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The Grand Entrance

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The powerful presence of the Holy Spirit in God’s people produces praise and perplexity.

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Introduction

Acts 2:1–13 ESV
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”
Many of you in here were like me and my family back in February. You were altogether glad to contribute to the over $1B box office ticket sales for Black Panther. You have learned a new way of greeting your friends. You may have even convinced yourself by now that, since it’s hidden anyway, Wakanda could potentially be a real place. It just hasn’t been found yet.
A major event for every anticipated blockbuster movie is the Red Carpet Premier. That’s the big event for the first showing of the movie. All of the stars come out, and you’ve got to be somebody to get a ticket. On either side of the red carpet are ropes keeping back the hordes of people who are somewhat less than patiently waiting for their favorite star to make their entrance. I don’t typically care about red carpet events, but this was the Black Panther.
That’s the big event for the first showing of the movie. All of the stars come out, and you’ve got to be somebody to get a ticket. On either side of the red carpet are ropes keeping back the hordes of people who are somewhat less than patiently waiting for their favorite star to make their entrance.
I watched as folk began to make their entrance. One of the best parts was when John Kani made his way down the carpet. John Kani played King T’Chaka, T’Challa’s father. King T’Chaka made his first appearance in the movie Captain America, Civil War. The reporter asked John Kani about that and said,
You really established the accent and the language for Wakanda. How does that feel, to know that it’s now spurred into this whole movie?
John Kani replied,
Yes indeed. You know, we’ve watched too many movies of Tarzan in Africa, and we haven’t found this legend. When our grandfathers tell us stories, there was no white man living with apes. So when I was talking to my son in Captain America, I asked the director, ‘Why are we speaking English. We’re from Wakanda.” And that’s how I introduced isiXhosa.
I can’t do the clicks, but isiXhosa is a real dialect. John Kani said that when Africa heard him speak that language in the movie, they celebrated from Cape to Cairo.
The interviews and the regal African clothing that the stars were wearing made this a Red Carpet event like none other. And when the king show up… When T’Challa, Chadwick Boseman came on the scene, you can imagine the adulation and praise! He said, “This is an epic experience. Streets blocked off. People dressed in African garb. It’s an amazing experience.” It was hard for him to put into words how “out of this world” the Black Panther Red Carpet Premier was.
Whether you’re a comic book nerd like me or not, we can all relate to the response of adulation and praise when someone people consider to be important makes a grand entrance. Think about a concert after all of the preliminary, set-up acts have already performed, and now the stage is set for the band or singer that everyone’s paid to see. If you’ve never participated in something like that yourself, you’ve at least seen it. The response to the grand entrance of the star of the show is always praise and adulation.
Whether you’re a comic book nerd like me or not, we can all relate to the response of adulation and praise when someone people consider to be important makes a grand entrance. Think about a concert after all of the preliminary, set-up acts have already performed, and now the stage is set for the band or singer that everyone’s paid to see. If you’ve never participated in something like that yourself, you’ve at least seen it. The response to the grand entrance of the star of the show is always praise and adulation.
Well no one can make an entrance the way God can. No one can impress upon people the significance of his presence the way God can. The Bible is full grand entrances and appearances of God. But the grandeur and magnificence of the Holy Spirit’s entrance on Pentecost is like none other in that it marks the fulfillment of Jesus’ declaration that the kingdom of God has broken into this world as a permanent reality. Unlike the Black Panther Red Carpet Premier, or a Beyonce concert, there weren’t thousands upon thousands of people waiting for the Holy Spirit to show up. There were only 120 men and women gathered together in a house, devoting themselves to prayer as they waited. But when God showed up, the adulation and exuberant praise spilled out into the streets for the world to see.
The grand entrance of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost is a one time event. We’re not looking for a repeat performance or an encore. What we are looking for is to be people who still respond to his presence with an overflow of praise because the kingdom of God has come upon, among, and in us.
So as we take a look back on that Grand Entrance I want to talk about three things; The Promise, The Praise, and The Perplexity.

