fruits” of the harvest of salvation in Christ. Paul wrote in Romans 8:23, 

…but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

The day of Pentecost where God poured out his Spirit was only the beginning of all that God was going to do. It’s important to realize this because even though the powerful outpouring of God’s Spirit was a wonderful and amazing event, it happened as a sign that a new thing was happening but would be continued because of the Holy Spirit’s anointing power and presence. This was not to be seen as the final piece of the puzzle but as the equipping of the saints to move out in power against the kingdom of darkness. Now they would be equipped with the same power that raised Jesus from the dead and they would move and act in the authority of the name above all names. God moved in a recognizable way that could now be understood because had opened their minds to understand God’s word.

Since the Old Testament, the three signs of God’s presence were witnessed through: wind, fire, and inspired speech. (Exodus 3:2; 13:21; 24:17; 40:38; 1 Kings 19:11–13.) The wind in particular was a symbol of God’s presence (Ezekiel 37:9, 13; John 3:8) and fire was the symbol of the Holy Spirit’s purifying and judging power. John the Baptist prophesied what the Messiah came to do in (Matthew 3:11–12).

“He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

The tongues here were not the language of angels or what some call “ecstatic utterances.” The tongues in this situation were clearly the various languages of Jews who had come from all over the eastern Mediterranean region, from Rome to as far east as Parthia in eastern Iran. Each person was able to hear of the mighty works of God in their own language. This particular use of speaking in tongues is never again recorded in Scripture. The spiritual gift of tongues spoken of later on in Acts 10:46, 19:6, and 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 were given for believers to use in praising and worshipping God in private or in the assembly if there is an interpreter.

In Acts 2:1–11, the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit’s power manifested itself by the disciples (not just the 12 but likely 120) speaking in the known languages of those visiting from far away. Now it doesn’t say that all 120 were speaking in a known tongue and perhaps many if not most were speaking in a heavenly language known only to the God that they were worshipping. However, in this particular account, Luke’s intention was to focus on the sign of the uneducated disciples speaking the praises of God fluently in the known languages of those who were not native-born Hebrews. They were surprised because Galileans were usually thought to be uneducated and unlikely to have mastered the clarity of another language.

Those on whom the outward sign rests experience an inner filling with the Holy Spirit. This leads to a further external manifestation of God’s presence. Luke uses the verb “filled” in order to emphasize that although this is the initial endowment of the Spirit on the church, it is also an equipping with inspired speech for ministry. It is the first of many fillings the believers will know (4:8, 31; 9:17; 13:9). Later in this same chapter Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, stands up in power and a new boldness as he in his native tongue proclaims the gospel with authority, and 3,000 people came to saving faith and were baptized that day. This was not the same Peter who weeks earlier had denied that he even knew Jesus. The Holy Spirit would continue to anoint, empower, and teach those who faithfully followed Jesus Christ and lived for the glory of God the Father.

In this context let’s go back to our Gospel reading in John 14:12–13,

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”

So, what are the “greater works” that Jesus is referring to here? Some have suggested that those who believe in Jesus will see miracles that are more sensational than his, but what is more amazing than the raising of Lazarus, or the feeding of thousands with a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish? What about walking on water or commanding a raging storm to stop clowning around? That’s pretty awesome. Those are hard to top, I think. Some believe that Jesus is referring to the missionary activity of the disciples, they will be more successful in bringing converts to faith in Christ. Certainly, they should be expected to do that since Jesus’ ministry on earth was only a little over three years.

I think we will find the answer of the greater works being possible “because I am going to the Father” (v. 12). Remember this conversation occurs before Jesus' greatest accomplishments—his death, resurrection, and ascension.

After he is glorified, the Spirit will be given, and believers can then receive the full benefits of the salvation Jesus has accomplished through the union that comes through the giving of the Spirit. The greater works will happen because after the coming of the Holy Spirit the disciples will have a deeper and more profound relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Spirit that came down upon Jesus at his baptism and empowered him to accomplish all that the Father had commanded, will now indwell the believer. The disciples will have a deeper understanding of God and will now share in actual union with him, because of Jesus’ finished work.

So, it’s not merely a matter of having more disciples, although that is the expectation, but it is because of the new reality that the disciples share. If we don’t see this then we will settle for far less fruit than what God is willing to produce through his people.

Jesus assures them that, “whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” Praying in Jesus’ name is not a magic phrase to be used at the end of a prayer. It means praying in union with the character of Jesus and sharing in His desire to bring glory to the Father. This is seen in verse 15, “if you love me, you will obey my commandments.” Through the union that we have in Christ, we join Him in bringing glory to the Father and because of this Jesus will,

“ask of the Father, and He will give you another helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”

The word for helper, or in some translations, comforter, counselor, or advocate is Paraclete. Jesus promises to ask the Father to send another Paraclete, which means there had already been one and it was him. 1 John 2:1,

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

Here John promises that Jesus is our Advocate (Paraclete) who is the one who stands before the Father declaring those who follow him as not guilty.

