14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
Living in South Carolina we understand that allergy season lasts roughly 6 months of the year. Ragweed pollen is one of the most abundant crops in the Southeastern region of the United States, and if we could figure out a way to use it, market it and sell it, most of us could retire at 40!
But with no prospects for profit, we are stuck with the physical effects of pollen: runny noses, scratchy throats, lots of sneezing and puffy eyes.
One of the problems during the height of allergy season is the way these symptoms can make you wonder if you’re actually coming down with a cold. Waking up in the morning with a sore throat and stopped up nose is also a sign of the beginning of a respiratory virus and it can be confusing trying to diagnose our actual condition.
As we look further at Acts 2 something seems off. The people in the city are trying to figure out what’s happened to the followers of Jesus, and at first glance it seems like they’re three sheets to the rushing mighty wind more than filled with the breeze of holiness!
The disciples have waited in the upper room, they’ve obeyed Jesus, they’ve experienced the incredible arrival of the manifestation of the Holy Spirit and now their “church service” is spilling out into the street. But the diagnosis of some of the people in the crowded squares of Jerusalem is: “they are filled with new wine” (v. 13).
Perhaps it’s a personal indictment, but over the course of my lifetime I’ve spent some evenings with people in various stages of inebriation; all the way from first sip to falling over. And in my best recollection I can’t think of a single time that anyone ever accused them of being filled with the Holy Spirit. We have a certain predisposition of how the work of God will look in our life, and often it is a tamer version of who we are not one that is more animated or loose.
We assume the Spirit cleans people up, but in Acts 2 it seems to have left them looking like they’d spent the last ten days in a back-alley karaoke bar. Some of you won’t even like that language, but you can take it up with the author, because that’s what the text actually says. And part of our push-back on this idea, I think, is the difference between our desires for what the Spirit-filled life should look like and what God actually desires for us.
We tend to want the work of God in our life to make us more respectable, more put together and even more successful in the world. We believe it makes deacons out of drunks, not the other way around. And yet here we are facing a passage of Scripture that causes that theory to spring little leaks. What if God’s righteousness isn’t really supposed to make us more respectable in the world’s eyes, but instead make us totally different people altogether?
And this passage should help us see that speaking in tongues wasn’t the only thing happening that morning in Jerusalem. There were other, visible and physical responses to the presence of the Holy Spirit in that upper room. How do I know? Simply put: no one accuses someone of being drunk because they start speaking in another language, and on the other side of that equation, I’ve never known a single drunk person, I don’t care how intoxicated they were, begin fluently speaking another dialect as a part of their altered state!
No. These disciples and followers were different that morning. Different than they’d been when they walked into that room ten days earlier.
So the question must be asked: are you different? Do you just look like a “cleaned up” version of yourself since the Spirit came into your life, or do you look so different that people are pointing fingers, smirking and mocking you for being out of step with the regular 9:00am crowd?
Has anyone accused you of being in an altered state recently? Have you had to explain your actions to people by saying, “I’m not drunk as you suppose!”
Have you loved someone who the world would never imagine you caring about?
Have you spoken words of hope in a moment of deepest despair?
Have you allowed a 2,000 year old book to be the guiding light of your present life?
Have you chosen rest and Sabbath over productivity and efficiency?
In these ways and many more we begin to look intoxicated to the world – like we’ve lost all sense of reason and logic.
But this is exactly what the Holy Spirit’s presence is supposed to do in us. This is what transformation looks like.