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Acts  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  35:32
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Pentecost is in fulfillment of an Old Testament feast, the giving of the law at Sinai, ritual temple cleansing, the reversal of Babel and every Holy Spirit moment in judges, prophets and kings. And yet it is not an end but a beginning: the coming of the Holy Spirit in power to all believers. This is God working ALL the things together... and that Same God and Same Spirit have been working in us. We ask "what's next" and God answers "suddenly..."

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Pentecost

Are you waiting? Are you wondering? What is the plan?
After Jesus ascended they were waiting...
Acts 1:12–14 ESV
Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
They elected a replacement for Judas… and then waited some more.
Waiting and Wondering… what is the plan?

Weaving the Threads

Previous Holy Spirit encounters

Over the many centuries, the Holy Spirit had come on prophets and kings, on judges. Jesus had promised that “they would be filled with the Holy Spirit”… and so I imagine one of the things they are wondering is “which one of us is it going to be?”
Maybe the boldest among them thought “Maybe all twelve of the official apostles?” How rare and singular the Holy Spirit has been up to now… they are waiting and wondering: what’s next?

Feast of Weeks

While they are waiting and wondering, the rest of Israel is preparing. There are three major Feasts in Israel: Passover, Pentecost (Feast of Weeks) and Tabernacles (or Feast of Booths).
What is “Pentecost”? It means fifty. Because it comes fifty days after the first ripening of the barley. Fifty is a week of weeks +1 (7x7=49… add the 1… 50). Where it is commanded in Scripture it is tied to the actual ripening of the barley, but in practice they counted from the Sabbath of Passover.
It is called the Feast of Weeks but it is also called the Feast of firstfruits. Bring the fruit of the harvest fifty days after the barley first ripens. Now the full wheat (the good stuff) is ripe too. Bake it into two loaves and bring a wave offering before God. But also the farmers would mark the first ripening fruits of many kinds, setting them aside to bring them to the temple on this day. Giving to God the firstfruits of the harvest.
But like harvest festivals throughout cultures, it is a moment of celebration and plenty. The offerings are “given” to God… and then the great feast begins… the party.
And faithful believers travel from the entire Diaspora to the temple for this day. From across Judea, but wider than that… from Asia to the East, from Europe to the West and from Africa to the South West. Jerusalem sits in the crossroads… and the crossroads are full of people traveling to be a part of this holy (and awesome) harvest festival.

Sinai

It is never said in Scripture, but there is a long Jewish tradition certainly in play by the time of Jesus that the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) also commemorates a very special day. As Passover celebrates the Exodus and the freedom from Pharoah… about 7ish weeks, (maybe + 1 day) they people come to Mount Sinai… and Moses ascends the mountain. And God gives this incredible revelation of himself and the world and how life works and how to live successfully in his world.
He gives the law. The Ten Commandments written with his own finger in stone… and the civil law to govern the nation of Israel… and the ceremonial law to teach them to worship.
Pentecost becomes a celebration, not only of the plenty and the firstfruits of what God has given.

Fulfillment

In the upper room, they are waiting and wondering. When is this going to happen? Jesus was with them teaching for forty days. He was crucified at Passover, in beautiful fulfillment of Passover, the ultimate lamb to rescue us from slavery and death.
They are waiting and wondering… and I imagine this priest coming out each day and yelling. They wonder “when is the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised coming?” and the priest comes out and yells “10...”
“I wonder if he’ll come today” “9...”
It’s been a few days, no idea when the day is coming. “8…, 7…, 6… 5… 4… 3… 2… 1…)

