This passage reminds me of the many times in the Gospels we hear Jesus proclaim that everything hidden will be exposed.
They were mystified because everyone heard them speaking in their native languages…”…we hear them declaring the mighty works of God in our own languages!” They were all surprised and bewildered. Some asked each other, “What does this mean?”
Remember in vss 1-4, we’re standing at the crossroads of heaven and earth. And, it seems clear that this intersection takes place within each individual soul (Acts 2.3). When heaven and earth meet, sure, it may seem apocalyptic: the sun may go dark and the moon turn to blood and all that. This is the case because this chaos happens at the core of our beings, thus shaping the world around us.
Folks gathered around these for whom heaven and earth collided in an instant experienced an earth-heaven collision as well. That’s right! All bets were off now. Everyone was exposed. Nothing was hidden. In this story, this truth’s represented by language. It’s no big deal for us to walk down the street and hear all sorts of languages and dialects. Plus, we’re more connected than humanity has ever known in its hundreds of thousands of years of existence. But, I can imagine language was an intimate, segregating piece of culture that allowed ethnicity to thrive with a foot in the foreign frenzy and the other foot in the safe and well-knowns of home.
Not at this instant, though. Heck no. If those gathered round were Jews, something tells me Psalm 137 came to mind. These Galileans had an inside track now to the protected, safe selves of these gathered people and were given great adeptness and mastery over the very thing that kept these gathered folks separated–namely, language.
I think that’s why they were so “mystified.” God had exposed them to others. Of course, God didn’t do this for embarrassment. I think this is just THE WAY IT IS WITH GOD. True fellowship, true koinonia, is about honesty, realness, exposure; it’s about lamps on tables, not under beds; it’s about shouting from rooftops.
When heaven and earth intersect, there–right there–is true fellowship.