When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. 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 them 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.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” (Act 2:1-13)
Pentecost started as harvest festival celebrating the first fruits of the season, that came 50 days after the Passover. It always came 50 days after the Passover, hence Pentecost meaning 50. It’s celebration as a harvest festival might explain the accusation that the men were drunk on “new” wine. This would refer to wine that had been freshly started, probably being used for libation offerings. It would not have completely fermented by the time of Pentecost, but it would be fermented and fermenting, and had no time to age and mature.
At the time of Jesus the festival had also become a celebration of Moses giving the law at Mt. Sinai. This would be fitting in relation to what was about to happen on Pentecost. In a very real sense a person could say the Old Testament Church had its birth at Sinai. Now the New Testament church would have it’s birth. A new manifestation of the Spirit would be poured out onto the church as it is gathered in the upper room. The Christians would go out and begin speaking and the people would hear in their own language. This marks it as a bit different from that which goes on in a Pentecostal church, or even that which Paul speaks about in First Corinthians where an interpreter was needed.
People from all over the world, every nation under heaven are there to hear the gospel. What are we to make of this. No one was there from Borneo, and the list that Luke gives us covers most of the Roman world, but doesn’t seem to do much for East Asia. The Asia he lists would have been the Roman province, that is now the eastern part of Turkey. Nothing about India, or China, and make no doubt, they knew of these places, already they traded for nard with these countries.
You could take it as hyperbole. I think it may be that in part, but also a bit more. I think we do well to understand, as the apostles did, that with this day everything had been fulfilled for the return of our Lord. The Gospel had reached even the ends of the earth. There is nothing left that needs to be fulfilled before Christ makes his return, nothing holding his second advent back, but the grace of God and his will that another be saved. This becomes the focus of Peter’s sermon on Joel given that day. The Kingdom of God is at hand, the Day of Judgment draws near. The last days are upon us.
Hmm, come to think of it, the accusation that these men were drunk makes some sense. I mean, in all seriousness I tend to speak foreign languages better after a few drinks when I lose my inhibitions with them. This works especially well when those I am talking to have also imbibed, because that tends to soften the effects of bad grammar. And secondly, because most people I have ever encountered ranting about the end times in the town square tend to be drunk. Peter’s counter that “these men can’t be drunk, it is only 9:00 AM,” only shows that he was never in the military or a fraternity…