(Act 2:12-13 ESV) 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”
Don’t you love Luke’s sense of humor? Remember, this is volume 2 of Luke-Acts. And Luke includes —
(Luk 5:36-39 ESV) 36 He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. 39 And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.'”
The disciples were filled with new wine! Just not the kind of wine the listeners expected.
Why would the crowds have thought they were filled with wine? What made them appear drunk?
Many commentators speculate that it’s due to the foreign languages being spoken (or heard), but Jerusalem was a very cosmopolitan city. There were people there from across the Empire, and so hearing strange languages would be expected — but not from uneducated Galileans. Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Egyptian would have been everyday languages in Judea’s capital. And with a city filled with pilgrims, foreign languages would hardly be surprising.
So my theory is that the 120 were Jews living in First Century Palestine. They’d been waiting for God to act, and when he acted, he poured out his Spirit — and they recognized it for what it was: the end of the Exile and the coming of the Kingdom! They celebrated! How could they not? They probably sang. They danced. They clapped. They shouted. The slapped each other on the back. They hugged strangers. They reveled in one of the greatest moment in history!
[Contemporary Shavuot dance in Israel. The Pentecost of the apostles would have been a celebration far beyond this.]
Not only that, but the coming of the Spirit meant that Jesus really is still alive in heaven. Surely they’d had some doubts — but not now. They went nuts!
If you doubt me, attend an Alabama-Auburn football game and watch how bankers and lawyers act when their team scores a touchdown. And we live in a culture where emotion is not freely expressed. And yet strangers hug strangers over a touchdown. Now, imagine Middle Easterners being present at the outpouring of the Spirit, marking the beginning of a new covenant with God, promised for thousands of years.
(Act 2:14-15 ESV) 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.
“Third hour” means 9:00 a.m. (roughly) and also the time of the morning sacrifice. Peter doesn’t say they aren’t acting drunk, but that their behavior is from a source other than wine. Nobody gets drunk on wine this early in the morning!
(Act 2:16-21 ESV) 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.'”
Joel (and other prophets) had prophesied that the end of the Exile and coming of the Kingdom would be marked by the outpouring of the Spirit. A handful of people had received the Spirit in Old Testament times — Moses, the judges, the prophets, kings, prophets, and a handful of others. But most of God’s people did not receive the Spirit.
Moreover, the Spirit had left Israel after the close of the Old Testament. There were no prophets between the testaments until John the Baptist. The Jews therefore prayed earnestly for the coming of the Spirit.
(Luk 11:5-13 ESV) 5 And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. 9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Jesus’ teaching on constancy in prayer is finally about prayer for the Holy Spirit! Why? All Christians have the Spirit! True, but when Jesus was speaking, the Jews were praying for the Spirit and the Kingdom and the Messiah. And Jesus assured them that their prayers would be answered.
The promise that the Spirit would be poured on all flesh would not fulfilled until Cornelius. But the immediate implication is that the Spirit is available for everyone in the crowd — Jews from every nation. Not just leaders. Not just priests or scholars or Pharisees –but also for every Jew with faith.
Sons and daughters
There had been a few women to receive the Spirit in the Old Testament: Deborah, Huldah, and a few others. But the Spirit has largely been on men. Joel’s prophecy would have meant little unless women were to receive the same empowerment and gifts as men. Otherwise, women would receive a less generous portion than men, just as in the Old Testament. No, the promise is for change, the full inclusion of women in the Spirit’s gifts.
Joel said that “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Paul quotes the same passage —
(Rom 10:11-13 ESV) 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Paul’s take is that “the Lord” refers to Jesus or, more subtly, that you can’t deny one and call on the other.
Why Jerusalem? Well, Peter cut off the end of the prophecy, although it would have been well known to his listeners —
(Joe 2:32b ESV) For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls.
In other words, only a remnant will escape God’s judgment. Not all will call on the name of the Lord, and so only some will be those whom the LORD calls. And it will happen in Jerusalem.
Blood, fire, vapor of smoke, the sun turned to darkness and the moon to blood
Where are these signs? Luke doesn’t mention them, and the audience doesn’t seem perplexed that the sun is still shining. They could have been thinking of the darkened sun at the crucifixion, but they were more likely just familiar with the prophets —
(Mic 3:5-7 ESV) 5 Thus says the LORD concerning the prophets who lead my people astray, who cry “Peace” when they have something to eat, but declare war against him who puts nothing into their mouths. 6 Therefore it shall be night to you, without vision, and darkness to you, without divination. The sun shall go down on the prophets, and the day shall be black over them; 7 the seers shall be disgraced, and the diviners put to shame; they shall all cover their lips, for there is no answer from God.
(Amo 8:7-9 ESV) 7 The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob: “Surely I will never forget any of their deeds. 8 Shall not the land tremble on this account, and everyone mourn who dwells in it, and all of it rise like the Nile, and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt?” 9 “And on that day,” declares the Lord GOD, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight.
(Isa 50:2-3 ESV) 2 Why, when I came, was there no man; why, when I called, was there no one to answer? Is my hand shortened, that it cannot redeem? Or have I no power to deliver? Behold, by my rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers a desert; their fish stink for lack of water and die of thirst. 3 I clothe the heavens with blackness and make sackcloth their covering.”
(Hos 13:2-3 ESV) 2 And now they sin more and more, and make for themselves metal images, idols skillfully made of their silver, all of them the work of craftsmen. It is said of them, “Those who offer human sacrifice kiss calves!” 3 Therefore they shall be like the morning mist or like the dew that goes early away, like the chaff that swirls from the threshing floor or like smoke [vapor] from a window.
Joel’s language is the metaphoric language of the prophets for a very angry God coming in judgment. Indeed, it’s often the language for the destruction of a nation. Therefore, Joel is saying not only that God will pour out his Spirit, bringing salvation, but that those who reject his salvation — who don’t call on the name of the Lord — will be destroyed by God — by the same God who can darken the sun and melt the moon.