Reading Acts 20:13 – 16
I must begin this morning by asking for you to forgive me, as I am just not a royalists. I think all the hubbub is about the romantics – princes and princesses. But I want to remind you that you are the princes and princesses in Gods Kingdom. You are the Bride of Christ and He is coming. I think I just don’t like all the pomp and ceremony – the elevation of ordinary people – in comparison to Christ, who is the true King. And what of the hats – they are what really do it for me. I wonder how much money is spent on all the hats.
It makes me think that these people are just not in touch with the real life of majority of people.
I would love to see such excitement for the true King. The people asked God for a king “like the pagans”. It seems God still plays second to earthly kings!
Well, I don’t know about you but Pentecost just seems to come around so quickly every year. Is it Pentecost that comes around so quickly, or is it Christmas?
And so we’ve left our banners up – as a celebration of the time between Easter to Pentecost.
I’m sure we are all very familiar with the NT understanding of Pentecost as reflected in Acts 2;
Acts 2: 1 – 4 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from Heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
And so this year I decided to maybe preach on all the other passages on Pentecost. It is rather astounded to find that the word “Pentecost” is only mentioned 3 times in the Bible and all in the NT, and all around Paul.
Pentecost is mentioned once in Acts 2 – as we’ve just read. The other in Acts 20 – as from our reading – where Paul skips visiting Ephesus as he’s in a rush to get to Jerusalem for Pentecost.
1 Cor 16:7 – 9 I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.
Paul is writing to the Church in Corinth saying he will come and visit – but he wants to spend Pentecost in Ephesus first.
Here’s something interesting – from our reading today in Acts 20; if you read further, Paul doesn’t go to Ephesus but he does meet with the Elders of Ephesus and tells them they will probably never see him again as he’s heading to Jerusalem and that the Spirit of God is warning him of possible death. Then in 1 Corinthians he’s now heading to Ephesus for Pentecost. There’s some homework for you!
At Easter we always look at the sacrifice of Christ at Passover. And we understand the Passover as described in the OT. Blood had to be spilled and painted on the door posts of the houses of those who believed – and the Angel of Judgment passed over those households and none were harmed. But for those who did not do this – in every household the firstborn died. Through this Pharaoh at last allowed the Israelites to go free. God had saved them physically from bondage and slavery!
The Israelites had to paint their doorposts, they were also told to do other things, such as to make bread without yeast, or unleavened bread, as it would have no time to rise as their deliverance would come quickly and they had to be ready. It simply would not do that after over 400 years of slavery, when God finally determined to set His people free – that they would be like – just a minute God – we’re waiting for the bread! The whole story teaches us that salvations is on God’s terms.
And so we have the Feast of Unleavened bread or the Passover. And then in the NT we see the fulfillment of the Passover in that God’s firstborn spilled His blood so that God could save us spiritually – once and for all, that none of us should have eternal death. And there are all kinds of connections and deep threads between OT Passover and NT Easter – like bread, in that Jesus took bread and broke it, like a lamb broken! Jesus said – I am the bread of life. The Passover has unleavened bread, no yeast – which is often symbolic of sin – Jesus was without sin. The OT and the NT are inseparably God’s Word. The New is in the Old contained. The Old is in the New explained.
There were in fact 3 feasts that were of the highest importance to the Jews. All connected to being set free by God and entering new life.
2 Chr 8:12 – 13 On the altar of the Lord that he had built in front of the portico, Solomon sacrificed burnt offerings to the Lord, according to the daily requirement for feasts – the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles.
Feast of Tabernacles was to remember the giving of the Law to Moses at Mt Sinai, and to renew the covenant made between, God and His people, Israel and the LORD (Duet. 31:10-13).
The Feast of Unleavened Bread / Passover celebrates the beginning of the Exodus, the Feast of Weeks—also known as the Feast of Ingathering (Exod. 34:22)—celebrates the completion of the Exodus at Mount Sinai. The Feast of Weeks occurs seven weeks and one day following Passover, thus the Greek term Pentecost, meaning “the 50th (day),” celebrating Israel’s arrival at Sinai fifty days after the Passover. The Feast of Weeks / Pentecost included giving offerings to God and a “declaration of holiness” or “call to holiness,” because at the foot of Sinai God called His people to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exod. 19:3-6).
God’s spirit descended upon Sinai at Pentecost in Exodus 19, and brought the Law and a call to be a kingdom of priests and to holiness. In the same way, the Holy Spirit was sent upon the Church at Pentecost in Acts 2, enabling us Spiritually to be the priesthood of believers and His Holy people, but now the law would be in our hearts.
