the Jewish Scriptures, Pentecost is known by several names: The Festival of
Weeks, the Harvest Festival, and the Festival of First Fruits. It was
celebrated fifty days after Passover, the day on which God brought Israel’s out
from Egyptian slavery.
the books of Moses and the prophets, Israel was often called the ‘congregation
of called out ones.’ The Hebrew word Moses often used is similar
in meaning to the Greek, Ekklesia, usually translated in the New Testament as ‘church’
– meaning the ‘congregation of called out ones.”
out from what? Called out from the godless world (in its original sense, from life in Egypt) and into a community separated to God.
later, when God displaced Israel from the Promised Land because of their
continuing sins, many Jews stayed in those nations of exile. That’s why Luke
records in the second chapter of Acts Jews from "every nation under
heaven" were visiting Jerusalem.
were they visiting? Because Pentecost was one of the three holidays which God
commanded the Jewish people to make pilgrimage to Jerusalem. (The other two
days were Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles).
brief historical background brings us now to Pentecost Sunday, as celebrated by
those who follow Jesus the Messiah. Pentecost Sunday reminds us that we are
part of the spiritual ‘ingathering’ of the new congregation of both Jews and
Gentiles into the Ekklesia (church) as we journey this ‘wilderness’ we call life.
this day 2000 years ago 120 disciples gathered in that upper room, (Chapter 2
of Acts) “And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like
a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.And there appeared to them
tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of
them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and
began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.
you remember the story, Peter and the other apostles spoke to the Jewish
pilgrims visiting Jerusalem, proclaiming the good news about Jesus’ death and
resurrection as God’s proof that Jesus is the Messiah. Here’s what happened
“Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said
to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?”Peter said to them, "Repent,
and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of
your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For
the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many
as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” And with
many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be
saved from this perverse generation!” (verses 37-40)
does all that history have to do with you and me on this Pentecost Sunday? Only
hours before His crucifixion, Jesus promised this about the Third Person of the
Trinity “But now I am going to Him who sent Me . . . But I tell you the
truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the
Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And
He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and
judgment . . . .”(John 16:1-8)
hope you caught that. One of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to convict us – in
other words, to show us our sins, to convince us of our sins, and
warn us that we face eternal judgment for those sins – unless we repent and
through repentance receive God’s righteousness.
the Holy Spirit fell upon those 120 disciples of Jesus, He empowered them to proclaim
His message of forgiveness of sins to everyone who cared to listen and receive
God’s promise. He empowered them – as He empowers us today – to proclaim Jesus
– not the ‘church,’ not some organization – but about Jesus who alone can
change our life. The Holy Spirit empowered them –as He empowers us – to proclaim
Jesus as humanity’s only hope for mercy and forgiveness of sins. He empowered
them to proclaim Jesus as the only means of eternal life.
Peter spoke to the crowds, they called back: “Brethren,
what shall we do?”Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name
of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift
of the Holy Spirit.
Listen! That’s the same message God the Holy
Spirit sends us out with today as He continues to “convict the world
concerning sin and righteousness and judgment . . . .”
do not interpret this role of the Holy Spirit as one of vindictiveness or malice.
God is love. Whatever He does, whatever He tells us, whenever He reproves us,
He does so out of great love and compassion for us, that we may live with Him
we first meet the Holy Spirit in Genesis chapter one, He ‘hovered’ or ‘brooded’
(the Hebrew can be translated either way) – He brooded over the waters on that
first Creation day. That word paints for us a picture of a mother chick
brooding over her young, covering them with her wings, protecting them, holding
them close to her warmth.
And that, my friends, is how the Holy Spirit, sent
by the loving Father and Son, ‘broods’ over you and me, to protect us, to hold
us close to His warmth, to give eternal life to all who desire it. As the
psalmist wrote: “How precious is Your lovingkindness, O
God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.” (Psalm 36:7)
You may remember what the
Lord Jesus said to those who were about to crucify Him: “Jerusalem,
Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How
often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her
chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. (Matthew
Lord! Do not let us remain unwilling to hear your voice and follow you wherever
you lead us!
Sin, righteousness, and
judgment; Protection, nurturing and warmth.
why Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said what he did on that Day of
Pentecost 2000 years ago: “Repent, and each of you be
baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you
will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Do we want to receive the gift of the Holy
Spirit? Then repent. But please know, repentance is not something we do only once
in our life. Neither is repentance something we do only in community during a
time of common prayer.
Repentance means we agree with God – on the
spot – when He says we’ve done or said something wrong. We agree with God and
we STOP doing whatever it is that offends Him.
Do we want to live in the power of the Holy
Spirit?Then repent. Do we want to live with
the approval of the Holy Spirit?Then
repent. Do we want an assurance of eternal life after our life on earth is
over? Then repent.
This point of repentance cannot be
overemphasized. Too many people sit in too many pews living what is often
referred to as ‘sloppy grace’ – meaning they think of God more like a dotting
grandfather than a Holy Fire. We think of God more of His willingness to forgive
us, and not so much about what forgiveness of our sins cost HIM!
God help us to do as we ought to do with our
sins – bring them to you with words like these as often as we need to say them:
“O my God, I am very
sorry for having offended You. I hate my sins, not only because of your just
punishment for my sins, but most of all because they offend You, my God, You
who are deserving of all my love. And so I do my best right now, with Your
help, to turn from my sin and again with your constant help, to not do it
again. Thank you for your complete and utter forgiveness that you now give me,
through Jesus your Son and my Savior. Amen.
Pentecost Sunday – indeed, ANY day – is a good day to start or
to renew our relationship with Him who loves us so much that He died on that
cross to reconcile us back to Himself.