This Sunday is Pentecost, which is celebrated by Christians across the world. It comes from the word pentekoste, which means 50 and it marks 50 days from Easter Sunday. Its origins are from the Old Testament when Israelites were commanded to have three festivals a year–Passover, Feast of Weeks (aka “first fruits,” now called Pentecost), and the Ingathering. Pentecost was a way to give thanks to God for providing crops. It was scheduled 7 weeks from the first harvest of wheat, which happened right around Passover.
Like Passover, Pentecost took on new meaning through Christ. Instead of only celebrating first fruits of the physical harvest, it is now a celebration of the first fruits of the spiritual harvest. It’s very fitting that on the first Christian Pentecost, 3,000 souls came to Christ through baptism. The link to first fruits doesn’t seem to be acknowledged as much as it should and we absolutely should not overlook the strong link. God is the God of harvest. He provides out of his love for mankind. The feast was an annual requirement because God provides each year, forever.
Listen to Peter’s language: “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. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord calls to himself” (Acts 2:38, 39 ESV). If we, the church, are faithful God will keep providing the promise of harvest for all generations!
Pentecost, or Feast of Weeks, was celebrated seven weeks after Passover. It was one of the three annual pilgrimage feasts where Jews from all over the world made the trek to Jerusalem to celebrate. They were celebrating the first fruits of their crops and would offer up some of the crops as a way to thank God our Father.
Jesus was crucified on the Passover, fifty days before Pentecost. During Pentecost, Jerusalem was packed with people. The disciples were gathered together in one place and the Spirit descended on them, entering like a mighty rushing wind and descending like dividing tongues as of fire, resting on each one. God’s Spirit was given as a sort of “first fruits” to the Christians that day.
As the Feast of Weeks was a celebration of plentiful harvest, so the ushering in of God’s Spirit commemorate a plentiful harvest of souls. Disciples began speaking in different languages, so that everyone could hear the message in their native tongue. Peter preached a sermon on the resurrection of Jesus, a fitting message for the celebration of the new crop. Peter said, “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it” (Acts 2:24 ESV).
Peter delivered the rest of his message, which cut the people to the heart and prompted their question, “What shall we do?” Peter replied, “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. 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” (Acts 2:38, 39).
Luke says that those who received his word were baptized, and about three thousand were added to the church that day. This is the Good News for those of us who were once dead in our sins. There is a first fruit of the Spirit that waits for us, which will renew us and give us power over death. There was revival on the day of Pentecost!
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