The Promise

Chapter 1 ends with the restoration of the number the apostles back to 12. Matthias is chosen to replace Judas Iscariot. Luke now transitions to the day of Pentecost. But even in the transition he is continuing to press the theme of the necessity for the Scripture to be fulfilled. Luke tells us in 1:15-16,
Acts 1:15–16 ESV
In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus.
Acts 1:14 ESV
All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
ACTS1.1
Peter declared that what happened with Judas, his betrayal and treachery was not an accident of history. What he did was foretold in Scripture, and the Scripture had to be fulfilled. And that same theme of fulfillment dominates the first four verses of chapter 2. What is being fulfilled now is the promise that Jesus repeatedly made to his disciples. God is now acting to fulfill the promise given in when Jesus said,
Luke 24:49 ESV
And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
And
And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
Acts 1:4–5 ESV
And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
So the “not many days” have now come. Pentecost. Ten days after Jesus’ ascension and 50 days after the end of Passover. Luke says…
And in 1:4-5, And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
Acts 2:1–4 ESV
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
So the “not many days” have now come. Pentecost. Ten days after Jesus’ ascension and 50 days after the end of Passover. Luke says…(rd. 1-4)
I mentioned this last week, and I’ll say it again. What we see happening in Acts is connected to what came before in Luke’s first volume, his gospel. This promise of the coming and baptism of the Holy Spirit didn’t just show up at the end of Luke’s gospel, but he has been preparing us for this day from the beginning of his message.
In , the word of God comes to John the son of Zechariah, John the Baptist, and he begins to preach a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. ()
John started the deal off by saying to the people, “this baptism ain’t nothing, you just wait until the one who is mightier than I comes. I’m not worthy to untie his sandals. He’s got a baptism that will blow your mind.” Luke started off his gospel by saying, “something serious is coming.” I want you to notice this with me. Notice the parallel line Luke is drawing at the beginning of Acts with the beginning of his gospel. In the next paragraph of , after John the Baptist makes that statement, what happens? Jesus is baptized. Then as he is praying the heavens are opened and the Holy Spirit descends upon him in bodily form like a dove. And what is the Holy Spirit doing? He is empowering Jesus for his ministry. Because right after that Jesus begins his ministry.
There is a direct line between the Holy Spirit’s coming upon Jesus and empowering him for his kingdom of God ministry and his coming upon the disciples to empower them for their kingdom of God mission. The disciples, we’ve already been told, are devoting themselves to prayer. They are Christ’s followers and are being like him. And in their Christlike devotion the Spirit comes to empower them.
“Without the Holy Spirit, Christian discipleship would be inconceivable, even impossible. There can be no life without the life-giver, no understanding without the Spirit of truth, no fellowship without the unity of the Spirit, no Christlikeness of character apart from his fruit, and no effective witness without his power. As a body without breath is a corpse, so the church without the Spirit is dead.”
You see, there’s another nuance to this promise. It’s not just the fulfilment of what Luke described in his Gospel. What was Pentecost? Pentecost is described for us in . Pentecost was celebrated the fiftieth day after Passover. The Lord commanded Israel through Moses,
Leviticus 23:15–18 ESV
“You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the Lord. You shall bring from your dwelling places two loaves of bread to be waved, made of two tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour, and they shall be baked with leaven, as firstfruits to the Lord. And you shall present with the bread seven lambs a year old without blemish, and one bull from the herd and two rams. They shall be a burnt offering to the Lord, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord.
LEV23.15-
It was an annual harvest festival, the Feast of Weeks. It was connected with the annual harvest, but it also became a covenant renewal festival. Why? Because the first Passover took place in Egypt when Israel was still in slavery, right before the Lord brought them out with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Where did they find themselves fifty days after the first Passover? They had come through the Red Sea and came to the wilderness of Sinai and set up camp before Mount Sinai. And God speaks the words of the covenant to his people in ,
Exodus 19:2–6 ESV
They set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. There Israel encamped before the mountain, while Moses went up to God. The Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”
EX19.2-
In those picturesque words the Lord says to his people, here’s what your salvation looks like. I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. The song of your life isn’t, “I Believe I Can Fly.” The song of your salvation is, “My God can fly, and he carries me on his wings!” You can’t fly, God says, but I can. You couldn’t save yourselves. You couldn’t come to me on your own. So I did it for you. Now, obey my voice. What comes after ? . In we find the Ten Commandments, the giving of the Law.
N.T. Wright puts it well in his commentary,
Acts for Everyone, Part 1: Chapters 1–12 Here Comes the Power (Acts 2:1–4)

When the Israelites arrived at Mount Sinai, Moses went up the mountain, and then came down again with the law. Here, Jesus has gone up into heaven in the ascension, and—so Luke wants us to understand—he is now coming down again, not with a written law carved on tablets of stone, but with the dynamic energy of the law, designed to be written on human hearts.

