Introduction to Acts 2:1-21
The Disciples gathered together in a house. Jews from all around the known world came to Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish festival of Shavuot. For those who spoke Greek, it was known as Pentecost. Shavuot celebrated the harvest, but also the day God gave the commandments to Moses.
In Acts, as the people were gathered, tongues of fire came upon the disciples and they started speaking the same language as the other Jews who were gathered with them. What could this mean?!?
The Reversal of Babel
In Genesis, we read of the tower of Babel. The people of the earth spoke one language. They came together to build a giant temple, one that would reach up to the heavens. But God didn’t like this idea, so God thwarted their plans and sent the people throughout the world and gave them different languages.
What was so upsetting to God?
From the work of Rene Girard, we know that temples in the ancient world were a place of human sacrifice. People had conflicts within their community. These conflicts threatened to turn violent and deadly. Over time, people stumbled upon a solution – sacrifice. Inner conflict that threatened the community was channeled against a single victim, the scapegoat, who was blamed for all the conflicts within the community. The scapegoat was sacrificed and a sense of temporary peace was formed.
We submit that the cooperation at the tower of Bable was based on this scapegoating principle. The people came together to form a temple where they would sacrifice their victims to God.
But God doesn’t want sacrifice. So God thwarted their plans and sent people scattering throughout the earth.
Acts Reverses Babel
Acts 2 reverses the Babel story. It brings people together from all around the world and unites them with the ability to understand the disciples. This understanding is not based on sacrificing a victim. Rather, it is bases on God’s desire that we might become “one flesh,” as God spoke through the prophet Joel.
Acts 2 is about the end of days. It’s the end of an era and the beginning of a new era. It’s the beginning of the era where we move away from the sacrifice of Babel and towards the Gospel of love and inclusion.