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 [the apostles] 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.” (Acts 2:5-11)
And there were gathered in Bloomington men and women from [almost] every nation under heaven. Did they hear us speaking the mighty works of God?
Just the other Saturday my family and I were sitting in Memorial Stadium on the campus of a great Midwestern university for the graduation (with highest distinction, I might proudly add) of our daughter. During his charge to the graduates, the president of this fine institution announced that the class included students from all fifty states and from over one hundred countries. Sure enough. You looked around at the other proud parents and scanned the names in the program, and you believed him. Spaniards and Czechs and Slovaks, residents of China, Japan, and Thailand, Ghana and Uganda, no doubt Egypt and Libya and visitors from Rome, Aussies and Saudis. Right there in Indiana. All had come for a week or four years to hear their children’s names read or to hear the wisdom of engineering or medical or music profs, to imbibe the truths of science or the arts or technology. And soon they’d be dispersing, going out from this place and back to all of their various far-flung homes, some never to return.
On the day of Pentecost, God filled the stadium, set the table. He brought faithful Jews from all over the Roman world to this annual festival in Jerusalem—fifty days after Passover, one of the feasts even those people of God scattered around the Mediterranean tried very hard to attend at least once in their lives. They came a long way! They spoke a host of languages! And this time they were in for a world-changing shocker. Because this year Pentecost (meaning “fiftieth day”) was also fifty days after the once-in-all-history resurrection of Jesus from the grave.
And once God set the table, bringing all those folks together, He unleashed the feast—the feast of the Gospel of eternal life by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Peter and the apostles were miraculously enabled to speak in the languages of those diverse visitors and tell them that Jesus of Nazareth was the very Son of God who had come to earth, been killed, and then risen to forgive the whole world’s sins. Their sins. For their everlasting life in heaven. All those people together to hear that saving word and then to disperse to their homelands . . . carrying the very same message to countless others. Pentecost.
Pentecost. Right there in Indiana. In Iowa. In Illinois and Florida and California. Especially in our great universities. Wherever God has set the table by bringing people together and putting one or two or a few hundred Christians among them with the Gospel.
We heard a lot the other Saturday about how you can do anything you set your mind to, about the wealth of human potential, about the truth imparted in a liberal education that studies the classics and wisdom of the world. It was a good education—a great education, in fact!—that our daughter and all those other graduates received. The best part of it, though, was when a friend, a fellow student, a believing professor or staffer, a campus pastor, told a student from Japan or Saudi Arabia about his Savior, Jesus Christ. And now he goes home, with the Holy Spirit working in his heart and maybe in the hearts of that proud mom and dad he tells.
God has set the table for us. And given us the feast. The feast to share. Right here.