Pentecost / Feast of Weeks – was also a festival of thanksgiving for the harvested crops. Jews of many nations gathered in Jerusalem for this festival and so the believers preached to an international audience, and it resulted in a worldwide harvest of new believers – the first converts to Christianity. And the great Harvest of God begins.
Pentecost was the fulfillment of John the Baptist’s words about the Holy Spirit baptizing with fire, and the Prophet Joel’s words about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Joel 2:28 – 29).
Why tongues of fire? Tongues symbolizes speech and the communication of the Gospel. Fire symbolizes God’s purifying presence, which burns away the undesirable elements of our lives and sets our hearts ablaze for God to ignite the lives of others. On Mount Sinai God confirmed the validity of the OT law with fire from Heaven. At Pentecost, God confirmed the validity of the Ministry of the Holy Spirit by sending fire. At Mt Sinai fire came down in one place; at Pentecost fire came down on all believers, symbolizing God’s presence in now available to all who believe.
Jesus, after His resurrection made many appearances to many different peoples –and performed many miracles.
Acts 1:4 – 9 On one occasion, while He was eating with them, He gave them this command – do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few day you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Then they gathered around Him and asked Him – Lord, are you at this time going to restore the Kingdom of Israel? He said to them – it is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. After He said this He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid Him from their sight.
Pentecost was important to Paul. It was important for him to celebrate this Feast with those he loved in the faith – because it has such great significance to those in the faith. It was important to the early believers – and it is important to you and me – God has not left us alone. He rescued us. He saved us. And He is with us. He empowers us.
God is in us by His Spirit – to empower us to be His witnesses throughout the world. And it starts with you and me, living by His power for His Glory, being His witnesses right where we are. And if all Christians are simply doing that – then the Gospel is being preached to the ends of the earth – more than ever before in History.
God is still calling His people to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. You are called!
And Paul was always eager to celebrate Pentecost – every year. It obviously meant something important. It reminded him of something, reestablished something in him.
It is part of God’s plan that we remember certain events on a regular basis. Like the three Feasts – reminding His people that He saved them and redeemed them, just like He had promised. We celebrate Jesus’ birth, His death and resurrection, Pentecost – God wants us to be reminded and to keep on remembering. Because we need it – otherwise we start doing things on our own terms.
John 16:7 But I tell you the truth; it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.
Jesus calls the Holy Spirit Him!
Jesus died for our good, to atone for our sins and to pay the price for our salvation. But it was also for our good that He ascended into Heaven and sent His Spirit.
The Holy Spirit was given so that God would be with, and within all His people always. Now God could always comfort all His people, guide them, teach them, remind them of Jesus’ Words – but there’s more, because by His Spirit God is now able to fill all His people with His power. Jesus said;
Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.
Do you feel that you are filled with God’s power? What does it really mean to be filled with God’s power by His Spirit? For a start;
Eph 1:17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better.
This Spirit, the gift of Pentecost, is firstly the Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation that we might know God better – and have an understanding of this incredible God who has revealed Himself to us – and to understand all that He wants. To know God and what He wants, that’s power right there. To then speak God’s Words – that’s incredible power.
At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit gave those believers His inspiration; they would speak as the Holy Spirit gave them the ability and they would speak about Jesus and proclaim the Good News; Jesus is God, He is salvation, He is alive – God loves us. And thousands were added.
This outpouring of the Spirit was for empowering God’s people to live victoriously in this world, in God’s service – and to proclaim Him.
When last did you really want to know God more and when last did you really want to tell someone about Jesus? Pentecost is the time to reestablish this in our hearts. Jesus said;
John 7:38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said [His terms], streams of living water will flow from within him. By this He meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given since Jesus had not yet been Glorified.
We live in this time of “streams of living water” because the Spirit has been given because Christ has been Glorified. Today we are reminded of this and we celebrate. But simply knowing this is all meaningless if we do not allow God’s living water to flow in us and through us, giving God’s life to us and through us to others.
The Spirit of God is God Himself who lives in us. Without His Spirit we are dead, and the Church is dead. We can allow God to work through us by His Mighty Power by His Spirit, or we can live as though God has no power and deny the Spirit. Pentecost is for us, to remember these things.
There is no excuse for any of us to not be all God has made us to be – we have the greatest gift of all – we have the Spirit of God. Thank you Jesus!