So here is the breath of life, the Holy Spirit, the dynamic energy of the law, breathed into the Church. And his entry is unmistakeable. The fulfillment of the promise is so dramatic as to leave no doubt about what’s taking place. Ten days earlier Jesus had gone into heaven. Now suddenly, from heaven, came a sound like the mighty driving of the wind. And it filled the entire house where they were sitting. It wasn’t the wind, but there aren’t words to say precisely what it was. So Luke has to say it was like the mighty rushing of the wind. And in the midst of this unexplainable sound and force divided tongues like fire appeared to all 120 disciples, and a tongue sat on each one of them. Did you get that? It was like fire, but it wasn’t fire. That’s just the best way it could be described. What was happening? Here’s what was happening. A new era had begun and there was no turning back. Where the Spirit had come upon Jesus, empowering him for ministry, he had now come upon everyone who would carry on Jesus’ ministry. This was the distribution of the Holy Spirit to every believer. You can’t be a follower of Jesus and not participate in the distribution. You can’t be a Christian and not participate in the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The two go hand in hand. Why? Because Jesus promised it. And he keeps his promises. Dennis Johnson,
“[W]hen the risen Christ poured out the Spirit, each believer was marked by a miniature ‘pillar of fire,’ indicating that each was a temple in which God dwelt by his Spirit.”
In the Spirit’s grand entrance he filled them all just like Jesus promised. I’m going to talk a little be later about Pentecost as the reversal of Babel. But I need to mention another reversal first. Pentecost is also the reversal of misogyny. In a culture and a world that devalued women, that relegated them to a “less-than” status, it cannot be overlooked that the Spirit was given to all of the disciples equally and without discrimination. The Spirit didn’t just come to the twelve apostles. Luke was careful to mention in ch. 1 that all these were on one accord devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary, the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. This reversal was necessary because in the beginning God declared that male and female are created in the image of God, according to his likeness. And everything, especially the devaluing of people, gets warped because of sin. What that means is that in the church, the gifting of the Spirit must be allowed to flourish in all of God’s people.
In this miraculous scene the first thing that happens as a result of their being filled with the Spirit is another miracle. They begin to speak in other tongues or languages.

