As you know by now, I love the Easter Season. I was just sharing with some friends the other night that I’ve really enjoyed preaching my way through it this year, which is actually a bit of a change from years past.
Pentecost is a splendid feast. Let’s try to unpack it a bit to see why.
Before Jesus’ sending of the Holy Spirit on his Apostles, Pentecost had long been a Jewish agricultural feast. Pentecost, the 50th day after Passover, was the day when Jewish farmers would bring before God the first bundle of wheat from their crop. They did so as a two-part prayer: to give thanks for what they had received from God, and to implore him that their remaining crop be gathered unspoiled.
There’s another layer to this. Passover, celebrated with a symbolic meal, recalled the Jews’ being passed over by the Angel of Death in Egypt and ushered through the Red Sea into the Sinai Desert. 50 days after their departure from Egypt, God’s people came to Mount Sinai where Moses received the law. Pentecost, then, isn’t merely about grain being gathered: it’s when God gives to his people the Law, the way of life by which they are to carry out his good purposes.
Saint Luke assumes we know this context. In his account of the first Christian Pentecost, we should see – 50 days after Jesus’ Resurrection (the new Passover) – that the Apostles’ being filled with the Spirit and bringing people to Jesus is like the bundle offered to God as a sign of the abundant harvest to come. Further, as Moses went up the mountain and came down with the Law, so now Jesus has ascended to the heavens and come down again with the dynamic power and energy of the Law, with God’s own life, designed to be enfleshed in human hearts.
God continues to pour out his Spirit today on all who turn to Jesus in faith. Together, animated by his Spirit, we are called to help gather all peoples – through and with and in Jesus – into the one abundant harvest of God.
In the Peace of our Risen Lord,