Read Acts 2:1-21. On that Pentecost morning, the people in Jerusalem – visitors and locals – heard the good news about Jesus in their own language. This was a sign of two things. If we’ve been around church for a while, we’ll be familiar with the first thing – God was doing something new, and even though it was a fulfilment of ancient prophecies, it was strange, and even a bit spooky.
The second thing isn’t as obvious. But the Holy Spirit was showing that this Good News about Jesus, was for everyone. It was starting in Jerusalem, but it wasn’t presented in the sacred language of Hebrew. The languages the people heard that morning came from all over the Roman Empire.
It’s a long time (approximately 1,987 years) since the church began, when Peter preached that sermon, and 3000 people responded by putting their trust in Jesus. But in all those years, the church has grown whenever the Good News of Jesus is proclaimed in a way that is relevant to the hearers, and where the Bible has been available in the language people speak.
- The first translation of the complete Bible into any Australian Indigenous language was only completed in 2007. This Kriol Holy Baibul took 27 years to translate. To quote one Northern Territory believer: “Kriol important to me, because it is my language. English very hard for me… I read Bible every day and every night.”
- People have been martyred for translating the Bible into their own languages, or promulgating local-language Bibles: William Tyndale (1536), and John Rogers (1555) are two English-language examples.
- There are countries where possessing a Bible is illegal. In North Korea, owning a Bible can earn you 13 years in a concentration camp or the death penalty.
- When the New Testament was finally translated into the language of East Lisu in China, some people walked for 12 hours to the launch ceremony.