In Acts 2, we find Jesus’ disciples gathered. The city of Jerusalem is teeming with crowds for the feast of Pentecost, but Jesus’ followers are huddled privately, awaiting the arrival of a promised gift
We read that the gathering was interrupted by a wind that rattled their venue. Fire proceeded to appear before them and descend upon them, resulting in the inexplicable ability to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus in all the tongues of the known world. Guests to the city were stunned to hear this New-Life message being proclaimed in the dialects of home, wherever home might have been!
Some Bible readers have connected unusual dots in this story.
“Hmm. A story about a crowd of people speaking all the languages of the world. Hmm. I feel like I’ve seen this before.”
Within the earliest pages of the Bible, we read of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11). The story is bizarre for at least a couple reasons: 1) It describes a united humanity setting their sights upon building a tower that would reach the heavens, glorifying them to god-like status. 2) It responds to itself by describing God in a way that appears petty and insecure, as if he felt the need to defend heaven’s borders against the invasion of these ancient architects.
Zooming out from the oddness of either story, one sees a fascinating connection…
Pentecost redeems Babel.
Where diversity (seen in the languages) fractured humanity at Babel, diversity (seen again in languages) depicted God’s unifying of humanity at Pentecost. The Creator who loves diversity and labours for its unity works intensely to bridge gaps, wreck walls, and to execute His all-consuming plan: “to unite all things in him [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth” (Eph 1:10).
Babel displays the losses incurred when we are driven by a desire for personal greatness. In ways that we cannot fully grasp, this motivation fragments and divides, actually opposing the universal goals we find at the center of God’s will.
Conversely, Pentecost reveals an image of Christ-centeredness, a wildly submitted desire to see his name spread far and wide based on the conviction that profound blessing and deep life come with him.
Two stories of many mouths speaking many words. Babel’s abandoned tower shows a dust-dry site of no-life-here, despite the sweat and strain spent there. Pentecost invites us into a wind- and fire-charged environment where embracing God’s plan in Jesus Christ releases us into an existence and experience that extends to the ends of the world.