The reason that Jesus promises the disciples another helper is because having faith in and love for Jesus will unite disciples to God and bring them into his work and will, but the greater things also require his resources.

So many of the Old Testament stories point us forward to the reality to be found in Jesus. We find a great example of this from Numbers 11. Moses had become overwhelmed with the burden of dealing with Israel so God told him to bring 70 elders of Israel to the tabernacle and said, 

“And I will come down and talk with you there. And I will take some of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you may not bear it yourself alone.”

When Moses brought the elders to the tabernacle, the Spirit immediately anointed the elders to remove much of the burden from Moses. We see the Spirit that was upon Moses, the mediator of the old covenant, placed upon those who were his followers. God was pointing forward to Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant, that would ask the Father and he would place the Holy Spirit within his disciples and followers. The same power of the Spirit that came upon Jesus would be placed within them to continue in the work of the Father begun by Jesus. This would result in the disciples being indwelled by the Spirit of Truth.

What a wonderful title for the Holy Spirit and vitally important to remember. It’s the Holy Spirit who was in creation the Spirit of God, which some translate “Mighty Wind” who hovers over the face of the deep and over the waters. Here God’s Spirit moved against the chaos and emptiness, bringing God’s order to the universe. God’s Spirit gave life to all. Psalm 104:30 that we read this morning,

When you send forth your Spirit, they are created,
and you renew the face of the ground.

In Luke 1:34–35 when Mary asked the Angel how she would be with child when she was a virgin. Remember what the angel said, 

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.”

It was the Holy Spirit who inspired the Bible. It’s the Holy Spirit who illumines the Word of God and applies the truth so that it cuts through bone and marrow (Hebrews 4:12). It’s the Holy Spirit who exposes lies and the workings of the enemy. The world, those without Christ, could not receive the Spirit. Why? Because they “neither see him nor know him.” On the other hand, those who are in Christ, know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

This is why it is vitally important that we speak the truth of God’s word to those “who neither see him nor know him” because they can’t see the lie without the Spirit revealing Jesus to them. This is why we can’t accept the demand of our culture that all religions are the same and each lead to God. It’s a lie and the Spirit of Truth needs to expose it as such.

Because of the Holy Spirit we have access to all that God has promised and therefore can do the greater works. The power of the Spirit that was on Christ would, by Jesus’ request, be distributed to all who loved him, so that the same power would be given to the church.

Pentecost is a wonderful time to ask God to renew our commitment to the building of the kingdom of God. It’s the time to ask God to move within us by the Holy Spirit challenging us as a church and as individuals to ask the question: “What would you have us do?”

Clearly, we aren’t done yet and the crisis that we are experiencing around the world only has one solution.

I said earlier,

When God is moving in the midst of his people, it never goes unnoticed for long. We can find in the Scriptures that when God is moving in the midst of his people it stirs things up and brings a hunger and thirst for more of Him.

Do you feel God’s Spirit moving within your life and changing you? Are you willing to ask him for more of the anointing of the Holy Spirit in your life?

I want to close with a prayer from the Valley of Vision, a book of Puritan prayers.

Let’s pray:


I pray not so much for graces as for the Spirit himself because I feel his absence, and act by my own spirit in everything. Give me not weak desires but the power of his presence, for this is the surest way to have all his graces, and when I have the seal, I have the impression also; He can heal, help, quicken, humble suddenly and easily, can work grace and life effectually, and being eternal he can give grace eternally.

Save me from great hindrances, from being content with a little measure of the Spirit, from thinking thou wilt not give me more. When I feel my lack of him, light up life and faith, for when I lose thee I am either in the dark and cannot see thee, or Satan and my natural abilities content me with a little light, so that I seek no further for the Spirit of life. Teach me then what to do. Should I merely humble myself and not stir up my heart? Should I meditate and use all means to bring him near, not being contented by one means, but trust him to give me a blessing by the use of all, depending only upon, and waiting always for, thy light, by use of means? Is it a duty or an error to pray and look for the fullness of the Spirit in me? Am I mistaken in feeling I am empty of the Spirit because I do not sense his presence within, when all the time I am most empty and could be more full by faith in Christ? Was the fullness of the Spirit in the apostles chiefly a power, giving the subsistence outside themselves in Christ, in whom was their life and joy?

Teach me to find and know fullness of the Spirit only in Jesus.”


©2021 Rev. Mike Moffitt

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