Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:1-13
According to Church calendar, today is Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost is not as well-known or as popular as Christmas and Easter, though it commemorates a watershed event in Christian history. In many ways, Pentecost is the birthday of the church. The English word “Pentecost” is a transliteration of the Greek word pentekostos, which means “fifty.” This day became especially significant for Christians because, fifty days or seven weeks after the resurrection of Jesus, during the Jewish celebration of the Feast of Weeks, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon Christ’s first followers, thus empowering them for their mission and gathering them together as a church.
What Actually Happened on the Day of Pentecost?
So, what actually happened on the day of Pentecost and why it is so important for us today? The account of this day is recorded in the book of Acts chapter 2. Acts 2:1 begins this way, “And when the day of Pentecost had come, the first followers of Jesus were all together in one place.” All of a sudden, a sound came from heaven, like a strong wind, filling the house where the people had gathered. Something like tongues of fire rested on their heads. Acts 2:4 continues, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit gave them the ability to speak.”
The languages given to the followers of Christ that day were the languages spoken by thousands of Jewish pilgrims who had come to Jerusalem to celebrate Shavuot, or the Festival of Weeks. In Acts 2:7-8 we read, “Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?” The content of the miraculous messages had to do with God’s mighty works, the wonders of God (2:11).
At some point, Peter, one of the leading followers of Jesus, stood up and preached his first sermon. He interpreted the events of that morning in light of a prophecy of the Hebrew prophet Joel. In that text, God promised to pour out His Spirit on all flesh, empowering diverse people to exercise divine power. This would be a sign of the coming of the “day of the Lord” (Acts 2:16-21; Joel 2:28-32). Peter went on to explain that Jesus had been raised and had poured out the Spirit in fulfillment of God’s promise through Joel (2:32-33). When the crowd asked what they should do, Peter urged them to turn their lives around and be baptized in the name of Jesus. Then they would be forgiven and would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (2:37-39). Acts reports that about 3,000 people were added to the church that day (2:41). Not a bad response to Peter’s first sermon!
Pentecost is a central event in the history of God’s Church. What is the message of Pentecost to our lives as followers of Christ today? What is the message of Pentecost to the Blackwood Presbyterian Church as it carries on its ministry and mission in this community? In Acts 2:12, the Bible says, “Amazed and perplexed, they (the people present at Pentecost) asked one another, “What does this mean?” Three important lessons from the first Pentecost Sunday:
First: Relaying on the Power of The Holy Spirit
Someone said, “The Holy Spirit is the forgotten God.” Pentecost is the celebration of the gift of the Holy Spirit. The disciples of Christ were very discouraged as they saw Jesus taken up into heaven before their very eyes on the Mount of Olives. Before He was taken up into heaven, Jesus promised them in 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.” On Pentecost morning, the promise was fulfilled, and the followers of Christ received the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The gift of the Holy Spirit, God’s very presence with us, that treasure in jars of clay (2 Corn. 4:7), was the gift that made the whole difference. Who could’ve imagined that those new believers could stand firm in the Lord in spite of severe persecution? Who could’ve imagined that those new believers would endure trails and tribulations joyfully for the sake of Christ? How could this happen? It is the power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christ’s followers. Zechariah 4:6, the reminds us that, “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty.”
Second: A Witnessing Community
From the day of Pentecost to this day, authentic Christian communities have become witnessing communities. That is the challenge I’ve put before you since I became your Pastor. My hope is to revitalize our calling, our vocation as Christians, people who have been set apart by God for a specific purpose, “You are my witnesses.” I am not asking you to quit your job and be a Minister. I am asking you to “plant seeds”, to “seize the opportunities”, to “intentionally share the good news with others.” Some of you are on board on this one and some are not. This is the very best outreach a church can have, is one that is lived by its people as they go on their way.
Robert G. Lee, (1927-1960) once said, “God never intended for the church to be a refrigerator in which to preserve perishable piety…He intended it to be an incubator in which to hatch our converts.” That’s how Christianity spread all over the world. On the day of Pentecost, there were people from the four ends of the earth as we see in Acts 2:9-11. Those very people, regular people like us, took the Christian message to their homeland; those from Asia, took it to the Asians; Europeans took the message of Jesus to Europe; Africans to Africa; the Middle Eastern to the Middle East and north Africa. The native people of so many nations who were present in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost returned to their home countries with a new message; a message that was too deep for words. But finally, on the day of Pentecost, we see a miracle of understanding.
Third: A Miracle of Understanding
On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit enabled the followers of Christ to speak the languages of the people around them. In Acts 2:11 we read the comment of the people we heard Peter, the Galilean fisherman, preaching that day, “We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” It is indeed a miracle of understanding! We are called to speak a language that those around us can understand. Have you ever had one of those...ah-hah... moments when all of a sudden--something you had not understood--some great truth---suddenly, miraculously makes sense? One of my favorite Scripture verses is Isaiah 11:2, “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him-- the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord.”
Friends, the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding will enable us to know the difference between what is important and what is less important; between what is permanent and what is temporary; between what is lasting and what is passing. When we do so, we will be living the real meaning of Pentecost. In the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!
 Shavuot, or the Feast of Weeks, was the second great feast in Israel’s yearly cycle of holy days. It was originally a harvest festival (Exodus 23:16), but, in time, turned into a day to commemorate the giving of the law on Mount Sinai. This name comes from an expression in Leviticus 23:16.
First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Pentecost Sunday June 9th, 2019)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor