nullPentecost 2019
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
June 9, 2019
Genesis 11:1-9, Acts 2:1-21, John 14:23-31

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No matter how often we read the Bible … no matter how familiar we are with its message, it always has something new to teach us.  The account of Pentecost is like that.

One of the things that many people may not know is that, although this Pentecost in Acts 2 is very special, it is not the first Pentecost.  The Lord instituted Pentecost about the same time He instituted Passover.  Pentecost was originally called the Feast of Weeks.  Since the Feast of Weeks comes fifty days after the Feast of Firstfruits, people began calling it Pentecost based on the Greek word for fifty.

Pentecost is also one of the three feast days that required the presentation of the males of Israel.  The Law of Moses said, Deuteronomy 16:16 (ESV) 16 “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Booths. They shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed.[1]

Now, if we lay these Festivals over the life of Christ, we can see God’s plan.  At the Feast of Booths Jesus predicts the coming of the Holy Spirit as we hear in John 7:37-39 (ESV) 37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. [2]

We also learn that Jesus dies on Passover, and He rises from the dead on the Feast of Firstfruits, the Sunday after Passover.  Then, the Holy Spirit manifests Himself in a special way fifty days later, at Pentecost.  Faithful Israelites are in Jerusalem on those special days.  This means that the faithful who present themselves in Jerusalem according to the instructions given in the Law are witnesses to Jesus promising the Spirit, witnesses to the crucifixion and resurrection, and also witnesses to the manifestation of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.  In this way, the Holy Spirit gathers His Old Testament Church together to hear about the mighty works of God.  God, the master strategist, had this all worked out 1500 years before it happened.

I always think about Pentecost being the wonderful first bestowal of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples in the wind, fire and tongues, but this is not the first giving of the Holy Spirit.  That happened 50 days earlier.  John 20:19-23 (ESV) 19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.” [3]

Did you hear it?  Jesus already gave the Holy Spirit on the day of the Resurrection.  He said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  Makes you wonder, if Jesus gave them the Holy Spirit on the day of the resurrection, why did the Holy Spirit have to come again on Pentecost?  Didn’t Jesus get it right the first time?

We can get so distracted by the wow factor of the sound like a mighty rushing wind, the divided tongues as of fire, and the apostles speaking in other tongues, that we don’t notice the major miracle of Pentecost.  This miracle shows up in the response of those who gathered on that day.  They came together.  They heard the mighty works of God.  Then they responded.  Acts 2:37-41 (ESV) 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

This is the great miracle of Pentecost.  The Holy Spirit adds three thousand souls to His church on that day.  Pentecost is not so much about the Holy Spirit poured out on the Apostles; it is about the Holy Spirit poured out on those three thousand souls.

In His explanation to the third Article of the Apostles’ Creed, Martin Luther wrote that the “Holy Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.”  The Holy Spirit’s manifestation on Pentecost is an example of that.  1500 years earlier, the Holy Spirit worked through His servant Moses to establish feasts that would gather these witnesses from the Old Testament Church in Jerusalem so that Luke the Evangelist could write,  Acts 2:5 (ESV) 5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven.[4]  It was not an accident that these men were in Jerusalem on this day.  The Holy Spirit calls together the Old Testament Church to tell them that the long-awaited Messiah has come in the person of Jesus Christ.  The Holy Spirit is getting ready to convert the faithful of the Old Testament Church into the faithful of the New Testament Church.

That is the reason for the supernatural signs described in today’s reading.  The Holy Spirit is gathering His church together so that they can hear the call of the Gospel.  As the people of the Old Testament church draw near to the house, they encounter people who tell them who Jesus is and what He has done for their salvation.  These people are not speaking in the lofty Hebrew of the temple, they don’t speak in the street language of Aramaic, or the commercial language of Greek, or even the legal language of Latin, but each one hears the story of salvation in his own native language.

This is the great miracle of Pentecost.  The Holy Spirit adds three thousand souls to His church on that day.  Pentecost is not so much about the Holy Spirit poured out on the Apostles; it is about the Holy Spirit poured out on those three thousand souls.

All these amazing things are the Holy Spirit’s means to accomplish the goal of gathering together His Old Testament Church and telling her that her waiting is over … that the New Testament had begun.  The Pentecost Pilgrims and other righteous people who gather together on that day have been looking forward to the Messiah.  They keep the ceremonial law of circumcision and sacrifices and all the other customs as a reminder that one day the Messiah will come and fulfill all the law and offer Himself up as the sacrifice to end all sacrifices.  Their faith looks into the future to the Messiah who is to come.  Now the Holy Spirit gathers the church together to tell her that the Messiah has come in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.  He is the Messiah, the Christ, the anointed one.  On this one particular Pentecost the Holy Spirit calls together the Old Testament church and transforms her into the New Testament church.

Amid all the amazing things that happen on that Pentecost, it is easy to confuse God’s goal with the means that He uses to accomplish that goal.  After all, this is exciting stuff … a sound like a mighty wind … the appearance of what looks like flames of fire … the sudden ability to speak and understand a foreign language.  It is easy to get distracted by all these things and forget the main goal … the goal of creating faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  This is the goal of the Holy Spirit on that Pentecost long ago, and it is still His goal today.

Amid the signs and wonders of that special Pentecost, there are still those who resist.  There are men in the crowd who mock and say, Acts 2:13 (ESV) 13 …“They are filled with new wine.” [5]  In any crowd there will always be those who resist the call of the Gospel.

This can be a great comfort to us as we confess our faith to the people we meet in our lives.  Sometimes, they will be interested and want to know more.  Other times they will reject our confession.  When that rejection comes, we can take comfort in knowing that even when there was the sound like a mighty rushing wind, the divided tongues as of fire, and the apostles speaking in other languages, that there were some people who resisted their message.  We should expect that and continue to confess our faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins.

On the day after that special Pentecost, there was no sound of a mighty wind.  The tongues of fire had gone away.  People spoke simply in their own language.  Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit was still at work.  The story goes on after today’s Second Reading and says, Acts 2:47 (ESV) 47 … And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.[6]  God’s Church still has His Word and the Holy Spirit continues to work through that Word.

The Holy Spirit still today works through the Word of God.  It has always been that way and it will always be that way.  The true sign of the Holy Spirit at work is the proclamation of God’s Word.  The Holy Spirit points to Jesus who is the God-Man who saves us from our sin with His suffering and death on the cross and promises us life everlasting with His resurrection.  The Holy Spirit works through God’s Word when we hear it with our ears … when we read it with our eyes … when we experience that Word in the water of Holy Baptism … and when we receive it with the true body and blood of Jesus in the Bread and Wine of the Lord’s Supper.  The Holy Spirit is at work when we confess our faith before each other and when we confess our faith before those who do not know Jesus.

The Holy Spirit still calls us by the Gospel, enlightens us with His gifts, sanctifies, and keeps us in the true faith.  As He gives each of us new birth into the Holy Christian church so He also calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies that whole Christian Church on earth and keeps her in the one, true faith.  In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers.  On the Last Day, He will raise me and all the dead and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.  This is most certainly true.  Amen


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[4]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[5]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[6]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

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