Summary: What is Pentecost? Why should anyone call it one of the "big three" Christian holy days? Do you know?
May 31, 1998
In the last days, God declares, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh ... Acts 2:17
Today we celebrate one of the three great days of the entire church year. Everyone celebrates Christmas, and most people even know that it has to do with the birth of Jesus, whether or not they call Him God and Lord. Most people celebrate Easter, and some of them know that Easter, too, has to do with Jesus, and His victory over death and sin.
But then, at least in our country, comes Thanksgiving, (when we do have ecumenical services; and that is good, although most Americans are more tuned into football and a big family reunion and meal), and then Super Bowl, and of course the Fourth of July.
But what is Pentecost? Why should anyone call it one of the "big three" Christian holy days? Do you know? To begin with:
PENTECOST IS (ANOTHER) TRANSFORMED JEWISH HOLY DAY
We say Pentecost is ANOTHER transformed Jewish holy day because Christians have seen Christ as the fulfillment behind just about all the Old Testament. Jesus is our Passover Lamb, and Jesus is our Seder Host, transforming the Passover Meal into the Communion we will share this morning. And so Passover, too, takes on fulfilling significance to Christians.
Pentecost was and is a Jewish feast day celebrating two things. Called "Pesech" or "Pentecost" because it follows fifty days after Passover and the High Holy Days, Pentecost was first a celebration of the first harvesting of summer fruits. It anticipates the later, greater harvest of the autumn season. Pentecost also in later times came to be a commemoration of the giving of the law to Moses on Sinai. Devout Jews praised God for giving guidance to all mankind on how to live lives of order and righteousness. The giving of the Law can be contrasted with the giving of confusion at Babel, when God confused those who were trying to reach heaven on their own wisdom; the giving of the Law is God's way of bringing order out of chaos.
WHAT HAPPENED THAT FIRST PENTECOST?
First of all, what happened on Pentecost was that the gathered disciples received the indwelling Holy Spirit, and the Church as Christ's body came into existence. It was the birthday of the church.
Christians believe that on the Jewish feast of Pentecost that came 50 days after Jesus rose from the dead, and ten days after He ascended to the Father, Jesus, HAVING RECEIVED THE FULLNESS OF GLORY, for which he prayed in John 17: 1, Jesus then poured that Spirit He had received out upon his beloved disciples.
This was THE FIRST FRUITS of a great harvest which was to come. As a matter of fact that FIRST FRUIT CELEBRATION that day netted 3,000 new believers in Jesus Christ! It is a celebration of FIRST FRUITS.
The Christian Pentecost might seem to have little to do with the second aspect of the Jewish celebration: the giving of the law to Moses on the mount. But actually, here was a fulfillment of the promise that God would pour out His Spirit on all flesh, and as Paul declares in 2 Corinthians 3:3 God wrote his law now not on tables of stone, but on fleshy tables of the human heart. And instead of confusion of languages, now everyone could hear God's plan of salvation in a language they could understand. In the words of a Sandi Patti song: "Fluent LOVE is spoken here!"
There were other, dramatic things that happened that day of Pentecost. There was mighty, shaking, fearsome sound of hurricane force wind. There were licking, flaming, forked tongues of fire. And there were languages spoken in order that every person who came to see what was happening could understand who Jesus is, and how he can deliver from sin.
Once again here was a direct contrast with Babel: where Babel had been confusion and misunderstanding, Pentecost was God's law in the hearts, God's law of LOVE, and the opposite of confusion: interpretation: everyone heard in his own language the message of salvation.
We have been trained to think of Pentecost and the Holy Spirit only in the rushing wind, and the tongues of fire, and the exotic gifts of language or experience. But first of all the coming of the Spirit is God loving us, and coming to make his home in us so that we can be at home in him on our way home.
THE NEED FOR PENTECOST TODAY
This is the NORM for our Christian existence. The Holy Spirit IS the life of the Church. No Spirit- no life! The Spirit fills every believer to the extent of his/her capacity. There is a deeper life for those who will seek the fullness of the Spirit's blessing. There are wonderful benefits to be received from living the life of full surrender to God's will. But it begins with the Holy Spirit coming to live in you and me and together making us the Church. Welcome the Holy Spirit into your inner being this very day!