Today is Pentecost! Sort of... For Jews, the Feast of Pentecost was May 31st this year (Since they follow the Jewish calendar) but for Christians, it’s celebrated today, exactly 50 days after the resurrection celebration of Easter.
A little bit of Jewish history… (absolutely FREE too!)
The Feast of Pentecost, also known as the Feast of Weeks, was a Jewish day commemorating the beginning of the Jewish harvest and the giving of the Law. During this time, the Jewish men traveled to the house of the God and offered up a portion of their first harvest as a thank you for God's blessings. This offering was one of the “freewill offerings” meaning they were not required by Jewish Law to give anything and instead were to give as they felt led. So this was merely a way for them to show gratitude to God. Even in the Old Testament, we can see that what God wanted from his people was, and still is, a willing heart.
So with some history under our belt let's take a look at this special day in church history.
[Note: We are dealing with Jewish time so hours and days work a bit differently than they do here in the west]
It's Pentecost today. Fifty days ago at 3 pm Passover day, just as the priests began sacrificing the Passover lambs in the Temple, Jesus died a painful death on the cross. Three days later, He rose from the dead. After his resurrection, Jesus remained on the earth for forty days, talking to His followers about the Kingdom of God. But before Jesus left, He encouraged them with the promise of something better, something he had mentioned to them earlier in John 16: a Comforter, the Holy Ghost. Which He tells them will be even better than being with Him. How can this be? How can something be better than having Jesus, God in the flesh, on the earth? That was probably the last thought the disciples had as Jesus floated up through the clouds into heaven, leaving everyone staring into the open expanse above. That was seven days ago. The last fifty days were truly crazy and exciting. If only the disciples could have known what was coming in the moments that followed.
“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.” Just as any good Christian, the disciples were fellowshipping and following Christ’s final instruction to wait for the Comforter in Jerusalem. They were minding their own business when- “suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost” Wow! So a fire like manifestation appeared and divided into what looked like flaming tongues and each tongue flew out and rested on a disciple. (I don’t know about you, but that is something I definitely wish I could have seen) They must have been excited as they suddenly realized the answer to the question they asked themselves seven days ago: "What can be better than having God on the earth with you? Hint: it's having God within you! So then they “began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Suddenly everyone could speak multiple languages, the Holy Spirit gave them the supernatural ability to properly pronounce and speak a language that they had never learned. Just like when God scrambled the languages in Genesis, He unscrambles the languages for the disciples. And wouldn't you know, it just so happens that there is a representative from every country in the world living outside the disciple's doors. If any of you have spent time in a foreign non-English speaking country you know your ears perk up when you hear your language there. Once when I was on a missions trip in Chile I overheard another American missions group that was passing by on the street. I was shocked to hear English so I listened in. I then realized they were talking about Jesus and became so excited that I went to talk to them! Wait, no. That's not what happened... Instead of greeting my fellows Americans, I went inside and told my missions team that there were English speakers outside! And that's exactly what happens here. Somebody heard them and was so excited that he ran off and told some other people about it. “when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled,” Oh, and then the Bible conveniently lists the countries represented:
Parthia, Mede, Elam, Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, Cretes, Arabians, Cyrene, Jews (and also some generic groups such as) foreigners of Rome, and Jewish converts from other countries.
I took the time to count all those and I found out it's a good amount of countries.
So after this amazing feat of verbal expertise, something odd happens “And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.” So some of the people watching think that they should make fun of these random dudes speaking every language known to man at the same time. But what approach could they use? Oh, you know, the only logical argument: calling them out as being extremely intoxicated. I don’t know about you, but when I see a drunk person I don’t normally think “Oh look, I bet that guy is bilingual and has great social skills” in fact, normally I assume that that person would have trouble speaking clearly at all! But nevertheless, that's the approach they chose to take. So Peter and the others stand up together and give the world’s best defense on their sobriety “For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is” 9 am! I mean seriously Peter could have been a lawyer instead of a fisherman, you can’t argue with that defense. No one ever gets drunk that early. Then Peter switches to using scripture, which is probably the more sound approach. He quotes Joel 2:28-32 “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.” If that doesn’t get you excited and capture your attention, I don’t know what will! It continues on, but there is way too much stuff to cover in it for this single post, so maybe another day.
So Peter gives this speech about how everyone knows Jesus, His miracles, His death on the cross, and Peter fills them in on Christ's fulfillment of prophetic Scripture. And he says, this same Jesus has ascended into Heaven to sit at the right hand of God being confirmed as both Lord and Messiah. The Bible says that this speech pricked the crowd in their hearts and the crowd asked the ever appropriate question: “But what do we do?” to which Peter replied “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” And that answer sure did bring a revival “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls”
So that's what happened at Pentecost. It was the day that God gave the Holy Spirit to his people and the day the Church began its ministry. It's truly a day to remember. So here's some spiritual food for thought. God did great works though the disciples during Pentecost. Three thousand people got saved right at the start! That's truly amazing, but let me remind you that none of it was because the disciples were super spiritual or more holy than everyone else. If you remember Peter actually messed up quite a few times before this event. So what changed? Before Peter had to rely on himself. He didn’t have the Holy Spirit to give him discernment on how to deal with these situations. Though he had faith, he struggled. We, as Christians, have the very same Spirit living inside of us. The same power that moved the disciples to this great revival is the same Spirit that touches you when you read about this story, that gets you excited for the things of God, and that burdens your heart to help others. We have access to the power of the Holy Spirit, so let’s use it. I feel like more often than not we live our lives within our own power. Often we don't consider the work of God in our day-to-day life. When it comes to our jobs or education, we often don't feel like we need God's Help to get through it, and yeah, maybe you can survive without God's help and live your life okay, but God didn't give us grace so we could just get by. Jesus didn't die so we could just make it through the day. The Spirit did not come to live inside us, unifying us with God, so we could just barely live. No, Christ says it best in John 10:10, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." This abundant life can't be found without God. It doesn't come from a Sunday-Wednesday type Christianity. It comes from a continual fellowship with God, that was made possible through Christ's death and the Spirit's unifying power. So this Pentecost day (and hopefully after too) let's get alone with God, meditate on His word, and listen to His Spirit's leading in our lives. There’s a path God wants to lead us down that leads to this abundant life. All we have to do is depend on Him, fellowship with Him, and follow Him as he touches our hearts to lead us.
[Come back June 6th for a ramble on Biblical Meditation]
Scripture Reading for Pentecost: