Sermon for May 31, 2020 — Our Own Personal Pentecost
First Lesson: Joel 2:28-29:
28“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. 29Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
O my people, hear my teaching;
listen to the words of my mouth.
I will utter things from of old,
what we have heard and what our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from our children;
we will tell the next generation the praise worthy deeds of the Lord.
The Lord decreed statutes for Jacob
and established the law in Israel,
so the next generation would know them,
and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God
and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen.
5[Jesus said to his disciples,] “Now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. 7But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.”
1When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
5Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11(both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
13Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
14Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17“‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. 19I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 20The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. 21And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”
This is an unusual day. Because of that, I’m going to dispense with the usual introduction and get right into the sermon today.
Why Is It Providence that We Come Together Again on Pentecost?
I. It is a day that is long anticipated
II. It is a day full of God’s blessings
III. It is a day to remember our mission
What do I mean when I speak of this as Providence? By Providence I mean that this has all the appearances of God behind the timing of this day. The founding fathers of our nation often spoke of the Providence of God. They saw God’s hand in so many things when it came to the founding of this nation. In their minds, it was almost as if God had planned this and ordained it. I almost have the same feeling about this day. And that’s because there are so many parallels between what is happening for us on this day and what happened for the people who experienced that first Pentecost.
First of all, the day of Pentecost was a festival in the Jewish calendar. In the Old Testament, it is most often referred to as the festival of weeks. Its date was set as a day 50 days after the festival of First Fruits. The Festival of First Fruits was the first Sunday after the Passover. Is on the Passover that the people of Israel remembered how God had released them from slavery in Egypt. On the Festival of First Fruits, they celebrate the first bit of grain that they are able to harvest from the fields. On the Festival of Weeks, they remembered two different things. First of all, they remembered an historical event. That’s because it was about 50 days after their release from captivity in Egypt that God gave them the law on Mount Sinai. In their year to year lives, the festival also had another meeting. It was that festival where they celebrated the wheat harvest.
As is noted in the Book of Acts, there were Jewish people from all over the world in Jerusalem for that festival. Don’t think of this as some kind of somber gathering, either. If you want to, you can look up on YouTube the celebrations of the Festival of Weeks in Jerusalem. You will see that they are raucous celebrations with a lot of singing and dancing at the Western Wall in the old city of Jerusalem. In the days of the Apostles, the people looked forward to a similar kind of celebratory event when they went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Festival of Weeks or Pentecost. So imagine that. Imagine throngs and throngs of joyful people who had been looking forward to getting to Jerusalem for the celebration of the Festival of Weeks for maybe their entire lives. Once they got there, they were almost overcome with joy. Their time spent in Jerusalem was almost unending celebration.
We can certainly see a parallel to what is happening today. It almost seems like we’ve been looking forward to this day for all of our lives. Of course, it hasn’t been that long. But I don’t think that I thought, when this lockdown began in the middle of March, that it would be all the way until the end of May that we get that we would get back together again. Sometimes, during this lockdown, it seemed like the time would never end. As a matter of fact, when I prepared the sermon, I had a hard time imagining what it would be like to give this sermon in front of actual people in church instead of just in front of my phone. Even though things are a little bit different now, note that we are not singing today yet, it is still a joyfully anticipated time full of much rejoicing.
Then, when the people got to Jerusalem for the Festival of Weeks, or Pentecost, God heaped up and added to their joy. I’m sure each one of them had in the back of their minds what it would be like to get to Jerusalem and celebrate this joyous festival. However, they had no idea what was going to happen on this particular Pentecost. They woke up on a day in which they anticipated a lot of singing and dancing to a very unusual event. They heard what sounded to be like a mighty rushing wind. They looked out their windows, and nothing was moving. The air was completely still. They could still hear the sound; and they could tell exactly where it was coming from. It led them to a house somewhere in the Mount Zion neighborhood of Jerusalem. They could hear that the sound of the wind seemed to be coming from inside of that house. Again, nothing was moving, there was just the sound. They also looked and they saw that there was a glow, a heavenly glow, floating in the room. Little bits and pieces of that heavenly glow detached themselves and sat themselves down on the top of the heads of the people who were there in the house. According to Acts chapter one, there may have been as many as 120 people in the house on that day.