Suddenly Pentecost

They were waiting and wondering… and then… suddenly
Acts 2:1–2 ESV
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.
A sound like wind… but there was no wind. And the word wind, associated with breath, the breath of God… which is the very same word as that for Spirit. The breath God breathed into man in Creation. The sound of it fills the room, I hear a jet engine, or the Santa Ana winds outside...
Acts 2:3 ESV
And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.
Tongues of fire. Not a tongue like in your mouth, exactly, like the fire as it flickers upwards. Visible fire that rested on each of them. Where have we seen fire that blazed but did not burn them up? The very presence of God appearing to Moses on the mountain. The manifest presence of God, resting on each of them. Terrifying and thrilling.
Acts 2:4 ESV
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
What are they saying? We don’t know. Maybe “AHHHH! You’re on fire!” Or “What, I can’t hear you over the sound of rushing wind!”
More likely “Hallelujah… it’s finally happening.” “This is the Holy Spirit Jesus promised” “Praise God!”
Telling the mighty works of God.
And they spill out of the upper room. Pouring out into the crowds and likely making their way out to the steps in front of the temple. And the crowd sees these 120 crazy people.
Acts 2:5–6 ESV
Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language.
Reversing the curse of Babel… but not by recreating one universal human language but by bridging the gap of diversity in language and culture by His Holy Spirit. Miraculously, bringing unity in the midst of diversity.
People from all over...
Acts 2:7–12 ESV
And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”
But even in the most remarkable situations, there are always doubters:
Acts 2:13 ESV
But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”
I love it when a plan comes together.

In Fullfilment

In perfect fulfillment of Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit comes upon those 120 believers in power.
In perfect fulfillment of every previous visitation of the Holy Spirit. Those were rare and to one at a time, usually, every one a shadow of this unleashing of the Holy Spirit upon the church.

In fulfillment of Pentecost

In perfect fulfillment of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit comes. Fulfilling both the giving of the law, for now the Spirit will be the law written on our hearts, the guide within. But also, the ultimate harvest festival, the first fruits of the Kingdom now fully ripened and ready and delicious. The first fruits of the church.
As Jesus was the fulfillment of Passover, so the coming of the Holy Spirit fulfills Pentecost. Not as “grabbing a convenient metaphor” but likely that God commanded and taught the Feasts in the first place as a shadow and a preparation for this moment. He crafted and shaped their understanding.
Those are only some of the threads coming together here. There are more.

In fulfillment of Babel

Reversing the curse of Babel, revealing that to be a shadow of what’s to come. Reversing the confusion of languages among humanity. But this is not through bringing back uniformity (one language) but by bridging the diversity of all language, that every tribe, every language, every dialect even hears it in their own tongue.

Wind and Fire

Reaching all the way back to the burning bush and even further to the breath of Creation.

In Fulfillment of Temple Cleansing

And one final fulfillment. My very favorite piece. In that law given on Pentecost was requirements for ritual washing before entering the temple. And so on the steps up to the temple mount were hundreds of little pools for this ritual washing. You can still see them there today, dug into the bedrock stone of the temple stairs.
The crowd hears the disciples teaching and preaching the incredible news of God’s great works. Peter stands and pulls even more threads together: how this very moment is the fulfillment of prophecy and Jesus is fulfillment of prophecy and gives them the gospel message…
and the people respond...
Acts 2:41 ESV
So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
And they are standing in perhaps the one place where you could have baptized that many. Coincidence? No.
The Holy Spirit comes in perfect fulfillment of the Feast of Firstfruits, Pentecost, and the giving of the Law.
There they are waiting and wondering. As all of the pieces come together, as all these threads across human history all pull together to reveal the beautiful tapestry...
I imagine God sitting back and “Oh… I love it when a plan comes together.”

Living in Pentecost

What a dramatic day. Anyone dream about repeating that day here and now? God could do it. God has done it in revival after revival.
Pentecost is not a past event but a new and present reality.
The Holy Spirit came in power… and never left the people. That tongue of fire resting on the followers… that is invisibly present in all of us, sealed by faith in Christ by the holy Spirit. Pentecost is not a past event but a new and present reality.
As the disciples grow to understand the Holy Spirit, what emerges is NOT a formula for recreating days like this one.
Instead what stands out is the diversity of the work of the Holy Spirit. The breadth of his gifts, different kinds to different peoples to empower different ministries. The fruit of the Holy Spirit, singular but finding all kinds of dimension - love, joy, peace, patience...
They don’t seek to trigger another Pentecost, but to be part of what the Holy Spirit does next, the next miracle, the next witness, the next moment large or small. They are no more tongues of fire… but they are for the rest of their lives on fire.
There is no more sound of rushing wind… but they are chasing the wind, filled with the very breath of God, and scattered to the winds, witnesses to the ends of the earth!
We should not look back on Pentecost in envy that we weren’t there, or guilty if we don’t experience the Holy Spirit in the same way. That isn’t how the Spirit works.
Instead, we are living now in the days of Pentecost, the still present Holy Spirit, still filled with that same rushing breath, still burning with that holy flame.
And the God that pulled all of those pieces together perfectly to give perfect expression to that one amazing day...
He is no less working all things together for your good. To rescue and redeem you. To empower your ministry. To send you out as his witness.
He has plans in place, works in place that may have been millennia in the working. That Same Spirit, that same power, that same plan is at work in you today. You still live in the day of Pentecost.

