Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

Pentecost

"Scattered at Babel, Gathered by the Holy Spirit"

Acts 2:5-13

May 15, 2016

Long before the Empire State Bldg., long before the Eiffel Tower, long before leaning tower of Pisa, there was another grand building project. Although cleverly conceived as a monument to human achievement, it was never completed. We know this failed master-piece as the Tower of Babel. If human pride was the cause of the Lord's scattering of people into all the world, then Pentecost is the Lord's work of gathering the peoples of the world to unite them in Jesus Christ.

Acts 2:5-13. "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, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians--we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God." And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "What does this mean?" But others mocking said, "They are filled with new wine."

Technology may change but human nature does not. The ancient Greeks claimed pride was the downfall of any person or civilization. The Tower of Babel was supposed to be a testimony to the ability of man. It was built out of human pride. It was also built in direct opposition to God's command to scatter and fill the earth.

After the great flood, the Lord had instructed the people to scatter throughout the earth and populate it. Instead, people settled in one place and decided to build themselves a monument. This grand tower was intended to be their stairway to heaven. "Ah, yes, we'll go visit God any time we like." The Lord was not amused, hence, the confusion of languages. What men would not do freely, God forced them to do to accomplish His divine will.

Later in human history God's own people, Israel, were also scattered among the nations of the world. As the Jews settled among other nations, they intermarried, spoke the local language and began to blend in with their neighbors. Many, however, retained the worship of the Lord God. Although scattered among the nations, they returned to Jerusalem to worship and sacrifice at the Temple.

So it was on the day of Pentecost. Pentecost is a day of gathering. The OT reading reminds us of the original scattering of people into the world. What the Lord scattered, He now gathered. Pious Jews scattered all over the world had gathered to worship the Lord in Jerusalem. It was to these gathered people that the disciples first preached the Good News of Jesus. Although they had a common ancestry, they no longer spoke a common language. In order to unite them once again, the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples with His divine power to enable them to speak to these Jews in languages they spoke and understood.

As we read the Book of Acts, we can see that the Holy Spirit had a busy day. He began with the great noise. This did two things. First, it signaled the manifestation of power and grace with the appearance of the tongues of fire. Secondly, it caught the attention of the scattered Jews gathered in Jerusalem. They heard the noise and went to the source to check out what was happening. It's kind of like listening to the scanners for police and fire calls.

As people gathered in the streets around the house the disciples were meeting, the disciples went out to them and began to speak to them in their own languages. The Gospel of Jesus Christ was proclaimed and the Lord was glorified. People were edified as the Holy Spirit called them to repentance and faith. This is in sharp contrast to the utterances of Pentecostals today. They speak in unknown "languages" and edify no one but themselves.

Just as the Lord scattered people to accomplish His divine plan, so the Lord gathers and unites His people according to His divine will. Pentecost was the Tower of Babel in reverse. Although people remain separated by language, geography, and culture, they can be united in Jesus Christ. Even today Christians around the world proclaim one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. This makes us brothers and sisters in Christ.

When we hear the Gospel, we wonder why so many still don't believe. We never know how events of live will impact us. We forget more than we remember. In the end, only those things that are truly significant to us stick with us. For example, think about how the day of Pentecost affected the people in the crowd differently. For some of the people who heard the testimony of the disciples, those words meant something. Their hearts were touched. The Holy Spirit convicted them of their sin. They were moved to repentance and eagerly received the gifts of God in the waters of baptism.

On the other hand, for many others that day of Pentecost the witness of the disciples meant nothing. They blew off the Good News as the ravings of a bunch of drunks. By the end of the day, they'd forgotten what they'd seen and heard in the streets that morning. Their lives were not impacted by what had happened.

On the day of Pentecost over 3000 were added to the church. The Holy Spirit jump-started the church and the Great Commission to bring the Gospel into the world. During the following weeks and months more than 2000 joined the fellowship of believers. What the Lord had scattered, He now gathered into His church. These new Christians were taught by the apostles, held everything in common, worshipped and prayed together as they grew in knowledge and faith. It was a wonderful beginning.

Jesus died on the cross for the sin of the world. He died for those who believed and for those who rejected the Gospel that day. Nevertheless, Pentecost was the first step in God's plan to bring the saving Gospel of Jesus to all people. Pentecost continues today. We are charged with proclaiming the Gospel to everyone beginning here. We tell our friends, family and neighbors. We help support the work of missions and missionaries locally and internationally. The Holy Spirit continues to work through us to bring the Good News of Jesus to a world dying to know Him.

The Gospel continues to be preached throughout the world. Christians can be found on every continent. If the Tower of Babel was a failed monument to human pride, Pentecost is the work of the Lord to gather His scattered people into the church. Human pride crumbles before God's grace, for it is the Holy Spirit who calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the church and keeps it in the one true faith, now and forever. Amen.


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