The Praise

They began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. This is not an out of control scene. He is in control. He is the one granting them this miraculous privilege of speaking in the known languages of the Mediterranean world. You don’t find the disciples saying, “I’d like to be able to speak in the language of the Elamites. I’d like to be able to speak Egyptian.” The Holy Spirit knows who’s around and what’s needed. Luke says in v. 5
Acts 2:5 ESV
Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven.
And because of the sound, Luke says, the multitude gathered together. We don’t know how many the multitude was, but it was a large number. The sound that the multitude heard was not only the sound like the mighty rushing of the wind that filled the house. What they heard was the after effects. It was the sound of 120 worshippers praising God. After the promise is the praise. And this praise was like none other. Each one was hearing the disciples speak in his own language. They were bewildered, confused. They were amazed and astonished. They were asking, “Aren’t all of these people who are speaking Galileans? How is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?” These people are just Galileans. How’d they learn to speak my language?
that there were dwelling or living in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And because of the sound, Luke says, the multitude gathered together. We don’t know how many the multitude was, but it was a large number. The sound that the multitude heard was not the sound like the mighty rushing of the wind that filled the house. What they heard was the after effects. It was the sound of 120 worshippers praising God. After the promise is the praise. And this praise was like none other. Each one was hearing the disciples speak in his own language. They were bewildered, confused. They were amazed and astonished. They were asking, “Aren’t all of these people who are speaking Galileans? How is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?” These people are just Galileans. How’d they learn to speak my language?
The disciples are not talking to the multitude that gathered around them. They’re talking to God. The Spirit has filled them and moved them to praise God. The content of their tongue speaking is the mighty works of God. The people say in v. 11, “we hear them telling in our own languages the mighty works of God.” The Spirit has come from heaven for the purpose of kingdom mission. And that kingdom mission includes the declaration of the mighty works of God to every nation under heaven. What do you think those mighty works they declared were about? It was about the fact that all of God’s promises for his creation find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ, and this has been confirmed by the fact that he rose from the dead.
John 15:26–27 ESV
“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.
What the Holy Spirit has done is begin to unravel and reverse the tragic effects of Babel. Every nation under heaven can hear (rd. Vv. 9-11a)…
“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning. ( ESV)
Acts 2:9–11 ESV
Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”
What the Holy Spirit has done is begin to unravel and reverse the tragic effects of Babel. Every nation under heaven can hear (rd. Vv. 9-11a)…
The last time prior to this that language was not a barrier to communication was in . It was a long long time ago. says that the whole earth had one language and the same words. The last time humanity could communicate in an unhindered way, we had no regard for the mighty works of God. We were consumed with the mighty works of man. The unified effort of humanity was to utilize all of our God given intellect, all of our God given ingenuity, all of our God given artistic capacity, all of our God given technological know-how, all of our God given creative ability to try and show our might; to make much of ourselves. They said in ,
ACTS2.
The last time prior to this that language was not a barrier to communication was in . It was a long long time ago. says that the whole earth had one language and the same words. The last time humanity could communicate in an unhindered way, we had no regard for the mighty works of God. We were consumed with the mighty works of man. The unified effort of humanity was to utilize all of our God given intellect, all of our God given ingenuity, all of our God given artistic capacity, all of our God given technological know-how, all of our God given creative ability to try and show our might; to make much of ourselves. They said in ,
“Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens and let us make a name for ourselves.”
God came down from heaven in judgment and in mercy. He mixed up our language to prevent worldwide solidarity in our rebellion of God. So the name that was earned in is “babel,” which means “confusion.” From that day forward, rule for humanity wasn’t solidarity, but distrust, disunity. No, we can’t all just get along.
Here in with the coming of the Holy Spirit we see the public declaration that the kingdom has broken in, and God’s kingdom expansion program reverses the tragic effects of Babel. The disciples’ unified praise, declaring the mighty works of God is letting us know that the expression of unity in humanity under the control of the Holy Spirit is for the praise and glory of God, not for the establishment of our own kingdom against his rule. F. F. Bruce,
“The church of Christ still speaks in many tongues, and if her speech is not now normally of the supernatural order that marked the day of Pentecost, the message is the same, the mighty deeds of God.”
So, the reversal of Babel doesn’t mean that the Spirit has given us one common language. What he’s doing is creating a worldwide people of God united by a common confession in the lordship of Jesus Christ. Within the body of Christ, the powerful presence of the Spirit means that we really can understand one another. By the power of the Spirit, the barriers are overcome. Who is excluded from the list? Who doesn’t get the privilege of hearing the mighty works of God in his language? No one. In this miraculous praise is the demonstration of the multi-racial, multi-national, multi-lingual, unified nature of God’s kingdom. But you might say, “I still see disunity in the church. I still often see confusion and problems. I still see us having problems in this church.” That’s why you have to love God’s word. The problems aren’t hidden. We don’t have to go much further in Acts before problems of disunity in the church start arising that they have to deal with…(Immediately in we see the multi-ethnic unity challenged…)
Johnson,
“[T]hese early signs of Jesus’ power to rescue and repair by his Spirit reveal that the church’s life is now a first installment and preview of the peace, unity, love, and joy of the world to come, even in the midst of the old creation’s present pollution, decay, and death.”
Without the presence of the Spirit there isn’t even the possibility of praise. Have you ever had this experience? You come to worship on Sunday morning in a bad mood. You’re at odds with somebody. Somebody has been working your nerves. Or you’re burdened because of a fractured relationship. But then you enter into the praise of God together with his people, and there is all of a sudden the presence of peace that overwhelms your heart, or the presence of a conviction that you ought to go and make things right? What do you think that is? Rather, who do you think that is? That’s the Spirit of Christ working out the implications of unified praise in the body of Christ.

