The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
John 14:23 “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. 24 He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me. 25 These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. 28 You heard that I said to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 Now I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe. 30 I will not speak much more with you, for the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me; 31 but so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me. Get up, let us go from here.’” (NASB)
Today is Pentecost Sunday. It is for the church a holiday in the original definition of the word. The word “holiday” comes from “holy day.” To the best of my knowledge there is no tradition wherein people send each other Happy Pentecost cards. There aren’t TV shows or specials commemorating the event– no Pentecost variety shows. There aren’t even Pentecost Day sales in a culture that manages to turn just about any civic observance into an occasion for a blow out sale.
But we can’t really be too hard on the culture on this one. There are an awful lot of Christians who don’t know that today is a holy day – a holiday. Many Christian groups have never observed the liturgical calendar so they know nothing of these kinds of holy days. As for those who grew up in the Roman Catholic Church or one of the mainline “protestant” church bodies that historically kept the church calendar, the significance of Pentecost has been lost on most of them.
Despite the modern disinterest in a biblical and historical understanding of what and how God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit go about saving a person from their sins, Pentecost still ranks as a holy day, a special day in the life of the church.
On Pentecost Day there were sounds of the wind inside that building, even though there might not have been wind in the building. There were flames of fire in the shape of tongues and those flames came to rest on the heads of the disciples, yet no one was burnt. There was the speaking in tongues even though the ones speaking hadn’t learned the languages they were now speaking on Pentecost Sunday.
Acts 4 & 11 tells us “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.” Speaking with others tongues does not mean that they were babbling incoherently or speaking in some mysterious language that no one on earth could understand. To the contrary. The crowd asked, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born?” Parthians, Medes. Mesopotamians, Judeans, Cappadocian, Asian, Egyptians, Romans, Cretans, Arabs, and the rest said “we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.”
In Genesis 11, the Lord God scattered people because they were proud and arrogant, making themselves out to be gods. He not only scattered them across the face of the earth, He also confused their languages. Human beings no longer spoke one language. That makes understanding each other and working together very, very difficult.
On Pentecost Sunday, God undoes what He had done in Genesis chapter 11. In other words, for the sake of the Gospel God was enabling them to overcome what He had done in the scattering of the people and the confusion of languages in Genesis 11 so that people would not understand each other. There is one message, the mighty deeds of God, the person and work of Jesus Christ, now being preached in many different languages all at once.
Pentecost was the birthday of the public ministry of the New Testament Church. It was the beginning of God’s work in the world post the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.
The early church understood that Pentecost changed everything. In fact in the early church, Pentecost Sunday was one of the big baptism sundays. On Pentecost Sunday the church received the adult converts into the church. The Catechumen would come forward dressed in white robes, which is where we get the German name, “Whitsunday”/white Sunday for Pentecost. After being taught the fundamentals of the faith, the adults would confess the faith using an ancient formula of what we now call the “Apostles’ Creed.” They would then be baptized and received into membership in the Church and welcomed into communion.
As for the word “Pentecost” it means 50. For the Jews it was the 50th day after Passover. For the Christian, Pentecost Sunday is the 50th day after the resurrection. It was on the 59th day after Easter, God the Father poured out His Holy Spirit on the Apostles. This event also marks the fact the church is the permanent possession of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost also commemorates the start of the public ministry of the New Testament Church, the Christian Church itself.
Both of these commemorations commemorate something even deeper and more basic, namely our God is a promise giving and promise keeping God. Promises are singularly important in the Christian Faith. There is of course no shortage of commands in the Christian Faith. There are lots of instructions and commands, but the commands are not what separates the Christian Faith, the Christian religion from all other religions.
All religious have imperatives, commands, to dos and not to dos. One of the distinguishing marks of the Christian Faith is that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit is a promising and promise fulfilling God.
The Christian Faith began in the Garden of Eden following the fall into sin. Right there on the spot, the Lord God gave Adam and Eve, in fact He gave all the descendants of Adam and Eve the promise of a Savior, “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.”
