Like a child curled safely in the darkness of the womb, waiting to be born, they huddled in that upper room waiting for the promise to take place. They had no more idea of what would happen than an unborn child has of the world beyond; but it was enough that their risen Lord had commanded it, and so they waited. And some recalled how Israel had waited in terror at the foot of Sinai for the coming of her God, but theirs was not the same terror (though much awe), for they had been privileged to see God in the flesh, and had beheld his glory, full of grace and truth.
And so they waited. And there came a sound as of a mighty rushing wind, filling the whole house where they were, and an appearance as of tongues of fire which separated and came to rest on each one of them individually. And again some recalled the stories of Sinai, how, after a period of waiting and preparation, Israel came forth to the foot of the mountain, which was covered in smoke, for God had descended upon it as fire, and the earth trembled. And a nation, God’s chosen people, had been born, sprinkled with blood and sealed with a covenant written on stone. Now, with wind and flame and the transforming power of God, something else was being born in Jerusalem that day – the church, the new-covenant people of God, blood-bought on a bitter cross and sealed to god by the Spirit who now wrote His law upon their hearts.
And they began to speak in other tongues, for His word was let loose among them, and the curse of Babel was reversed. In the beginning God had spoken and his words had brought creation into being: He said’ “Let there be light!” and there was light where only darkness and chaos had been. Now his new-born church, empowered by the gift of His Spirit, spoke out his words, in the tongue of every tribe and nation, nations whose existence they had barely heard of, let alone known their language, and light dawned in the darkness of human souls as they listened, and they became a new creation, and were added to the new-born church. Never had these people expected to hear the wonders of God proclaimed in the native language of their hearts, as if there were no second-best nations in the eyes of God!
Of course there were those who stood by mocking, as there have always been mockers since the beginning of time, who sneered when they saw the infant church drunk on glory and said, “They have had too much wine.” For they were of a sour vintage and neither knew, nor wanted to know, that this day the wine of the Spirit had been poured into new wineskins and a great harvest was at hand.