As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had to grow more comfortable with God’s time table in place of my own. I want things now! Don’t you? I don’t want to wait. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
But when you look behind you it’s so neat to see God’s timing. It can feel like a clever plot is unfolding or like a heavenly joke that you’re just being let in on. God used the festivals of the Jewish people to point to Jesus. He used Jesus’s death as a symbol of Passover as the sacrificial lamb, and then he used the coming of the Holy Spirit as a symbol of Pentecost. For the Jews, Pentecost was the Festival of Weeks. This festival was used as a time to remember 3 things: the giving of the law to Moses, the first fruits and the coming harvest.
The giving of the law to Moses – the law was the binding covenant for the Jews to God. The law was the way the Jews had to relate to God. When they followed the commandments of the law they were worshipping. When they broke the law, they were cut off from God until they could offer the right sacrifice to get right with God again. This covenant was written in the blood of animals and required blood be shed (an animal’s) to allow us to be around holy God.
This Pentecost was different. While the Jews were gathering in Jerusalem to celebrate the words of the law, the disciples were upstairs worshipping the Word of God, Jesus. The Jews were celebrating Moses who showed them the rules to follow, but the disciples were worshipping Jesus whose words of forgiveness and healing made them right with God. The Jews were remembering that God delights in sacrifice, but the disciples were worshipping the last and greatest sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins, Jesus the Messiah and the Holy Spirit which was a foretaste of God’s Kingdom.
The first fruits – this was to be a part of the festival which commemorated the turning of the seasons of the year, from dry, cold winter, to spring and summer full of flowers and fruit. First Fruits was an offering, a down payment on the coming harvest and the sacrifices that would be offered then. It was a time for Jews to remember that all they had came from God.
This Pentecost was different. Instead of being down with their fellow Jews offering grain, the disciples were upstairs waiting for what God was giving them. This Pentecost, the celebration was no longer about what they could bring to God but what God was sending to them. Where Passover demonstrates God’s unique sufficiency in dealing with sin, Pentecost demonstrates that God is the giver, the initiator, and the primary Actor. This Pentecost, God gave humanity a first fruits offering, the Holy Spirit. Paul says this about the Spirit in Romans 8.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
The coming harvest – the words of Moses to the Israelites commanded the Jews to go to the capital every year to celebrate the harvest. They were to bring with them a sacrifice of grain to commemorate the harvest of the wheat and the end of the grain harvest for the year. The Jews would then read from the book of the law passages that reminded them that they were a lost and wandering people but that God chose them and gave them a land full of promise.
But this Pentecost was different. Instead of commemorating the harvest of grain, God was bringing a harvest of people. The power that the Holy Spirit brought on the disciples there in the upper room was given to work wonders. God had planted seeds of hope in the Jewish people not to wander and be lost, and he was harvesting that fruit with the disciples. God had prepared this moment from the beginning of time for the arrival of his Spirit as a means of drawing the whole earth back to himself.
God did something extraordinary that Pentecost, and we still celebrate it today. Pentecost is not just a way of describing Christians who speak in tongues. It’s our origin story. It’s the story of how we, Jesus’s Church, came to be. Of all the origin stories, all the powers to fight the evil of this world, God’s Church stands above it all in the power of the Holy Spirit.
How do you celebrate the Holy Spirit? If you would, leave comments below on how you remember Pentecost.