Pentecost literally means “fiftieth day.” As a Jewish religious celebration, it first marked the fifty days after Passover with a harvest festival. Pentecost also commemorated the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai. This moment is still celebrated in the Jewish tradition as Shavuot.
In the Christian tradition, Pentecost marks the end of the 50 Days of Easter. Acts 2 describes how the apostles and friends were gathered together in Jerusalem. Suddenly there was a great rushing of wind and tongues of fire resting on each of the apostles. They began to speak in different languages, and the crowds around them – Jews from across the diaspora having come to Jerusalem for the Festival of Weeks – understood them. It was at this moment that Peter stood up and preached, revealing the will of God in Jesus Christ, as prophesied by Joel, and affirming a continual outpouring of the Holy Spirit through repentance and Baptism.
In Matthew 28:20 Jesus told his followers, “I will be with you always, even until the end of the age.” He promptly ascended into heaven, and his followers could no longer see him. What gives? Well, in John 15:26 Jesus promised, “I will send you the Advocate – the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me.” (NLT) When the Holy Spirit moves, Jesus is present through that Holy Spirit. So it is that Pentecost marks the fulfillment of Christ’s promise.
The meaning of Pentecost is God’s equipping His church with the power of His Spirit so that He will be glorified among the nations.
The point of Pentecost is mission, and the goal of mission is that “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord.” If we properly understand this great historic event, our hearts will be enflamed burning with the cause of seeing some from every tribe and tongue and nation gathered before our Lord Jesus Christ.
One of my favorite summer activities is sitting by a campfire and watching the flames. Maybe it’s your favorite activity, too! The flames of the fire remind us of Christ’s Spirit which comes to each of us to “call us through the gospel, enlighten us with his gifts, makes us holy and keeps us in the true faith.” Wind toys (kites, pinwheels, wind chimes) are great symbols to help us all understand the gift of the Holy Spirit. Summer is the season of Pentecost—may you grow in your understanding of the Holy Spirit.