Summary: Pentecost was a dramatic display of God's power and Spirit. Why did Jesus pick Pentecost to begin His church and what can that mean to us?

OPEN: In the land of Norway there is a valley. This valley is long and narrow with mountainous peaks that tower 1000s of feet into the air, and nestled deep inside that valley is a little town whose name I’m not sure I can pronounce. This village has existed for over 100 years and it is a beautiful little town begun known for its scenic cable car and nearby winter sports (Rjukan was originally founded as a company town for Norsk Hydro, which set up a fertilizer plant here to utilize the hydro power from the nearby 104 meter Rjukanfossen waterfall).

It’s a great little village, but they have one small problem. Because the walls of the mountains rise so high above them, from September through March the sun is blotted out and the city is in shadow for over half the year. Despite its beauty, this lovely village has been a very dark and dismal place to live.

And that’s way it was… until about 4 years ago when they found a way to pipe sunlight down into the valley. They raised $850,000 and built 3 huge state-of-the-art mirrors to reflect the sun’s rays down into the village square and illuminate about 2000 square feet of the town. The computer-powered mirrors shift every 10 seconds to track the movements of the sun during the day and reflect the light to the village. It took a lot of energy and a lot of effort to pipe sunlight down into that very dark and dismal land.


And about 2000 years ago, God spent a lot of energy and a lot of effort to bring the LIGHT OF LIFE down into a dark and dismal land. And it all happened on a day we call the Day of Pentecost.

The day of Pentecost was a powerful day. We read about the sound of a mighty rushing wind, of tongues of fire, and of the Apostles being able to speak in tongues so that everybody who was there (from various surrounding nations/languages) could hear the disciples tell of the wondrous power of God. What we’re seeing in Acts 2 is the fireworks of God. This was God getting the attention of the crowds and drawing them in so that they could hear the message that would bring the LIGHT OF LIFE into their lives.

God does that a lot in Scripture. Whenever God wants to get people’s attention, over and over again, He does something dramatic and eye-catching. When God wanted to get Pharaoh’s attention… He set off fireworks. God did things in Egypt that they’d never seen before because God had a message for Pharaoh and He wanted his attention.

When God brought the Israelites to the Mountain to receive the 10 Commandments He set off fireworks to get their attention. There was lightning, fire, smoke, a loud trumpet and voice of God thundering down the 10 Commandments. It was so scary the people huddled in fear. But they got the message.

There was the day God flooded the earth. The day He confused the languages at the Tower of Babel. The day the walls of Jericho came a tumbling down. The day Daniel was in the Lion’s Den. The day Elijah called down fire from the sky to burn up his offering. And on, and on, and on.

God has a flair for the dramatic; He seems to love the theatrical; He loves fireworks…because it gets our attention. And that’s what God was doing at Pentecost. He had something He wanted people to see. Something He wanted them to understand. And he was shooting off fireworks to get their attention.

(pause) But what was it He wanted them to see? What was it He wanted them to understand?

Well, 1st – God wanted them to see that He’d had this planned all along. You see – God could have picked any old day to do what He did here but He picked Pentecost as the day to start His church.

WHY? One reason was, that by picking that day, God was guaranteed to have a HUGE crowd. Pentecost was one of the 3 great festivals in Judaism where God’s people were required to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem (Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles were the other two). It was commanded in the Law. People HAD to show up… they didn’t have a choice! So God was gonna have a big crowd.

2ndly – God chose Pentecost because it had always been God’s plan to use this date to kick off His church. In Scripture Pentecost went by several different names:

• Pentecost (of course)

• The Feast of weeks (Exodus 34:22; Deuteronomy 16:10)

• The Feast Of Harvest (Exodus 23:16)

• And THE DAY OF FIRST FRUITS (Numbers 28:26)

Notice I put that last one in all capital letters. This was the day of the FIRST FRUITS. Under the Old Testament, this was the time when God's people celebrated the 1st fruits of their wheat harvest. They were thanking God for the crops of their fields and they came to Jerusalem to offer special offerings at the Temple.

And then… they partied. They sang and they danced and they feasted before God. They had a Good Time!!! They celebrated God’s kindness to them. This was the DAY OF FIRST FRUITS

And God deliberately chose this day to celebrate the FIRST FRUITS of His Church. Do you realize that there were no Christians before Pentecost? It’s a fact. You see, in order to be a Christian you needed to have something special INSIDE of you. Do you know what you had to have inside you be a Christian? That’s right – you had to have the Spirit of God. That’s what Romans 8:9 tells us: “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” In order to be a Christian, you MUST have the Spirit inside of you. You cannot be a Christian without the Holy Spirit IN you.

And NO ONE (before Pentecost) had the Holy Spirit inside them as the mark of their salvation. That’s what John 7:39 tells us “Now this (Jesus) said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”

There were no Christians before Jesus was glorified. So when was Jesus “glorified”? He was glorified when He ascended to heaven and sat down at right hand of Father - that took place 10 days BEFORE Pentecost.

That’s why, when the crowds interrupted Peter’s sermon to ask what they should do, Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.”

Nobody was a Christian before Pentecost, because no one had the GIFT of the Spirit until THE DAY of Pentecost. And that was because Pentecost was the day of 1st FRUITS.

But Pentecost was even more than the day of 1st fruits. It was also designed by God to declare the Gospel message.

Now, let’s do a little review about this last Pentecost in Scripture. God sets off the fireworks of a mighty wind, tongues of fire and the Apostles speaking in languages they’d never learned to get people’s attention. Then, Peter gets up and preaches about how Jesus was the promised Messiah. The crowd is so convicted by the idea that they had literally killed the promised King, that interrupted Peter’s sermon to ask what they must do to fix what they’d done. Peter replies "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38) And then the disciples baptize a whole passel of people.

