They stood there amazed and perplexed. “What can this mean?” they asked each other. But others in the crowd ridiculed them, saying, “They’re just drunk, that’s all!” Then Peter stepped forward with the eleven other apostles and shouted to the crowd, “Listen carefully, all of you, fellow Jews and residents of Jerusalem! Make no mistake about this. These people are not drunk, as some of you are assuming. Nine o’clock in the morning is much too early for that.Acts 2:12-15
Isn’t it amazing that two people can observe the same event and yet come up with two conclusions that are so different? How could people observe what I described in the last Gems and conclude that these people were drunk? I think it is because the ones who mocked started from the perspective of being negative about what they were seeing and hearing. When you start from that perspective it”s easy to come up with reasons to reject what you experience. You are looking to find ways to discredit what you have seen or heard but don’t understand. The word for “mocked” used here means to “deride” or “put down”, to subject to “scorn” and “ridicule”. It is used in one other place in the New Testament and that also by Luke in Acts 17:32 – “and when they heard of the resurrection from the dead, some mocked.” The same attitude is at the heart of this reaction. How could anyone accuse these people of being drunk when they had seen the miracle which took place on Pentecost morning? It is easy when you start from the point of rejection in the first place and want to find a reason for your rejection. It was easily dismissed – they were drunk. Dr. McLelland has said “To escape the absurdity of acknowledging their own ignorance, they adopted the theory that strong drink can teach languages”. How nonsensical is that?
In fact drunkedness would cause the opposite from what had been observed. When you are drunk you slur your words and can’t think straight. You would certainly not be competent to speak in a foreign language. I find often when I come to the end of a long teaching stint in Indonesian I am beginning to mispronounce my words and say the wrong thing or have trouble saying an Indonesian word I know well but can’t get it out fluently. Just simply because of tiredness, not because I am drunk. To speak fluently in a language you have not learned is impossible. One of the tests for language competency is to give people “the sentence repetition test”. Just one sentence: hear it and then repeat it fluently. It is impossible to do if you do not know the language. Those who criticised on that day were “grasping at straws”. Maybe they were drunk themselves.
What the critics said literally was, these men are “full of new wine”. New wine [gleukous] refers to the juice of the grape which distils before pressure is applied, and is called mustum. It was sweet wine, and hence, the word in Greek meaning “sweet” was given to it. The Greeks had the art of preserving their new wine with the special flavour before fermentation for a considerable time, and were in the habit of drinking it in the morning. A jar was taken and coated with pitch within and without, and was then filled with the juice which flowed from the grapes before they had been fully trodden, and was then corked so as to be air-tight. It was immersed in a tank of cold water or buried in the sand, and allowed to remain for between six weeks or two months. Those who made it had a habit of taking it in the morning as a “pick me up”.
Peter counters the criticism by saying, “these people can’t be drunk. It is only 9.00 in the morning”. The Jews divided their day into twelve equal parts, reckoning from sunrise, 6.00 in the morning to sunset, 6.00 pm at night. The third hour is then 9.00 am. Too early to be drunkunless you are a lush (a heavy drinker). By “these people” Peter is covering all 120, not just the disciples. Why does he say this? The reasons why it was so improbable that they would be drunk at that time were the following:
- It was the hour of morning worship, or sacrifice. It was highly improbable that, at an hour usually devoted to public worship, they would be intoxicated.
- It was not usual for even drunkards to become drunk in the daytime.“They that be drunken are drunken in the night.” 1 Thess 5:7
- It was very improbable that so much of the weak wine commonly used in Judea should have been taken at that early hour as to produce intoxication.
- It was a regular practice with the Jews not to eat or drink anything until after the third hour of the day, especially on the Sabbath, and on all festival occasions. Sometimes this abstinence was maintained until noon.
This custom was so universal, Peter could appeal to it with confidence.They remained in the synagogue until after the third hour or even until the 6th hour then they returned home to eat and drink. Rabbi Isaac wrote, “Whoever eats a green or herb before the fourth hour, it is forbidden to converse with him; and the same says, it is unlawful to eat a raw herb before the fourth hour. The first hour is the time of eating for the Lydians, the second for thieves, the third for heirs, the fourth for labourers, the fifth for every other man, the sixth is the time for the disciples of the wise men. is it not so?”
There are times when the Holy Spirit comes on people that they appear drunk. Tania and I were in a gathering of pastors from the wider region in New Zealand when we as pastors were seeking God for a greater anointing of His Spirit. We were all competent and fully in control of our faculties I can assure you. I had been taking notes from the input that had been given. When we closed for a time of prayer the Holy Spirit fell upon the group in a remarkable way. One of the regional leaders of the area laid his hands on me and I came under the influence of the Holy Spirit in way I had never experienced before. I fell to the ground. Mercifully there was a person behind me to catch me. Why? Because many had fallen that way before it was my turn to be prayed for. So the leaders arranged for catchers to stand behind each person being prayed for. I hasten to add that I had a practice back then to resist if someone laid hands on me and gave a push to “encourage” me to fall “under the spirit”. If I was going to fall then it would be as a result of Spirit activity and not human. That day I went down very quickly and it was suggested to me after I was “ministered to”, that I just lay there and soak up the Spirit. I lay there for what I thought was a long time and then I tried to get up. It took a long time for me to get up and stand on my feet again. Each time I tried to get up I would fall back down again. I seemed to have no control over my body. During that time of trying to get up, I heard a lot of people laughing but didn’t realise they were laughing at me. I was not aware of what I looked like but many said it was so funny because I looked as though I was drunk. I was not but it looked like it, which made it all the more funny.
From personal experience, I can totally understand how people could have a reaction to the events that happened at Pentecost which are described by Luke in Acts Chapter 2. When we encounter strange experiences which we cannot fully explain, we resort to the closest things we have experienced that we do know. No, these people were not drunk as some supposed. This was the result of a powerful move of the Holy Spirit of God which had come on these 120 people and in-dwelt them. It was the beginning of a new move of God. In the next Gems we will see how Peter accounts for this happening more fully. They are not drunk as you suppose, the reason is . . .
Many of us miss out on experiencing the fullness of the Spirit of God because we always want to be in control.Ian Vail
Let Go and Let God have His way with you. Trust Him to always do the best on your behalf.Ian Vail
People can say anything about you, but you’re the one who decides and proves whether it is right or wrong.Heriswita Riana
Those who push for excellence offend those who accept mediocrity!Anon
Nothing is easier than to denounce the evildoer; nothing is more difficult than to understand him.Fyodor Dostoevsky