Joseph A. Bias
Pentecost The Forgotten Holy Day?
“And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Acts 1:4-5
Ask any child, Christian or non-Christian, what do you know about Christmas and they will readily give you an answer. Those who have not grown up with an awareness of Jesus Christ will likely refer to the secular holiday that bears His name. The child of Christian parents will know it’s the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Similarly most people in the western world know about Christmas even if they don’t know Christ. Similarly Easter is known even by those who don’t know the reason for the commemoration. Every believing, confessing Christian will acknowledge it is the Resurrection Day of Jesus.
But, few will have much, if anything, to say about Pentecost. Depending on their denominational tradition, if the day is celebrated at all it is not done with the same emphasis as Christmas and Easter. There are historical traditions in most orthodox religions such as Catholicism, Anglicanism, the Eastern Orthodox Church and so on, that do commemorate the Day, but with marginal emphasis. Why?
Pentecost should be one of the most important days for the Church to celebrate and embrace as a means of fulfilling the great commission.
It is good and right that we celebrate the birth of Jesus, because it set in motion the completion of our redemption with the incarnation of the Word made flesh. It is Jesus’ coming to dwell among us. His coming was first prophesied in the Garden of Eden when God said that the seed of the woman would bruise the head of the serpent and the serpent would bruise the heel of her seed.
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” Genesis 3:15
The seed of the woman is the man Jesus Christ. The seed of the serpent is the devil, the fallen angel, Lucifer, who in his rebellion and iniquity became Satan.
So the birth of Jesus was the culmination of all the prophecies concerning the Redeemer who would come to restore all mankind to their created place of communion in righteousness and holiness with God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The Crucifixion and the Resurrection are equally significant because in them we witness the culmination of the plan of Redemption. By His death on the cross Jesus paid the cost of redemption for the sins of all mankind, for all time. And by His Resurrection from the dead He made an entrance for us into eternal life. We who were dead in our trespasses and sins He has made alive.
“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.” Ephesians 2:1-3
So we rightly remember, commemorate and celebrate His life Risen from the dead. But was that the end of His work on earth? Was that all that needed to be done for every man, woman, boy and girl on the earth to be saved? Yes. It was.
But, on that day in Jerusalem how many people saw it or heard about it? How many eyewitnesses were present to tell what they had seen to others? Surely, no more than a few compared to the population of the whole world. And what about the generations to come? How would they learn about and understand what it means for them?
There is also the matter of Jesus’ promise to the disciples that they would do greater works than He had done, greater miracles, greater signs and wonders?
There is more to commemorate of His earthly ministry than Christmas and Easter. After the Resurrection, He appeared first to Mary and then to Peter and the 12, and then to over 500 people over the course of forty days. Then, when He was ascending to the Father for the last time He said to them, wait in Jerusalem until you receive power from on high to be my witnesses, in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the world.
“The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:1-8
Jesus did not suffer and die; He was not buried and remained in the earth for three days, and then rose on the third day just to put a period on the end of His earthly life and say to world, “Ok I’ve done my part, you’re on your own now.” He did not tell the disciples, “You’ve seen what I’ve done. You’ve heard me preach. You’ve seen the miracles, signs and wonders I have performed, so go do what I did and I’ll see y’all when you get to Heaven.”
No! He said, stay in Jerusalem until you receive power from on high, then you will be my witnesses. He said this to the men who had walked with Him in close relationship daily 24/7, forsaking everything to follow Him, the ones who knew Him better than any other people on the earth. even His own family. He said, don’t go anywhere, don’t attempt to do anything of ministry or witness of what you have seen and heard until you have received power from on high to do the things I have called you to do.
And so, 120 of them gathered in an upper room. Perhaps it was the same room where they had kept the Passover with Him before His arrest and trial and ultimately His crucifixion. As He had commanded them they did not go out, they did not speak publicly of Him. They did not lay hands on anyone to receive healing or deliverance. They just gathered together in this one place, in one accord to wait, with a singleness of purpose and with a singleness of hopeful expectation.
Then at the very hour, fifty days from the moment Jesus cried out on the cross “Tetelestai,” “It is Finished!” and died, there came a sound from Heaven into that room as of a rushing mighty wind.
“When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Acts 2:1-4
In that moment they all received the Spirit of power and the fire of passion and zeal to witness the life and message of Jesus to the world.
And they did. And from that day the flame and passion of Pentecost burned unabated in their hearts and thousands came to know and receive salvation, healing and deliverance. The numbers of those who believed and bore witness of Jesus Christ increased daily. Thousands were received into the body of Christ.
Now more than 2000 years since that day the Gospel is still filled with power and the message of Christ still saves, still heals, still delivers and sustains us. The same spirit and fire, the same power that came on that first Pentecost is still with us today.
Resurrection Day was on the first day of the week. That is Sunday for us. The Ascension of Jesus was on the 40th day after the Crucifixion and the feast of Pentecost came ten days later. Now Jesus’ Ascension is celebrated on Thursday in the Orthodox Church, 10 days before Pentecost. That means that as Resurrection Day is celebrated on Sunday, the first day o the week, so is Pentecost celebrated on the first day of the week.
Every Sunday for the believer is and should be a celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. So too, every Sunday ought to be a celebration of Pentecost, because it was there that we received the power to fulfill our calling to “Go…
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” Matthew 28:19-20
Shall we celebrate the day the gift of Christ was given to all and shall we commemorate His Death and Resurrection, but then, neglect Pentecost and so de-emphasize the gift of the Holy Spirit sent to us to empower us to go into all the world in His name to preach the Gospel to the poor. The Gift of Jesus was given at Christmas. The Gift of the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost.
Jesus came to bring us Salvation healing and eternal life with Him, the Father and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit came to empower us to fulfill the great commission and to live the life of Christ as Hi Ambassadors to the world.
“So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” Luke 4:16-19
The Spirit of the Lord was upon Jesus to preach, to save and to work miracles of healing, deliverance and restoration to all mankind. That same Spirit came to rest on men, women and children on the Day of Pentecost. What was Jesus’ earthly calling then is our commission now empowered by the Holy Spirit.