Understanding Pentecost – Insights from Pastor Rike

The festival of Pentecost is older than Christianity.  In ancient Israel the feast of Pentecost, as the name implies (Penta = 50),was celebrated 50 days after Passover. In the Bible it is also known as the Feast of Weeks (Deuteronomy 16:10; Exodus 23:16 & 34:22).  

The festival focused on the first-fruits of the wheat harvest as well as the LORD forming Israel to be His covenant people by giving them the Law on Mount Sinai. Christians have associated Pentecost with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit promised by the risen Jesus (John 14:16, 26).

Just as the offering of first-fruits of the harvest was a way in which ancient Israel recognized the Lord as the One who provided the growth; so too, the Christian observance of Pentecost is a recognition that the gift of the Holy Spirit is the first-fruit of a new Creation, remaking humanity through the resurrection of Jesus (Romans 8:23). 

The Holy Spirit is difficult to pin down.  But, there is one way in which the Holy Spirit is different from any other spirit, thought, or impulse.  One can rely on the Holy Spirit to point to Christ Jesus.  That’s what happened on Pentecost when the apostles, filled with the Spirit, proclaimed God’s deeds of power in such a way that every ethnicity in Jerusalem heard in their native language.  

Pentecost was more than an historical event. Those manifestations of the Spirit continue today! Whenever the diversity of gifts and abilities that God has poured out upon different people are brought together to work in concert with others a symphony of praise results in praise to God through Christ Jesus.  That coming together of gifts and abilities provides a glimpse into the remaking of humanity and a world made new through the death and resurrection of Jesus. 

The Holy Spirit works through concrete and tangible things to bring about faith in people.  As Martin Luther taught in the Small Catechism, “…the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, made me holy, and kept me in the true faith…Daily…the Holy Spirit abundantly forgives all sins – mine and those of all believers. On the last day the Holy Spirit will raise me and all the dead and will give to me and all believers in Christ eternal life”