Pentecost: Rejoice! Our Comforter is Here

Jesus' promise to send the Holy Spirit was fulfilled on the day we call Pentecost — a day full of Jewish tradition.

By Nancy Flory Published on May 14, 2016

Recently I attended an evening church service several miles from my home. During the course of the evening as members gathered in small groups, a storm blew through, rattling windows and driving sheets of rain against the glass. Tree limbs fell, thunder clapped and lightning brightened the night sky. Parishioners were asked to move to interior rooms of the building for safety.

It reminds me of another church service that alarmed the worshippers in what must have been an even more startling event. As a group gathered for a time of worship and communion, a violent wind rushed through the building, surely confusing and frightening the people. But during this service, no one was asked to move to safety. As a matter of fact, after the sermon, 3,000 people were saved. Can you imagine a service like that?

Of course, there’s more to the story. And it wasn’t just any old church service. This was Pentecost, the birth of the Christian church. More than that, it was the moment when the Holy Spirit was poured out over the apostles in what appeared to be “tongues of fire” that rested on each, giving them the ability to speak in different languages, among other gifts.

Pentecost is derived from the Greek word Pentékosté, which means “Fiftieth.” The Christians borrowed the word from the Greek-speaking Jews at the time of Pentecost and in Christian tradition, Pentecost is celebrated 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection. This year that day falls on Sunday, May 15. Incidentally, Jews from “every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5) were in Jerusalem for their own Pentecost — also known as Shavu’ot.

Jewish tradition observes Shavu’ot, or Festival of Weeks — a harvest festival celebrated 50 days from the end of Passover also commemorating the “giving of the Torah” and is known in that reference as Hag Matan Torateinu. (Exod. 23:16) The Israelites were instructed to count 50 days from the end of Passover to the next holiday. (Lev. 23:16).

An ultra-orthodox Jewish web site, Chabad.org, describes Shavu’ot this way:

The Torah was given by G‑d to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai more than 3300 years ago. Every year on the holiday of Shavuot we renew our acceptance of G‑d’s gift, and G‑d “re-gives” the Torah … Shavuot also means “oaths,” for on this day G‑d swore eternal devotion to us, and we in turn pledged everlasting loyalty to Him.

According to Jewfaq.org,

Passover freed us physically from bondage, but the giving of the Torah on Shavu’ot redeemed us spiritually from our bondage to idolatry and immorality. Shavu’ot is also known as Pentecost, because it falls on the 50th day….

Much like Shavu’ot for the Jewish people, Pentecost reminds us of our own redemption — and God’s devotion to us and ours to Him. Peter’s sermon quoted the prophet Joel: “And it shall be that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:21) More than that, the gift of the Holy Spirit poured out on those in the room that day is accessible to Christians today. Jesus promised us that when He ascended He would send the Holy Spirit, who would never leave us. (John 14:15-16)

The Holy Spirit is a teacher (Luke 12:12, John 14:26), advocate (John 15:26 NIV), giver of hope and peace (Romans 14:17, Romans 15:13), friend (John 14:16-17 The Message; see also John 15:15), and comforter/counselor (John 14:26 KJV/RSV).

Everyone who calls on the Lord to be saved will receive, through asking, the Holy Spirit and all of the blessings He brings. Jesus told us in Luke 11:13, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Peter reminded his audience of the sure promise:

Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him. (Acts 2:38-39)

The promise of the Holy Spirit is “for all who are far off — for all whom the Lord our God will call” (emphasis mine).

Pentecost is a time of remembrance and of rejoicing. Christ is risen. And the Holy Spirit has arrived, just as Jesus promised.

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