Today (Sunday, June 8th) is the day many Christians celebrate Pentecost as do many of our Jewish friends and relatives. This day is a special day for both religions.
Pentecost is fifty days from Passover and from Easter Sunday, the day we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ. For our Jewish brothers and sisters it is also called Shavuot and was one of the holiest of days. In Genesis 23:16 it describes a harvest festival. Now it is celebrated as the day they honor the time when God presented the Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai.
Leviticus 21:15-16, 21 – You shall count for yourselves — from the day after the Shabbat, from the day when you bring the Omer of the waving — seven Shabbats, they shall be complete. Until the day after the seventh sabbath you shall count, fifty days… You shall convoke on this very day — there shall be a holy convocation for yourselves — you shall do no laborious work; it is an eternal decree in your dwelling places for your generations. –
During the first evening and night of this Jewish Holiday of Pentecost, the Torah is studied and read and prayers said very early in the morning. Also, during this time, the Book of Ruth is read. This is a tradition begun long ago and there seems to be no conclusive or authoritative purpose as to why the book of Ruth is read – tradition for so long no one remembers why, perhaps.
We, Christians, were not the originators of this word or the phrase “fiftieth day,” as you can see. Continuing in Leviticus 23:16, the Jewish people are told to count out fifty days beginning at the end of Passover. This, then, becomes their next festival. This is then Shavuot as we mentioned earlier.
And on this very same holiday, Christians celebrate the time when the disciples and many other followers gathered together for a meal of honoring the giving of the Law to Moses; and as we will see in a few moments, the day the Holy Spirit came upon them in a whirlwind and tongues of fire touching each of them, filling them, preparing them for their ministry and mission of leading others to Christ, thus creating the “church.” As we know, we are the church, not a building, not a book, we are together the church.
Who better to describe the events of this famous day, the day our Christian church began than a reading from the actual event as it is described in the Holy Bible.
Acts 2 (NIV)
The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost
2 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them.
5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans?
8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,[b] 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
Peter Addresses the Crowd
14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd:
“Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 “‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked me put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
25 David said about him:
“‘I saw the Lord always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest in hope,
27 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence’
29 “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay.
32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand 35 until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”
36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
38 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. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
The Fellowship of the Believers
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.
46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
What I hope each of you pray for daily is that realizing that Bethlehem means God with Us or Birth, Calvary represents Pardon or God for us, and now Pentecost is the POWER, God in us. (God with us, God for us, God in us). If we remember that and that we are filled with the Holy Spirit (if you aren’t sure, start praying to be filled), we will have the spiritual power to love, proclaim, and witness to the glories of our Lord .
I would like to close with a paraphrase from J. B. Phillips, He said that churches today are Fat and Out Of Breath Through Prosperity. They are muscle-bound through over-organization. What We Need Today Is Again The Wind And The Flame Of Pentecost.
May you be filled with the love of God, the forgiveness of Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit now and always. Amen