Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Today, Pentecost Sunday, is sometimes called "the birthday of the church." On this Sunday the church took the form that will remain until the second coming of Christ. Our Lord fulfilled His promise to send his Holy Spirit and the Spirit formed the church of Christ.
How can we understand the events of Pentecost? In the previous verses, St. Luke relates his second account of the Ascension of the Lord. After Jesus ascended into heaven, the eleven apostles, except Judas Iscariot, returned to Jerusalem to await the arrival of the Holy Spirit, as the Lord commanded them. There is a sequence of events, then.
"Then they went back to Jerusalem from the mountain called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem on the way to a Sabbath. And entered, they went up to the upper room, where Peter and James dwelt, and John and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. All these persevered unanimously in prayer and petition, with the women, and with Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers. "
This was a period of 10 days. Jesus ascended to heaven 40 days after His resurrection. The day of Pentecost was 10 days more. Thus says St. Luke: "And in those days Peter arose in the midst of the disciples (the number of the people gathered there was about one hundred and twenty), and said: Men and brethren, it was necessary that the Scripture be fulfilled which Holy Spirit spoke first through David's mouth about Judas, who was the guide of those who caught Jesus. Because he was counting on us and had a part in this ministry.” Matthias was chosen to replace Judas and restore the number of the apostles before the arrival of the Holy Spirit.
"And when the day of Pentecost came, they were all with one accord in one place." The text does not say how many days after the call and ordination of Matthias, nor how many people were present in the same place, but it says all, and that certainly included the 12 apostles.
The feast of Pentecost existed before that day as a religious festival of the Jews. This celebration was commanded by the law of Moses. In Greek, Pentecost means fiftieth, and was always celebrated 50 days after the Passover of the Jews. Remember that the Passover of the Jews commemorated their liberation from slavery in Egypt. In each house of the Israelites they sacrificed a lamb without blemish, and by the blood of lamb the angel of death passed over the house. After this last of the 10 plagues, Pharaoh let the Israelites leave Egypt to travel to the Promised Land. The passion, death and resurrection of our Lord occurred during this week of the Passover of the Jews.
Well, in the beginning, the feast of Pentecost was a celebration of the harvest of wheat and barley. But, at the time of Jesus, it was linked with Moses on Mount Sinai. According to tradition, the people of Israel came to Mount Sinai 50 days after the first Passover, and God made His covenant with them through Moses. The Israelites left Egypt as refugees from slavery, but before Sinai, God made them a people, the people of God.
In the same way, the disciples of Jesus Christ were freed from the bondage of sin and the power of the devil by the blood of the Lamb without blemish, Jesus. They were released from the power of death in His resurrection. However, 50 days later, God by the power of the Spirit made them the new people of God, the church, according to the new covenant in the blood of Christ.
The signs of God's presence on Mount Sinai were thunder and lightning on the mountain. On this day of Pentecost, "suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, which filled the whole house where they were sitting; and tongues appeared to them, spread out like fire, settling on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. "
Because of the feast of Pentecost, the city of Jerusalem was full of people from all over the world around the Mediterranean Sea. They were Jews and proselytes, Gentiles converted to Judaism. Everyone anticipated hearing the Word of God in the Temple of Jerusalem, but in one language, Hebrew. They were Jews, but they did not grow up with Hebrew as their native language. Maybe some understood some Hebrew, but others did not. Because of this, the Old Testament was translated into Greek 300 years before Christ, for Jews who did not understand Hebrew. But now, everyone heard the Word of God, but the gospel of Jesus Christ, in their native language.
These things indicated first, the Holy Spirit had arrived. In addition, they pointed to the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy (Joel 2: 28-32). After these signs, St. Peter quoted this prophecy in a long but perfect sermon. "And it will be that after this, I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy; your old ones will dream dreams, and your young people will see visions. And also on the servants and on the handmaidens I will pour out my Spirit in those days. And I will give wonders in heaven and on earth, blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord come."
The diversity of languages reaffirmed that the new covenant was not made for one people, but for all nations. Later, John wrote in Revelation of his vision of all nations, tribes and races around the throne of God in glory.
The question is, what was the difference between this day of Pentecost and other manifestations of the Holy Spirit? Because the Holy Spirit was active from creation, as the first chapter of Genesis says. And this was not the first time some people were filled with the Holy Spirit. According to the Gospel according to St. Luke, when the Virgin Mary, pregnant by the Holy Spirit, visited her cousin, Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, exclaimed with a loud voice, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb" (Luke 1:42)
We confess in the creed that the Holy Spirit spoke through the prophets. The entire Old Testament is inspired by the Holy Spirit. On Holy Thursday, Jesus breathed on his disciples and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit." So what is different about this day of Pentecost?
Previously, the Holy Spirit would come and go in a mysterious way. He would speak by a prophet, but according to Samuel's account as a child in the Temple, a long time could pass without the voice of the Spirit. At Pentecost, we have the promise that the Spirit will stay with the church forever, to guide it in all truth.
What is important about the day of Pentecost is not the diversity of tongues, nor the flames of fire, but what it happened after these things. Peter preached the perfect sermon, calling the crowd to acknowledge their sins. And when they asked Peter, what should we do? Peter responded with the good news, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. "And three thousand were baptized on the same day.
There is more. "And they continued steadfastly in the doctrine of the apostles, and in fellowship, and in the breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Acts 2:42). According to the teaching of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians, we understand the breaking of bread as the sacrament of Holy Communion. Therefore, we have on this day of Pentecost, the whole form of the church. Preaching, confession and absolution, baptism and Holy Communion.
The promise of the Holy Spirit is not to speak in tongues, nor miracles of healing, nor prophecies. The promise is every time we hear the Word of God, confess our sins, receive the baptism and the Holy Supper, the Holy Spirit is active and lives inside our hearts, guiding our minds.
The Small Catechism explains that we confess the Holy Spirit and the communion of the saints together in the third article of the creed because the communion of the saints is the work of the Holy Spirit. He gives us the new life in baptism and gathers us in the flock of the Lord to await the final judgment.
This is our hope and faith. In this we have the peace that surpasses all understanding. Amen.
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