Sunday is Pentecost. I was reading through Acts 2 again, a description of when the Holy Spirit comes upon the disciples after Jesus had already ascended into Heaven. And I noticed something.
Often when I hear people talk about Pentecost, they talk about the whooshing, wild wind with which the third person of the Trinity arrived in full, gale force in the Upper Room. That wind features prominently. And it fits well with other imagery of the Spirit as breath, ruach, a divine movement in the air.
Only, upon reading it again, there was no wind.
The Bible says there was a sound like wind.
Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.
And it’s not just a translation issue. The ESV, KJV, NLT—they also refer only the sound that accompanied the Spirit. It seems there was no actual gust.
When I spent time in Puerto Rico as a child, I remember the loudness of storms in the mountains. It could actually be quite frightening. Even now, the howling wind brings to mind a sense of heightened alertness. You couldn’t feel the wind inside the mountain villa, but you could hear it. It was ear-piercing.
I imagine the disciples holding onto nearby furniture and each other, maybe cowering for fear that the roof might blow off—and yet not even a breeze came. They heard a deafening squall, but felt only stillness.
How disconcerting. How bizarre.
Scripture tells us the noise of the Spirit was so loud that people outside the Upper Room heard it, too. A sound of “violence,” “roaring,” and “a rushing, mighty wind.”
But when they arrived they found no tables blown over, no destruction—only the disciples, carried on the inner wind of God.
The Holy Spirit comes to people in all sorts of ways.
Whether he comes in a windstorm or not, the Spirit makes noise. Like Jesus entering Jerusalem to cheers and cries of “Hosanna,” the processional music of the Spirit is the sound of a hurricane.
We need not always expect to feel the great windy pushing and pulling of the Ghost. Sometimes, as with the first disciples, we need only listen to the sound of his coming—sometimes in comforting whispers, sometimes in terrible squalls.