Summary: 1st in series on meaning of Pentecost. It was a pilgrim holiday, to draw near to God. Acts 2 shows us God drawing near to us.
Acts 2:1-13 – We Are Not Alone
On June 18, 1815, twelve miles south of Brussels and two miles from the Belgian village of Waterloo, the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was soundly defeated by Arthur Wellesley, better known as the Duke of Wellington. At the time of this victory, though, things were not so clear.
Without our modern means of communication, the people in those days were limited to semaphore signals. The news of Wellington’s decisive victory was passed along until finally, in the last relay from a ship out in the channel, the message was passed on to receivers stationed high in the towers of Westminster Abbey. The communication stated, "Wellington defeated."
When those two words were received, a heavy fog rolled across London and the message -- just as received -- was passed on to the waiting people. All of London was filled with grief and despair as strong men sobbed openly and women agonized in the streets. However, a few hours later another wind blew the fog away, and the message from the ship began again, this time adding a 3rd word, saying, "Wellington defeated Napoleon."
What a difference! News of defeat turned to news of triumph. Watch the difference that 1 word makes. “He is not risen” – to – “He is risen!” “The grave can not be beaten” – to – “The grave can be beaten.” “We are not forgiven” – to – “We are forgiven!”
The scene for those early believers in Christ was much the same. It’s as if Good Friday was only the 1st 2 words of the message. They grieved and mourned, for their leader was dead. But that was not the end of the message. For time passed, the fog lifted, and they got a new message. This new message, which changed their lives forever, was: “Jesus is alive!”
Last week we looked at the Resurrection of Jesus. He rose from the dead early that 1st Sunday morning. He appeared to Mary Magdalene, then to the other women, then to Peter, then to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, and then to 10 of the disciples. That was day 1. A week later He appeared again to the disciples, with Thomas this time. He appeared to 7 of the disciples at the Sea of Galilee one morning. He appeared to many others, even to more than 500 at one time. Over the course of 40 days Jesus continued to teach and to touch. But the time came for Him to leave. He ascended into heaven, but left instructions for His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until the gift of the Holy Spirit was given. We pick up the story in Acts 2:1-13.
I would like to spend the next few weeks looking at this passage of Scripture. There is much that can be said about Pentecost. But I’d like to take a different angle with it. I’d like to spend time looking at what the Jewish holiday of Pentecost meant to the Jews that trusted Jesus. What did Pentecost mean for the early believers, and what does Pentecost mean for us today?
Some of you may be thinking, though, “So what? Why does it matter to me today what the people then thought of Pentecost?” Well, that’s a good question. There are a few ways of looking at it. #1 – It was the birthday of the church. The fact that you are here today is a testimony to the importance of Pentecost. #2 – It was a new movement of God, a new way for God to relate to people. That matters, because it reflects the way we look at God today. #3 – Jesus said how important it was. If Jesus talked about it, Pentecost must have been significant.
And #4 – It was really the culmination, the pinnacle, the completion of Jesus’ work on earth. We believe in His teachings. We believe in His death. We believe in His resurrection. We believe in His ascension. Well, Pentecost is the fulfillment of Jesus’ ministry on earth. It was the beginning of the ministry of the Holy Spirit on earth, and in believers. Pentecost matters to you if you are a Christian. It was the sign of great things to come.
The word Pentecost means 50. It was 50 days after Passover. It was also called the Feast of Weeks. A week is 7 days, and a week of weeks would be 7X7, or 49, and the Feast was held on the 50th day. Now, the history of Pentecost goes way back to 1200BC, to the giving of the Law by God to Moses. It was an agricultural holiday – that is, its date was chosen by God to coincide with the harvest. Which is why Exodus 23:16 calls it the Feast of Harvest. Go figure.