Pentecost is Sunday, June 5 this year. Like so many church days, it is not really celebrated like the other key church holidays. Pentecost is a holdover holiday, taking us back to the ancient Israelites and their three pilgrimage festivals: Passover, Pentecost, and Sukkoth. These three required traveling to Jerusalem and celebrating with all the house of Israel. Pentecost, Greek for fifty, was counted from the day of Passover, while the Pentecost celebration that we are familiar with was counted from Easter.
It was originally a thanksgiving for the first fruits of the wheat harvest, but it was later associated with a remembrance of the Law given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai.
Pentecost signifies the coming of the Holy Spirit and the outward movement of the Christian Church. This movement is guided by the Holy Spirit in bringing in people to the Church, and also, we hear the teachings of Jesus for the Church.
The apostles were able by the gift of the Holy Spirit to speak in all the languages of the people gathered in the temple. The miraculous gift of languages demonstrated to everyone who heard them that God desired all people to have His Word, not just the Hebrew speakers. This use of foreign language was a sign to the Jewish people, who had failed to heed the prophets and call the nations to repentance (Is 28: 11– 12; 1Co 14: 21).
They heard the first Christians praising God for His great deeds. Peter’s sermon culminates in a service of renewal: Baptism in the name of the Savior Jesus!
On Pentecost, the Lord called His people to abandon the language barrier they had set up. The miraculous events of Ac 2: 1– 4 do not describe everyday Christian life but God’s special lesson for the first Jewish Christians:
God poured out His Spirit because He wanted to include all nations and tongues in the new covenant.
God replays this lesson throughout Acts as new people join the Church (the Samaritans and Ethiopians, Ac 8; the Gentiles, Ac 10; and the disciples of John the Baptist, Ac 19: 1– 7). This is what we celebrate as benefactors of God’s grace in Christ Jesus.