And then the sound of the wind died down, and they heard something else unusual. They heard the people inside of the house speaking in different languages. The people who’d come from different parts of the world could understand the different languages that they spoke. Luke goes through a whole list of the different languages that were being spoken there. If you look on a map, the list of languages makes a broad circle around the Roman Empire from East to North to West to South. And all these people could understand that the people in the room, even though they were Unlearned Galileans, we’re speaking the deep truths of God. They were perplexed, and they wondered what it was all about. Some in the crowd rationalized and said that this simply indicated that the people in the house had been drinking too much and we’re spouting out nonsense.
Peter put an end to that kind of speculation. He got up with the 11 and started speaking to the group. He spoke to them about how this was a fulfillment to the prophecies that God had made in the Old Testament. He specifically pointed to the prophecies that the Prophet Joel had made. In that amazing portion of scripture, Joel outlined all of New Testament history. He said that it would start with a revelation given to his holy people. This revelation would be revealed to the world. And finally, after the work of the church had been completed, there would be the terrible signs that would show the end of the world coming and a judgment that would come to all people. He concludes the section by quoting Joel’s pronouncement that all who call upon the name of the Lord would be saved in that day of judgment.
Throughout the rest of his sermon, Peter outlined what it meant to call upon the name of the Lord. He spoke about Jesus. He spoke about how the people of Jerusalem had conspired with evil men to have him put to death. But he also spoke about how God had fulfilled the prophecy that he had given through King David had raised up his Righteous One so that he would not see decay. Peter let them know that it was because of this Jesus that they had the forgiveness of sins an eternal life in heaven through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. You know the rest of the account, don’t you? You know that Peter called upon these people to repent and 3000 people that day came to know Jesus Christ as their savior. They were baptized and they became the first 3000 members of the Christian Church on that day in which the great harvest of souls began . This harvest continues to this very day.
We also have come here today like those people did on the festival of Pentecost. We have come here to get together with our fellow believers. We have come together after waiting a long time for this day to finally arrive. And now that we are here, we receive a wonderful blessing from God. Throughout this time, we have read the word of God on our own. We have listened to the services while seated at our computers or at our television sets. That all has been a blessing. But it is a special blessing of God to be able to get together with our fellow believers and hear the word of God as one. It is that wonderful reminder that we are not all alone in our faith. It is a reminder that we have brothers and sisters in the Lord were there for us at all times lift us up in their prayers, and who are there to make the sorrows easier and the joy is greater in our lives as Christians. Let us rejoice in that today.
The people who had come to the first Pentecost had come not anticipating anything else then a reminder of God’s goodness to them when it came to the physical blessings that they enjoyed. They intended to thank God joyously for that. They left that day with something else. They left that day knowing that they had heard the amazing truth of the gospel message. They had been like their ancestors standing at the foot of Mount Sinai. Those people had felt the powerful presence of the Lord and knew that God himself was present in the message that was proclaimed there. These people who had come from every nation under earth knew that God was present in that gospel message as well. And now they knew that it was their turn to go out there and proclaim that message into all the world.
We have come here today, have come to experience that joy of being together as brothers and sisters in the Lord once again. While we were here, we once again heard the wonderful good news that our sins are forgiven for the sake of our crucified risen and ascended Lord. We joined together in hearts and prayers with our fellow believers. We are reminded, once again, what a special thing we have when we are able to do this. We leave today with maybe a deeper appreciation for the blessings that God Gives us when we come together in this place. Also leave, like the believers did on that first Pentecost, with a newfound commitment to bring this amazing message that we have heard here today into the world. Now that we are able to move around more freely, let us take the opportunities that we have to bring this word of Salvation to as many people as we can.
Yes, it is providential that we got together once again for worship on this special day. May the joy of Pentecost fill your hearts and minds always. Amen.