This was the first in a long list of promises that the Lord God gave to His people. This was the first and greatest promise. All the promises recorded and fulfilled in the Old Testament were given and acted upon to serve and lead to the fulfilling of that first and greatest promise.
The Lord God made promises to Noah and to all of humanity. He would never again destroy human life by means of a flood and gave the rainbow as a sign. He gave a promises to Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob. The Messiah would come from their bloodlines and in Him all the nations of the earth are blessed.
He promised He’d rescue His people from slavery and extinction in Egypt and He did. He promised He would dwell with them in the tabernacle and temple and He did. He promised His children their own homeland and He gave the Hebrews the victory over their enemies. He promised the forgiveness of sins through the sacrifices of the Old Testament. He made promises to and through all of the faithful prophets, promises of blessing, of judgment, and of the coming Messiah and the coming salvation. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit promised eternal life, a heavenly home, and the resurrection from the dead for all those who live and die in true faith.
The list of promises goes into the thousands. Our God is a God of promises made and promises kept, with only a few promises left outstanding. Pentecost was one of the promises kept. Through the prophet of Joel God promised, “It will come about after this That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions. 29 “Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.” (Joel 2:28-29) This is the section of the prophet Joel that Peter quotes in the opening part of his sermon. Acts 2:15-16 “For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; 16 but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel.”
The Gospel lesson recorded Jesus’s promise for the day of Pentecost. John 14:25 “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” As Jesus was about to ascend He again promised both the day of Pentecost and the gift of the Holy Spirit. “He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, ‘Which,’ He said, ‘you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’”
On Pentecost Sunday we celebrate the promises given to every Christian in the pages of the Bible and the keeping of all of God’s promises. God the Father sent God the Spirit, just as God the Son had promised.
On this occasion the God the Father and God the Son wanted God the Holy Spirit to come in a very noticeable way. He came with sound, the sound of rushing of wind. I mention this a few weeks ago. The word for Spirit and wind are the same word in Greek and Hebrew.
There were the tongues of flame which Acts 2 simply says that “they rested on each one of them.” Each of them was able to in languages of the people who were gathering outside to hear what was going on.
Notice that even here, at the start of the New Testament Church and after the ascension of the Lord Jesus everything was being done by God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The disciples were all gathered together in Jerusalem on Pentecost because they had been sent there by Jesus. God the Father sent the Spirit. The Spirit gave them utterance and the ability to speak in languages so the crowds outside could understand. The Spirit had created a commotion so that the people who were in the area would take notice that something strange/different was happening, thus God created the opportunity for Peter’s first sermon.
God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit had taught them what to preach and teach. “The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.”
The promise of Pentecost Day was given to the Apostles. There has been no report of flames in the shape of tongues coming to rest over the heads of a group of pastors in a church service. There have been no reports of a sound like rushing wind inside a church building as those tongues of fire were manifested. There is no report where all the sudden, a dozen men start preaching the Gospel in languages they had never learned.
But there is for the common Christian no shortages of God given and kept promises. In the Gospel lesson Jesus promised “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” He promised to send us the Holy Spirit. He gave us a promise of peace between God and man.
God has made His dwelling place with you – His abode. He is with you throughout whatever you will face.
Jesus promised that the Spirit would teach the disciples all things necessary for salvation. Then the Spirit breathed through the Apostles the New Testament so that we too would learn all things necessary for salvation.
It is the work of the Spirit and the Word, by which the congregations calls the pastor, and by which you are brought into the presence of His Word, and by which the doctrines of Law and Gospel are maintained among us as sound and pure.
Titus 3:5-7 – “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
These are all the gifts of Pentecost. This is a day that marks God giving and promise keeping. It is the promise of the Helper, the Spirit, who calls the church into being and maintains it by the power of the Word. It is that gift which we celebrate – or, more correctly, those gifts first poured out on that first Christian Pentecost, but continually poured out for us ever since for the forgiveness of sins.
May the peace that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.