ILLUS: When you folks sent me to Israel a couple years ago, one of the stops we made was the south wall of Old Jerusalem (we showed a few pictures like the ones you can find at Do you see all those holes in the ground there? Those the results of extensive excavations because they’d found a number of significant places called “mikvahs”. What’s a mikvah? It’s a ritual bath (we’d call them baptisteries) where people would come and “cleanse” themselves before going into the Temple to serve or offer sacrifices. Some folks have asked how the Apostles could have baptized so many folks that day – this is how. Archaeologists have discovered 50 mikvahs so far. So there were more than enough places for folks to get baptized on Pentecost.

Now, a question: How many people were baptized into Christ on Pentecost? (about 3000) Acts 2:41 says “ those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day ABOUT THREE THOUSAND SOULS.” Remember that number.

This was the last Pentecost mentioned in Scripture, and if there’s a last Pentecost, there’s gotta be a FIRST Pentecost. Pentecost means “50” – because it took place 50 days after Passover. So Pentecost was linked to the Passover. This last Pentecost was linked to the Passover where Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead.

That means, the FIRST Pentecost had to take place after the FIRST Passover. When was the first Passover? (Egypt). That’s right. The first Passover took place the last night Israel was in Egypt. They were to prepare their meal and be packed and ready… because the next day, they were leaving town. Fifty days later – guess where they were? They were standing around the base of the Mountain of God.

Now, this where the illustration breaks a little, but Moses went up the mountain and received the 10 Commandments from God. Forty days later he came down to find that the people were doing a lot of stuff they shouldn’t have been doing. Among other things, they’d made a golden calf and were worshipping it. God was mad. Moses was mad, and Moses broke the tablets that held the commandments of God. Then Moses went down into the camp, had the calf torn down and ground into powder and put into the water supply and forced the people to drink. Now, the Bible doesn’t say, but I’m convinced that some of the men in the camp took a look at the water and refused to drink and dared Moses to make them. At that point Moses called for those who were on the Lord’s side to come stand beside him. The whole tribe of Levi seems to have done so, and Moses essentially said: “Go strap on your swords boys, because we’re going to go clean house.” And that day a great number of men died by their swords.

Do you have an idea how many people died that day? About 3000.

Exodus 32:28 “And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And that day ABOUT THREE THOUSAND men of the people fell.”

Shortly after the first Pentecost about 3000 people are killed. And on the last Pentecost found in Scripture about 3000 are saved. So you suppose that was a “coincidence?” I don’t think so. It just shows the intricacy of God’s Word and how carefully God revealed the truths He wanted us to see. But wait, it gets better:

In II Corinthians we read “… the letter (of the Law) kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:6). The Law kills, but the Spirit gives life. At the first Pentecost (after the giving of the law) men died. At the last Pentecost (when God saved people by the power of the Holy Spirit) men were born again. How cool is that?

CLOSE: I said earlier that Pentecost was the a day of “fireworks”. There was a mighty wind, tongues of fire, and the Apostles were speaking in languages they’d never learned and declaring the glory of God to any who were nearby. And that’s all great stuff… but that wasn’t the MESSAGE of Pentecost. Those things were simply God’s way of getting our attention so we could focus on the real message of Pentecost – Jesus.

Peter told us that: "Men of Israel, hear these words: JESUS of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know — this JESUS, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” Acts 2:22-24

It was all about Jesus. It was all about Jesus being the Messiah. It was about Jesus being the one who had been promised by God, the one who had fulfilled all prophecies made about Him. It was about Jesus who had done mighty works and wonders and signs amongst them. It was about Jesus who had come and died for them and rose from the dead because it was not possible for death to hold Him.

And then Peter brought it home: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this JESUS, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Acts 2:36

(PAUSE) Back in Matthew 16 Jesus had asked had asked Peter who he thought He was, and Peter replied: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and ON THIS ROCK (Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God) I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:16-18

The Church is built on Jesus. It’s not about pretty buildings. It’s not about powerful preachers. It’s not about great choirs, and it’s not about large congregations (although those can all be good things). The CHURCH is built on Jesus. And PENTECOST was all about Jesus. Because without Jesus… you ain’t got nothing!!! Unless Christ is the center of interest, life will be out of focus. Jesus was THE LIGHT of the world that God PIPED in to a dark and dismal world.

It’s all about Jesus. That’s why - when the crowd at Pentecost was convicted by Peter’s sermon - they interrupted him and asked “What must we do” And Peter replied: "Repent and be baptized every one of you IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

When you become a Christian – when you believe, repent and are baptized - it’s in the name of Jesus. you die to your sins, you’re buried WITH CHRIST. Paul said it this way in Romans 6:3-4

“Do you not know that all of us who have been BAPTIZED INTO CHRIST JESUS were BAPTIZED INTO HIS DEATH? We were BURIED THEREFORE WITH HIM BY BAPTISM into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

It’s all about Jesus.

ILLUS: I remember visiting with a man years ago and we were talking about church. We hadn’t said anything about baptism… but he asked: “Do I need to get baptized again?”

Something seemed odd about his question so I said: “Again? How many times have you been baptized?”

“Five times”, he replied. It seems that every time he joined a church they baptized him all over again… because they were baptizing him into “their church.”

So I asked “In those five times you were baptized, were you ever baptized to BELONG TO JESUS?”

“Yes,” he said “once.”

“Well,” I replied. “That’s all we ask.”

You see, we don’t baptize folks into our church. It’s not our church to begin with. And it’s not about “our church” and it’s not about “me” or about “you”… it’s all about Jesus.