Pentecost is 50 days after Jesus raises from the dead and about 10 days after he ascends. Have we made a close study of what happens, how it links in with God’s fuller plan through the Old Testament and completed in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection? The story is found in Acts 2. The coming of the Holy Spirit is told in four verses:
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. (1-4)
10 Points To Pentecost You’ll Want To Pass Along
After this, there are several actions taken because of the Holy Spirit’s abiding presence:
- An international crowd gathers and each person hears the Gospel proclaimed in their own language, namely those who were, “Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs” (9-11);
- The first Gospel sermon is preached by Peter. He rebuts the claim of drunkenness and moves into the story of Jesus, quoting from Scripture and saying, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (38);
- The Holy Spirit uses Peter’s words to change the hearts of about 3,000 people.
So, the general outline for Pentecost is (1) the Holy Spirit drops in; (2) a crowd hears the Gospel in their language; (3) Peter takes action; (4) the church is born. But there’s so much more we can exposit and interpret, especially as we prepare for Pentecost ourselves and invite our parishioners into the awesomeness of God. Here are 10 points to think about in your study.
Pentecost Shares A Holy Day With A Jewish Feast Day
Shavuot is a Jewish festival that is also referred to as the Feast of Weeks, Day of the First Fruits, Day of Reaping, or Pentecost. Hellenistic Jews gave it the name Pentecost because it was a festival 50 days after Passover. It’s no coincidence that the Holy Spirit came at the same time. The festival celebrates the giving of the Torah, and, more specifically, the 10 commandments to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Jews participate in several customs, including reading the 10 commandments and the book of Ruth. Some even stay up all night reading the entire Torah. Jesus says, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26). Perhaps God refashioned the Feast of Weeks as he did in fulfilling the Passover with Jesus’ blood.
Wind From Heaven
This is a great scene: “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting” (Acts 2:2). It reminds me of other blessings that drop from Heaven – Noah’s rain, an angel of death, manna, quail, pillars of fire and the following cloud. We can thread our way through the Old Testament with stuff deliberately dropping from Heaven and get to this point–after Jesus comes down in the womb of Mary, and the dove at baptism, and the cloud Jesus took home–to a mighty wind that signals the coming of the Holy Spirit. It tells us that God is in charge and shows up exactly when he intends.
Tongues Of Fire
Exodus 3:2 says, “…the angel of the Lord appeared to [Moses] in flames of fire from within a bush.” We have other moments of fire, including its practical association with making a sacrifice before God, but this encounter with Moses is an intimate one. Moses receives instructions that radically sets the stage for the work of God. Similarly, the tongues of fire resting on each person represents the Holy Spirit who provides the strength for this shabby group of people to set the stage for the work of God. Nothing has changed for us today.
Speaking In Tongues
We may hold a dispensational view; we may not. I’m not addressing either here. Rather, I want to point out the contrast of God’s work in Jerusalem as opposed to his work in Babylonia. In Jerusalem, he brings interpretation and understanding; at the Tower of Babel, he brings confusion and division. And look at our posture. In Jerusalem, humanity is waiting and expecting the Lord to build within them; at Babel, pride and arrogance brews up in a challenge to God’s lordship. Pentecost brings redemption, clarity, understanding, and purpose.
Acts 2:5 says, “God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven,” are in Jerusalem at Pentecost. Perhaps we have encountered a person who is God-fearing, but not fully believing. This sowing of seed seems to be what Luke is referring to here. The fields are white and ready to harvest, Jesus says, but we have to go as his servants to share the message. Years and years before the coming of the Holy Spirit, God was working in the lives of the 3,000 souls saved that day. Give us eyes to see and ears to hear those in our community who are God-fearing.
Check The Map Because The Places Listed Matter
The places listed by Luke matter to the spread of the Gospel. It’s just as Jesus said, first in Jerusalem, then Judea, and off it goes to the entire world. On a map, Jerusalem is the center of the wheel, and with all the places represented are spokes shooting out, from Persia to the east, Egypt to the south, Rome to the west and Pontus to the north. Our parishioners represent organizations, schools, companies, and sometimes governments. They are the spokes jutting out into the community.
I really appreciate the end of John’s Gospel. Peter had stepped away from Jesus like a ripple in the water–one, two, three–as he denied him a few days earlier. Now Jesus draws him closer and closer and closer again as he repeats, “Feed my sheep” three times. Peter never turns aside again, and Pentecost is the beginning of an active leadership role in building the church on which the gates of Hell will not prevail. Peter is the one who stands up and raises his voice and addresses the crowd.
Order Of The Sermon
Peter is a great role model, as Paul will be too, for sermon structure. Peter starts by explaining the events: they aren’t drunk and this is a monumental day where the Holy Spirit is now present. From explanation, Peter turns to the Gospel presentation and the hope that we have in God because of Christ’s death and resurrection. From presentation, Peter concludes with an invitation to, “Repent and be baptized… for the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 2:38).
What’s Joel Have To Do With It?
Why does Peter quote Joel, especially with the beginning phrase, “In the last days,” which doesn’t appear in the Old Testament reading? Peter interprets the Scriptures to be fulfilled, at least partially, by God pouring out his Spirit then and there, before their eyes, in Jerusalem. We don’t know if Joel was specifically referring to the day of Pentecost, but it does seem a good starting point for the church age, which represents the waiting for our Lord to return, aka, the last days. Joel also mentions God’s Spirit being poured out twice in this passage and, after a series of destructive imagery, he confidently says, “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” With all the miraculous and unnatural events occurring in and around Jerusalem over the course of 50 days, Joel’s prophecy provides good context and sure promise.
The ship is sinking, the house is burning, the storm is coming. Peter knows the urgency of the message. He ends his sermon by shouting, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation” (Acts 2:40). It’s the warning of Noah, the pleading of Moses, the refrain of the prophets. How urgent are we with our message? When have we looked out from behind the pulpit and cried out, “Save yourselves!” Our generation is just as corrupt as any, just as desperate for revival, just as in need of someone who will shout out, “Wake up O Sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Ephesians 5:14).
Zach Kincaid is a part of the Sharefaith Editorial Team. He manages workoutyourfaith.com and has written on C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, and general Christian thought for more than 15 years. He is a husband, father, and collaborator on a variety of Christian outreach projects, including films and educational resources.