Out preaching this morning, and the church have asked me to focus on Acts 2. And when the day of Pentecost was come…
Pentecost is the third great festival of the Christian year, along with Christmas and Easter. But Christmas and Easter are not mentioned by name in Scripture. Why is Pentecost? Answer, because the Jews already had a festival called Pentecost.
Its other name is Shavuot – and it marks fifty days from the Feast of Passover. You can read the instructions in Deuteronomy 16.
It is a time when Jews mark two things – God’s provision of food, and so they bring the firstfruits of the harvest, and also God’s giving of the Law, the Torah, to Moses on Mount Sinai.
As I’ve studied the passages in Scripture, I have been increasingly amazed by the amazing parallels between the journey of the Israelites [Old Covenant] and the life and work of Jesus and the Church [New Covenant]
On the night he was betrayed, Jesus took bread, and – celebrated Passover with his disciples. Fifty days later, at the Jewish Pentecost, the gift of God’s Holy Spirit was given to the Church.
God gave the Israelites in Exodus both food to eat, and the Law to empower them to live rightly. Through his Holy Spirit we bear fruit in our lives, and are empowered to live lives proclaiming the Gospel.
The more I have studied, the more interested I have become [I kept rushing downstairs, interrupting Bob to tell him stuff I’d found out. He was too gracious to tell me when it was things he has known for years!] I was reading some information from a Jewish library about celebrating Shavuot, which said this
Shavuot is also sometimes known as Pentecost, because it falls on the 50th day. The counting reminds us of the important connection between Passover and Shavuot: Passover freed us physically from bondage, but the giving of the Torah on Shavuot redeemed us spiritually from our bondage to idolatry and immorality.
It is noteworthy that the holiday is called the time of the giving of the Torah, rather than the time of the receiving of the Torah. The sages point out that we are constantly in the process of receiving the Torah - that we receive it every day, but it was first given at this time. Thus it is the giving, not the receiving, that made the holiday significant.
What struck me was that as Christians, we remember at Pentecost the giving of God’s Holy Spirit, but we do well to listen to the other part of the Jewish instruction. “The sages point out that we are constantly in the process of receiving the Torah, that we receive it every day”. Ephesians 5:18 reminds us to ‘be filled with the Spirit’ and that isn’t a once off experience, but rather a constant, daily receiving of His Grace and Power.
This is the day when the Spirit came,
we will rejoice and be glad in it