(Note: we are focusing on the story aspect of this scripture, not the doctrinal aspects. If your church has specific beliefs about this portion of scripture - like the baptism of the Holy Spirit - feel free to include that teaching in this lesson)
This story serves as a transition point from the Gospels (the stories of Jesus as he walked on the earth) and the rest of the New Testament, which tells the story of how the early church was established and still thrives to this day.
The disciples had just seen Jesus ascend into heaven while they were talking with him in the Mount of Olives, just outside of Jerusalem. So they returned to Jerusalem to the room where they were staying. The remaining 11 disciples were there, plus several women (including Mary, Jesus' mother) and Jesus' brothers.
It is striking to see Peter take the leadership of the group already. He had failed Jesus during his darkest hour by denying that he knew Jesus as he was on trial. But Peter received Jesus' forgiveness and was beginning to live out Jesus' prophesy that the church would be established on Peter's confession and that Peter would have the "keys to the kingdom". Peter steps up and suggests to the other disciples that Judas should be replaced as a disciple. He wanted someone who had walked with Jesus since he began his public ministry and also saw the resurrected Jesus. So they chose Mattias to replace Judas.
They continued meeting together in the upper room for several days, until the Day of Pentecost came. To put this into historical context, remember that Jesus was crucified during the Passover celebration in Jerusalem. Fifty days after Passover feast, the Jews were to celebrate another festival that dedicates the grain offering to the Lord. You can read about this festival in Leviticus 23. This festival was known as the Festival of Weeks (because it was to be celebrated exactly 7 weeks after the Passover) and the Pentecost (the Greek word that literally meant "50 days"). By Jewish tradition, the giving of the Law to Moses on Mt Sinai was also celebrated during this feast. Thus, the Passover Feast celebrated the release from bondage at the hands of the Egyptians and the Festival of Weeks celebrated the Israelites placing themselves under God's authority through the Law.
Therefore, we know the disciples were meeting in the upper room for 10 days (give or take) after Jesus ascended to heaven. We know from Acts 1:14 that they spent much of this time in prayer. Well, after many days in prayer, a sudden sound that sounded like a huge windstorm (think the "freight train" sound of a tornado) interrupted their prayers. Then some strange and crazy things happened:
This assembly must have started making loud noises because Jews from all around that were in Jerusalem for these festivals began to gather around the disciples. They were astonished that they were hearing the disciples speak to them in their native language, regardless of where they were from. The only explanation they could come up with was that the disciples must have been drunk.
Peter, once again assuming a leadership position amongst the disciples, rose up and gave a rousing speech to them. He explained to them, using the Old Testament scriptures, how the Holy Spirit was fulfilling prophecy in front of them, and who this Jesus was. His sermon was certainly not of the "feel-good" variety: "So be sure of this, all you people of Israel. You nailed Jesus to the cross. But God has made him both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36). But it had great results!
His words cut straight to their heart and they responded with a most important question: "Brothers, what should we do?" In other words, how should they respond? Peter gives them a very clear call to salvation:
"All of you must turn away from your sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then your sins will be forgiven. You will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38)
As a result of this sermon, 3,000 people accepted the message, were baptized, and joined with the disciples. Thus, the first church was born. As we continue to read in Acts 2, we begin to see the pattern they settled into as a church: "The believers studied what the apostles taught. They shared life together. They broke bread and ate together. And they prayed....Every day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved." (Acts 2:42,47)
The reason this story is such an important transition point is that this represents the first time the church expanded on the preaching of the word by Jesus' disciples - not Jesus himself. It establishes the pattern of church growth from that point until now. It also represents a stark change that corresponds to the power of the Holy Spirit. Before the Holy Spirit, they are huddled in an upper room for days on end. After the Holy Spirit, the church explodes in growth and outward momentum, beginning to fulfill Jesus' call to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.
"How can they call on him unless they believe in him? How can they believe in him unless they hear about him? How can they hear about him unless someone preaches to them?" (Romans 10:14)
get your kids talking and engaged
What is the most exciting news you've ever heard? (e.g. a new baby sister, going on vacation, moving to a new home, etc)
Who told you the news? How did they tell you?
Today, we're going to learn about some very important news Jesus' disciples had to share.
teach a holistic story
Consider moving your story time to an "upper room" in your church or facility if it is available.
Read story from a Children's storybook Bible for younger children.
For older children, read the story from an age-appropriate Children's storybook Bible or read directly from the Bible.
give them basic Bible skills
Scripture for Kids to Read Aloud: Acts 2:1-8, 2:36-42
make sure they understand the story
First, ask the children if they have any questions about the story. What to do if you don't know the answer?
help them apply the story to their lives and open up a conversation about faith and the gospel; close with prayer
hide God's Word in their heartWhen I'm afraid, I will trust in you. Psalm 56:3