The Perplexity

That only happens through the unifying power and presence of the Holy Spirit. Without him there is only confusion and perplexity. We see it right here in this text. All of these people are viewing this display of exuberant, unified praise in multiple languages as outsiders looking in. What is their response to this incredible work of the Spirit? How does Luke describe the response of these men from every nation under heaven? Verse 6, “they were confused/bewildered because each one was hearing them speak in his own language.” Verse 7, “they were amazed and astonished.” Verse 12, “all were amazed and perplexed.” What they saw left them with two particular responses. And neither response included understanding. Some ask in v. 13, “What does this mean?” Others mock them and say, “these people are filled with new wine.” They must be drunk.
We’ll see next week that Peter is going to clarify the situation with great conviction and resolve in his sermon, but the irony here is that their immediate reaction to the miraculous reversal and undoing of Babel was not praise, but it was perplexity and unbelief. What did they need? They needed the Spirit to work on them.
Paul Miller wrote a book titled, A Praying Life. In that book, Miller talks a lot about cynicism being the great temptation of our age and the impact it can have on our prayer life. He says,
“Cynicism begins with a wry assurance that everyone has an angle. Behind every silver lining is a cloud. The cynic is always critiquing, but never engaged, loving, hoping. Because cynicism sees “what’s really going on,” it feels authentic. While prayer is feisty, cynicism merely critiques.”
What we find in the last words of this section is the cynical response to the work of the Spirit. How are these people described? They are described as devout Jews. They are people who were waiting in expectation for the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel. But what’s apparent is that many of them were waiting in unbelief. Even though everybody looking on perplexed, astonished, confused, which means that they don’t understand what’s going on; yet there are some who say, “I do understand what’s going on. These people are just drunk.”—In other words, you can’t fool me. They are cynics. They respond to the work of God with ridicule. Guess what? That same cynicism hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s still around. When it came to the message, mission, and Spirit filled life of the church I used to be one. As an outsider looking in I was cynical about the church. They had to have an angle. Are you a cynic this morning? Do you respond to Jesus with unbelief? There’s hope for cynics. One, they show up in the Bible. What we find out is that our cynicism can’t stop God from grabbing our hearts. You can’t stop the Holy Spirit. Your arms are too short to box with God.
These people saw the miraculous and responded with cynical unbelief. They saw God go out of his way to declare the good news to them in their own language yet they refuse to believe because they’ve got it all figured out. What’s the difference between a perplexed cynic and a submitted saint? The presence of the Holy Spirit...
Acts for Everyone, Part 1: Chapters 1–12 New Words for New News (Acts 2:5–13)

Part of the challenge of this passage is the question: have p 30 our churches today got enough energy, enough spirit-driven new life, to make onlookers pass any comment at all? Has anything happened which might make people think we were drunk? If not, is it because the spirit is simply at work in other ways, or because we have so successfully quenched the spirit that there is actually nothing happening at all?

Because of the Spirit, Grace Mosaic, we should be a peculiar people. The community should look a this church and be wondering, “What’s their angle?”...

Justin Martyr

The apologist Justin Martyr (ca. AD 100–165) wrote a defense of the Christian faith in the middle of the second century to debunk the rumors swirling about Christians. Some rumors included the belief that Christians practiced cannibalism—since there was talk of eating flesh and drinking blood, and such things were done in secret. Justin offers a thorough rebuttal to these claims and in doing so provides the most thorough early account of the Lord’s Supper that we possess from the early church (First Apology 65–67). Justin indicates the standard elements of the eucharistic rite:

• A celebration of baptism often precedes it (linking these two sacraments together liturgically).

• A prayer is offered for the entire community.

• The blessing is given over the elements by what Justin calls the “president of the assembly.”

• The deacons distribute the elements to the members.

Furthermore, Justin mentions three requirements for participation:

• The participant must believe that Christian teachings are true.

• The participant must be baptized.

• The participant must be actively living according to Christian teaching (Billy, Beauty, 62).

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