the BIG story: Acts 2

Pentecost is the sovereign activity of God.

1. The Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost.
Jesus’ baptism in Luke 3 is essential and foundational to our understanding Pentecost. At Baptism, Jesus identified himself with John, his ministry, and his message and he identified himself with lost sinners. And we see God identifying himself (Father and Spirit) with the Son, and with his ministry. From this point on that Jesus is endowed with power from on high to conduct His earthly ministry.

At Pentecost, we see a similar event taking place with Jesus’ earthly body, the church. God identifies himself with the church, the body of Christ. It is one thing to identify ourselves with Christ (which we do in believer’s baptism). Just as Jesus did not begin his public ministry until the Father identified himself with him by sending his Spirit on him, so too the experience of the disciples at Pentecost.  Now, God has come to dwell in his people by his Spirit.

2. Second, Day of Pentecost had fully come,
The coming of the Holy Spirit didn’t “just happen”; it happened on Pentecost to fulfil its eternally determined destiny.

Feast of Pentecost was known by several names: the “Feast of Harvest” (Exodus 23:16), the “Feast of Weeks” (Exodus 34:22; Deuteronomy 16:10), and the “day of the first fruits” (Numbers 28:26). The Feast of Pentecost was to be celebrated 50 days after the offering of the first fruits. It marks the transition from Israel’s barley harvest to her wheat harvest. the more highly prized crop.

So what?

  1. Passover clearly anticipated the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and His saving work on the cross of Calvary. He is our Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7).

  2. The Feast of Unleavened Bread follows Passover, and all leaven must be removed. The death of our Lord Jesus at Calvary removes the guilt of our sins, and thus we must come to hate sin and desire that it be put far from us

  3. Like the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the offering of Israel’s first fruits followed shortly after the observance of the Passover meal. The presentation of the first fruits always occurred on the day after Sabbath, or Sunday. Sunday after Passover was also the day our Lord Jesus rose from the dead, the first fruits from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20).

  4. Fifty days later, Israel celebrated the Feast of Pentecost. It was the time when God identified Himself with the church, the time when He endowed the saints with power so that they could carry out the Great Commission.

3. The disciples did not bring the Holy Spirit down by their actions; the Holy Spirit came down upon them unexpectedly.
This was all God’s doing. And the emphasis then falls on those who witnessed this event. Nothing like this has ever happened before.  An auditory and a visual manifestation accompany the filling of the Spirit. It is not a literal wind or a literal fire. It is a very loud sound that is something like a violent wind. It is something like tongues made of fire.

What is the meaning of these symbols?  In both Hebrew and Greek,  “spirit” is also the word for “wind.” Wind is often a symbol associated with the Spirit of God. Fire is frequently a symbol of God’s presence. Apart from God’s work in our lives, the human tongue is a destructive fire, but once the heart is renewed and the Spirit empowers the tongue, it becomes an instrument of salvation.

So where did these “devout Jews” come from? Where were they before this? Some of them were probably devout Jews who made their way from distant lands to come to Jerusalem to observe the Feast of Pentecost (Acts 20:16). Some might have come for Passover and stayed on until Pentecost. We know that many did make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the feasts, especially the three mandatory feasts:

The Passover festival at Jerusalem in the days before the temple was destroyed was an impressive occasion. Perhaps the only comparable event in the modern world is the annual Haj to Mecca. From all over the Eastern Mediterranean world, wherever Jews had settled or foreigners had embraced the Jewish religion, they came each year. Nobody knows exactly how many came. Ancient reports range from half a million to twelve million! A more conservative modern estimate reckons that Jerusalem, quite a small town by modern standards (perhaps 30,000 inhabitants), was swollen to six times its normal population at Passover time. The city itself could not hold them, and they filled the surrounding villages, while large numbers set up tents outside the city.

Messianic expectation was at an all time high. Word about Jesus had spread abroad. Surely the “devout Jews” heard of such things, and just as surely, they would have made every effort to relocate to Jerusalem, hoping to be on hand when the kingdom of God was inaugurated. So these “devout Jews” sensed that there was spiritual significance to these events, and they wanted to know what it was: “What does this mean” (v12)? But others dismissed these miraculous events as the babblings of those who were drunk: “They are drunk on new wine!” (v13).

God is present with his people, even though we are not yet sinless. We are forgiven sinners, who will one day be freed from the suffering and groaning that is the result of sin (Romans 8:18-25). By the Spirit, he is with us, not only to teach, comfort, and guide, but also to empower us to carry out the Great Commission.