Pentecost is the day that the church was born. Christ was crucified, rose again, spent thirty days with His disciples, then ascended to heaven. Pentecost immediately followed. For two millennia, Christians have been celebrating the church’s birthday with joy and exuberance. Pentecost Sunday takes place 40 days after Easter Sunday. Originally, Pentecost was a Jewish holiday what was held 50 days after Passover as one of the major Jewish feasts. Here’s how it all got started.
Background of Pentecost Sunday
Believed to be the oldest feast in the Church, the story of Pentecost dates back to the first century A.D. The feast of Pentecost coincided with the Jewish Feast of Weeks, which occurs 50 days after the Passover (Deuteronomy 16:10). According to Jewish tradition, the Ten Commandments were given to Moses 50 days after the first Passover, which freed the Hebrews from their bondage in Egypt. As the Hebrews settled into Canaan, the feast became a time to honor the Lord for blessing the fruits of their labors. At the time of Jesus, the festival focused on rabbinical law and traditions. Since this Jewish holiday took place at the same time of the Pentecost, many Jewish Christians appropriated its celebration into their Christian commemoration of the coming of the Spirit.
Story of Pentecost
In John 14:16-18 Jesus tells His disciples that the Holy Spirit would come after Him:
And I will ask the Father and he will give you another Savior, the Holy Spirit of Truth, who will be to you a friend just like me—and he will never leave you. The world won’t receive him because they can’t see him or know him. But you will know him intimately, because he will make his home in you and will live inside you. “I promise that I will never leave you helpless or abandon you as orphans—I will come back to you! – John 14:16-18 (The Passion Translation)
The Book of Acts provides us with the starting details and events that took place to bring the church into being. Picking up the story right after the Book of Luke, 40 days after Jesus’ death and resurrection, and 10 days after Jesus ascended into heaven, the promise of the Holy Spirit came to be. With 120 disciples who had been in a 10 day prayer meeting. We can find that in the second chapter of the Book of Acts:
On the day Pentecost was being fulfilled, all the disciples were gathered in one place. Suddenly they heard the sound of a violent blast of wind rushing into the house from out of the heavenly realm. The roar of the wind was so overpowering it was all anyone could bear! Then all at once a pillar of fire appeared before their eyes. It separated into tongues of fire that engulfed each one of them. They were all filled and equipped with the Holy Spirit and were inspired to speak in tongues—empowered by the Spirit to speak in languages they had never learned! – Acts 2:1-4 (The Passion Translation)
These events that took place in Acts, chapter 2 are what started the church. Crowds came to investigate what was going on and Peter spoke to them about Jesus later on in chapter 2:
Peter replied, “Repent and return to God, and each one of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus, the Anointed One, to have your sins removed. Then you may take hold of the gift of the Holy Spirit. For God’s promise of the Holy Spirit is for you and your families, for those yet to be born and for everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” – Acts 2:38-39 (The Passion Translation)
From the crowds, 3,000 realized the truth of Peter’s words and became followers of Jesus. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit came and resulted in tongues, prophecy, miracles, salvations, and the birthing of countless churches.
There are many Pentecost traditions. In some churches, baptisms are performed throughout the day. Pentecost is also known as Whitsunday, because of the white garments worn by those who are baptized. In most Pentecost services, priests or church officials wear red vestments. Sanctuaries are decorated with banners depicting flames, wind, and doves. Churches in Italy disperse rose petals from the ceiling to symbolize the tongues of fire described in the Book of Acts. French churches blow trumpets throughout the service to suggest the Holy Spirit coming with a violent rushing wind. Many of the Pentecost videos display the power and significance of these early signs of the Holy Spirit. Both Catholic and Protestant services have Scripture readings from the books of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Joel, or Acts.
Pentecost Today – How To Celebrate
Pentecost Sunday should be a day of celebration. The purest meaning of Pentecost is that of a time of renewal for Christian believers. Let it be a Sunday of renewal, focused on evangelism, empowerment from the Holy Spirit, deeper intimacy with God, and fellowship. Pray that your celebration of Pentecost imparts faith, hope, a sharing of community, and an awareness of a purpose much greater than themselves in your congregation. Let your worship service be an explosion of color and sound, lights, and joyous music. It’s the church’s birthday after all!
Be sure to check out our Six Reasons Why You Should Celebrate Pentecost This Year.
Sharefaith has a massive collection of Pentecost Sunday church graphics and media. You’ll have everything you need for your Pentecost Sunday celebration, including: sermon PowerPoints, church motion graphics, worship backgrounds, mini-movies, bulletins, flyers, newsletters and website graphics. Browse the entire collection here!