Imaginative Exercise

We live in the days of Pentecost. We live in the era of the present and powerful Holy Spirit.
I have seen this before.
But let’s put ourselves into the story, as an imaginitive worship exercise. Let’s be there on the day.
In a room much like this. A group much like this. Men and Women, 120 followers of Jesus Christ. Devoting themselves to prayer and the study of Scripture. Waiting on the Holy Spirit to show what is next.
And the priest counts down “10… 9...”
and then, suddenly… a sound like massive wind… breath and fire, beautiful chaos of language through which the Holy Spirit speaks to people the mighty works of God.
Let’s sit at the feet of Peter as he puts all the rest of the pieces together. How God has ordained and foretold this day and the coming Church Age.
Acts 2:14–41 The Message
That’s when Peter stood up and, backed by the other eleven, spoke out with bold urgency: “Fellow Jews, all of you who are visiting Jerusalem, listen carefully and get this story straight. These people aren’t drunk as some of you suspect. They haven’t had time to get drunk—it’s only nine o’clock in the morning. This is what the prophet Joel announced would happen: “In the Last Days,” God says, “I will pour out my Spirit on every kind of people: Your sons will prophesy, also your daughters; Your young men will see visions, your old men dream dreams. When the time comes, I’ll pour out my Spirit On those who serve me, men and women both, and they’ll prophesy. I’ll set wonders in the sky above and signs on the earth below, Blood and fire and billowing smoke, the sun turning black and the moon blood-red, Before the Day of the Lord arrives, the Day tremendous and marvelous; And whoever calls out for help to me, God, will be saved.” “Fellow Israelites, listen carefully to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man thoroughly accredited by God to you—the miracles and wonders and signs that God did through him are common knowledge—this Jesus, following the deliberate and well-thought-out plan of God, was betrayed by men who took the law into their own hands, and was handed over to you. And you pinned him to a cross and killed him. But God untied the death ropes and raised him up. Death was no match for him. David said it all: I saw God before me for all time. Nothing can shake me; he’s right by my side. I’m glad from the inside out, ecstatic; I’ve pitched my tent in the land of hope. I know you’ll never dump me in Hades; I’ll never even smell the stench of death. You’ve got my feet on the life-path, with your face shining sun-joy all around. “Dear friends, let me be completely frank with you. Our ancestor David is dead and buried—his tomb is in plain sight today. But being also a prophet and knowing that God had solemnly sworn that a descendant of his would rule his kingdom, seeing far ahead, he talked of the resurrection of the Messiah—‘no trip to Hades, no stench of death.’ This Jesus, God raised up. And every one of us here is a witness to it. Then, raised to the heights at the right hand of God and receiving the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father, he poured out the Spirit he had just received. That is what you see and hear. For David himself did not ascend to heaven, but he did say, God said to my Master, “Sit at my right hand Until I make your enemies a stool for resting your feet.” “All Israel, then, know this: There’s no longer room for doubt—God made him Master and Messiah, this Jesus whom you killed on a cross.” Cut to the quick, those who were there listening asked Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers! Brothers! So now what do we do?” Peter said, “Change your life. Turn to God and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, so your sins are forgiven. Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is targeted to you and your children, but also to all who are far away—whomever, in fact, our Master God invites.” He went on in this vein for a long time, urging them over and over, “Get out while you can; get out of this sick and stupid culture!” That day about three thousand took him at his word, were baptized and were signed up.
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