Pentecost? What's That?

This Sunday we will celebrate Pentecost in worship. It is appropriate to wear red, because it is a day of celebration. Matter of fact, I encourage you to wear red, to set the tone for the day. Below are excerpts from a blog written by Rev. Dr. Mark D. Roberts. I hope it answers some of the common questions about Pentecost, and provides an avenue of understanding the celebratory day in the church. Come Sunday to find out what the Holy Spirit might have in store for each of us!

                                                       ~ Eldonna Hazen

 

What is Pentecost?

For Christians, Pentecost is a holiday on which we commemorate the coming of the Holy Spirit on the early followers of Jesus. Before the events of the first Pentecost, which came a few weeks after Jesus’ death and resurrection, there were followers of Jesus, but no movement that could be meaningfully called “the church.” Thus, from a historical point of view, Pentecost is the day on which the church was started. This is also true from a spiritual perspective, since the Spirit brings the church into existence and enlivens it. Thus Pentecost is the church’s birthday.

What does the word “Pentecost” mean?

The English word “Pentecost” is a transliteration of the Greek word pentekostos, which means “fifty.” It comes from the ancient Christian expression pentekoste hemera, which means “fiftieth day.” Fiftieth day meaning fifty days after Jesus resurrection.

But Christians did not invent the phrase “fiftieth day.” Rather, they borrowed it from Greek-speaking Jews who used the phrase to refer to a Jewish holiday. This holiday was known as the Festival of Weeks, or, more simply, Weeks (Shavuot in Hebrew). This name comes from an expression in Leviticus 23:16, which instructs people to count seven weeks or “fifty days” from the end of Passover to the beginning of the next holiday (pentekonta hemeras is the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Scripture).

What actually happened on that day of Pentecost?

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. “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” (2:4). The languages spoken by the early Christians were intelligible (not other worldly) and were heard by thousands of Jewish pilgrims who had come to Jerusalem to celebrate Shavuot. The content of the miraculous messages had to do with God’s mighty works. Many who heard these messages in their own languages were amazed, though others thought the Christians were just drunk.

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. 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. 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!

Copyright © 2011 by Mark D. Roberts and Patheos.com

 

Posted on May 19, 2015 at 11:39 am in Featured Content.

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