Summary: Why did Jesus pick Pentecost to send the Holy Spirit down on the disciples
Tilney Vicarage 23-05-2021
The sixty days before Pentecost of 33 AD - the year usually associated with our Lord crucifixion - must have been incredibly strange to the 12 apostles.
In that period, one of them Judas Iscariot had been replaced by another apostle, Matthias.
It all started on the day we remember as Palm Sunday.
As Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, ahead of the most nationalistic feasts of Judaism, all eyes were on Him
They expected Jesus to rise up – as a second Judas Maccabeus - and throw the hated Romans out
But as he comes into Jerusalem, he turns towards the Temple rather than towards the Roman garrison in the town
And He then proceeds to cleanse the Temple (cf Mt 21 :12-17)
And then we have the Last Supper and the Institution of the Holy Communion service on what we recall as Maundy Thursday.
And then the Disciples
(and by Disciples I am including the women like Mary Magdalene and Mary the Mother of Jesus)
had seen how suddenly public opinion had changed and Jesus had been crucified, as we recall on Good Friday each year.
And so far as the rulers in Jerusalem were concerned THAT SHOULD have been the end of this annoying little Galillean sect
But that wasn’t the end of the story.
Jesus rose from the dead three days after his Crucifixion.
And we celebrate this each year as Easter Day
And although we don’t know the exact year, most historians put it either as in 30 AD or in 33 AD.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the one event that the early Church gave for its phenomenal success.
We don’t know exactly how many people saw the risen Christ
However St Paul tells us that the resurrected Jesus was seen by at least 514 men – and that doesn’t include the women such as Mary Magdalene).
And then within 40 days from his resurrection Jesus ascends bodily into heaven - an event we remember on each year as Ascension Day, traditionally on a Thursday - 10 days before Pentecost.
Now in that 40 days from Jesus’ resurrection to his Ascension Jesus gave his Church what is known as the “Great Commission” just before he left this earth.
He told them “ Go and make disciples of all nations baptising them in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you till the end of the age” (Mt. 28:19 and 20)
But before they were to start evangelising, Jesus gave them a very clear but bizarre instruction to the disciples.
He told them to stay in Jerusalem before they were to start fulfilling the Great Commission.
In Acts 1, Jesus gives his reasons
“But you shall receive Power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be my witnessses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1 v.8)
1. So my first question is why were they to WAIT, rather than to start evangelising right away
1. One reason, I think was that the disciples’ minds were probably still scrambled by the events that had happened.
It still would have been hard for them to think straight.
2. But the second more important reason was that they needed to wait for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. This was the only way the disciples would be able to fulfil the Great Commission.
Bringing people to Christ is a spiritual battle.
It is not simply an intellectual discussion – as you might have if you were discussing politics.
The spiritual battle for people’s hearts can only be won, on the spiritual battlefield – and we need the power of the Holy Spirit to succeed.
And note how much of the time, the disciples spent in prayer in Acts 1 and 2
Did you realise that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit occurred during a prayer meeting
It must have been very daunting for the disciples, when they first heard of the commission to preach the Gospel to all nations.
But what they also had to learn was that when Jesus asks us to do something – He provides us with the means to do it.
2. And so the second question I’d like to pose was WHY did God PICK Pentecost for the outpouring of His Spirit and the launch of the Christian mission to the world?
Why did Jesus make such a fuss about the timing?
There are a number of reasons but I believe the prime reason is that the actual meaning of the Feast will tell us what is going on.
Let me go a little into the background.