Pentecost Sunday “The Day of Pentecost”
May 31st, 2020 – Numbers 11; John 7; Acts 2
May you receive from God the good you have not deserved, not get the bad you have, and may you have peace with God through the blood of our reigning Lord, Jesus Christ.
Today is a very special day in our History. It is a day we remember every year – and it is a season we live in for most of the church year! It is Pentecost! The time after Pentecost is when the altar and pulpit, lectern, banners, are all green. I wear green. It’s the most faded colour because it is used so much in the church. Green is a colour that represents what’s happening out there right now – new growth and life. The time after Pentecost starts roughly around now and goes until around the end of November. The time after Pentecost is when the church grows and spreads by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Pentecost Day History
The Day of Pentecost itself, not just the season following that is green and lasts so long, is a special day. The day of Pentecost we celebrate today was originally a Jewish festival celebrated on the fiftieth day after Passover. There is a root in this word you should recognize – pent. Pentagon, pentagram, pentatonic. What do they all have in common? Pent is a prefix meaning the number 5. In this case, Pentecost means “fiftieth” as in the fiftieth day after the Passover.
If you are astute, you will realize that this is also the fiftieth day after Easter. Jesus died on the Passover and so the two events, Easter and Passover should be roughly the same time. In 325 AD, however, the Easter celebration was shifted to the first Lord’s Day (Sunday) after the first full moon occurring or on the equinox on Mar 21. Now you know.
The very first Passover was when God led the Hebrews out of slavery in Egypt. They were to sacrifice a lamb and put its blood on their doorposts so the angel of death would Passover their house and kill all other firstborns. Fifty days after that event, God’s people were out in the desert and had made their way to Mt. Sinai. It’s when the people are there that God comes to them and speaks to them the Ten Commandments for the very first time. He gives them the Law and promises He is their God and they are His people. This is the first Pentecost.
Every year, God’s people would celebrate this event on Pentecost.
The Pentecost we celebrate today is different. It celebrates the events the fiftieth day after the very first Easter Sunday. This is also ten days after Jesus ascended into heaven. (If you need help following all these details and numbers, this sermon manuscript is posted on the website.)
What we celebrate now for Pentecost is an upgrade of what God’s people celebrated before. Instead of celebrating when God claimed them and gave them the Law to follow (which they immediately broke), this Pentecost celebrates when God sends His very Holy Spirit to us to mark us as His own and guide each believer to follow His Law and to prophesy His Word.
Three timelines are going on here that I am talking about. We have the original Passover and Pentecost with Moses at approximately 1400 BC; then we have Jesus at a fall festival prophesying about the first New Pentecost, finally, we have the first “New Pentecost” with the Apostles at approximately 30 AD. Our readings each address a point on the timeline. They start back with Moses in Numbers 11; move to Jesus in John 7, and culminate with The Apostles in Acts 2. Let’s walk through what’s happening in each and how they connect.
In Numbers, we read about Moses leading God’s people and prophesying (speaking as God’s mouthpiece) by the power of the Holy Spirit. God comes down and takes some of the Holy Spirit from Moses and puts it on the 70 elders who begin prophesying for a time then stop. Two other men continue to prophesy and don’t stop. Joshua becomes jealous on Moses’ behalf. Moses then prophesies about the coming New Pentecost saying that it would be great if all God’s people were His prophets! Moses prophesies about the future where all God’s people receive the Holy Spirit and speak His Word.
Next in the chronological order is Jesus in autumn before his death. Here, Jesus is at a different Jewish festival– the Feast of Booths. To understand what Jesus says and does it’s really important to understand the context of where He is and what is going on.
In Jesus’ time on earth while the Temple existed in Jerusalem people would come from all over to celebrate this harvest festival that lasted for 7 days. In the evenings, everyone would go out to the Pool of Siloam and a priest would go draw water from it. Each morning of the festival the water that was drawn out would be poured out at on the Temple altar before God. The whole time there would be musicians everywhere playing and people dancing and even people juggling torches! This was a massive party. This ritual was in part to fulfill what is written in Isaiah, “Therefore, with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3). The Pool of Siloam was associated with the sending of the Holy Spirit because kings from the line of David would be anointed in those waters (1 Sam. 16:13). The Pool of Siloam became known as the well of salvation. The symbolism of the water pouring ceremony was that this outpouring of the Holy Spirit is to take place during the days of the Messiah, the anointed one, a descendant of King David, through whom salvation will come to Israel. Therefore, to the Jewish people of the Second Temple days, pouring water on the altar at the Feast of Tabernacles was symbolic of the Holy Spirit being poured out during the coming days of the Messiah.
Here comes Jesus, on the last day of the feast, standing up among all the people and saying “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” This living water, this drink Jesus offers, is the Holy Spirit. Jesus is claiming TO BE the Messiah who pours out the Holy Spirit upon the people. He is claiming to be the “wells of salvation” – and He is! And He will pour out the Holy Spirit on the coming day after He rises from death and ascends into heaven. Jesus is pointing to Pentecost when He will do this.
Finally, here comes the big event that the first two readings point. It happens while the Apostles are gathered for the celebration of the Jewish Pentecost. This is 10 days after they watched Jesus ascend into heaven.
BOOM! A rushing wind fills the house. Portions of languages like fire (or lightening?) come to them and STAY on each of them. Pictures show fire. Neat to think of the literal word which is more like lightning.
This event, the way it’s described, it’s like – have you ever been laying in bed, then BOOM! The idea comes to you like lightening. It smacks you right in the face and you just KNOW the answer now? It’s like the Holy Spirit struck them, and as the Holy Spirit gave it, they just knew how to speak in different languages – and did!
The Holy Spirit form that moment on has been given to all His people to speak of Jesus to all. As John 14 says, once the Holy Spirit has been given by Jesus, it will be with God’s people ALWAYS.
The rest of the reading goes on to talk about the end times – the great and terrible Day of the Lord. It shows how some of these things from Joel about what the last day will look like are being fulfilled- the Holy Spirit has been poured out, and people will prophesy of Jesus and His return.
However, some things have not yet happened as Joel describes them in His poetic prophecy of the Day of the Lord. The sun has not turned to darkness, the moon has not turned to blood and Christ has not yet returned. The day has not come but is on its way.
We are filled with the Holy Spirit. Your baptism was the continuation of this Pentecost for you.
Some are given gifts of speaking in different languages to tell about Jesus. (German, French?)
Some have simply been given the plain message and courage to speak out and prophesy the message of Christ to others. The message that “He lived, died, rose, and is coming back. You NEED to know.”
Holy Spirit is guiding us to spread the Holy Spirit so others may be saved from the judgement of the Day of the Lord.
YOU ARE the continuation of this Pentecost of the Holy Spirit.
This story is YOUR history. OUR history.
Happy Pentecost. Let’s live it out.