Bible Passage: Acts 2:1-21
Pastor: Pastor Berg
Sermon Date: June 4, 2017
As part of his master plan, God chose Abraham and his descendants to be his chosen people. They would be the people through whom he would send his Son Jesus to be the Savior of the world. In order to preserve his people from lapsing and blending into the sinful world, GOd protected his people with ceremonies and laws. These ceremonies and laws were a barrier around the people of Israel. Though the certainly were strict and rigid, these ceremonies and laws helped keep the people safe by keeping their focus on God and on his promised Messiah. In fact, every single ceremony that God commanded them to perform in some way pointed ahead to the work of salvation that God would accomplish in Jesus.
Among those ceremonies were three great feasts. All of Israel was commanded by God to gather together at the place of worship—be it the tabernacle or the temple—to celebrate these three feasts. Those feasts were the Passover, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Tabernacles. Interestingly, each of these feasts had a connection to a harvest. On the Sunday following the Passover, which was sometimes called the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Israelites were to present the first sheaf of grain to God in a wave offering. Seven weeks later or fifty days later, they were again to present grain to the Lord. Only this time it was the first fruits of the grain harvest that were presented as a thank offering. And then again in the fall, they would gather together to celebrate the grape harvest before the Lord.
Perhaps you’re already thinking, “Well that’s all very interesting, Pastor, but what in the world does this have to do with Pentecost?” Be patient, I’m getting there. The word Pentecost is really a combination of two Greek words. Pente, meaning ‘five’ and Cost, meaning ‘ten.’ Pentecost literally then is five ten’s or fifty. The Feast of Weeks was the same as the Feast of Pentecost. So, when we read the account in Acts 2, this isn’t the first Pentecost. It actually went back all the way to the time of the Exodus from Egypt. And all of this background helps us to understand why there were such a large number of people from all these different nations in Jerusalem on this day. When you take a step back, you can already see God’s handiwork all over this. But when we really dig into it, it’s truly even more amazing. Prepare to be amazed as we take a brief tour of the first two spring festivals that God commanded all his people to join in, Passover and Pentecost, and see how they found their fulfillment in the life of Jesus.
God told Moses back in Exodus 12. Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household…The animals you choose mych be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month…” The children of Israel were supposed to find a lamb for the Passover on the tenth day of the month, four days before they would sacrifice that lamb and celebrate the meal. That tenth day that most of the Jews were looking for their Passover lamb was a Sunday. And then we remember that it was on a Sunday, Palm Sunday, when people were out looking for a lamb, that Jesus, the Lamb of God, rode into Jerusalem. On the fourteenth day, that day that the Israelites were concerned about slaughtering and eating their Passover lambs, Jesus was sacrificed on the cross as our “Passover Lamb.” And then remember when the Passover was over—on Sunday—the Israelites were to take the first sheaf of the grain harvest and present it to the Lord. It was on Sunday after the Passover that Jesus rose from the dead, “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep,” as Paul wrote to the Corinthians. ANd now, five ten’s later, fifty days later, on the day that the Israelites brought the first fruits of the grain harvest to the Lord, there is God harvesting the first souls of the New Testament Church.
The events of Holy Week connected those Old Testament feasts with God’s plan of salvation. And in what we might call a grand finale, God uses the Feast of Weeks to give birth to the New Testament Church. And God was rather dramatic in doing so, wasn’t he? He wasn’t going to let this event go unnoticed. When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the rushing of a violent wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Imagine that you were in Jerusalem on this particular Pentecost. As you’re walking through the streets, waiting for the festival to begin, you hear that freight train like sound that a tornado makes. But when you look around, everything is completely calm. That would certainly get your attention, wouldn’t it? It might even be a little unnerving. And then came the fire. They saw divided tongues that were like fire resting on each one of them. Fire from heaven is not necessarily new. Sodom and Gomorrah testify to that. So imagine how you might have felt seeing this great ball of fire coming from heaven! And then it stops, it separates, and it comes to rest over the heads of the disciples! Again, God’s got your attention, hasn’t he! But there was even more!
They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, since the Spirit was giving them the ability to speak fluently.
Now there were godly Jewish men from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. When this sound was heard, a crowd came together and was confused, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were completely baffled and said to each other, “Look, are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them speaking in his own native language? Parthians, Medes, and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, and of Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt, and the parts of Libya around Cyrene; visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes; Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring in our own languages the wonderful works of God.” They were all amazed and perplexed. They kept saying to one another, “What does this mean?” What it meant was that Jesus kept his promise. Remember what he told the apostles before he ascended? Jesus kept his promise by sending the Holy Spirit on his disciples. The gift of the Holy Spirit wasn’t the sound of the violent wind. The wind was a sign, but it wasn’t the gift itself. The tongues of fire adorning their heads marked the arrival of the gift, but the fire wasn’t the gift itself. Even the speaking in tongues, in clear intelligible languages that they had never spoken before wasn’t the gift. It was a result of the gift, but not the gift itself. No, the gift itself was the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The gift that Moses wished for and Joel foretold. The true gift was what followed.
“But others mocked them and said, “They are full of new wine.” Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and spoke loudly and clearly to them: “Men of Judea, and all you residents of Jerusalem, understand this, and listen closely to my words. These men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day. On the contrary, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: This is what God says will happen in the last days:,I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.,Your sons and your daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions.,Your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.” The real gift of the Spirit was taking timid followers of Jesus and making them bold witnesses who took the Gospel to the world. The real gift of Pentecost is that the disciples began using the Gospel to bring in the harvest, to bring in those whom God had chosen. We hear later in Acts that over 3000 were added to the Church that day.
The Day of Pentecost truly was a day of harvest. And for us today, Pentecost shows that the harvest is continuing. All of us, at one time, were part of that harvest. No matter how checkered our past might be, no matter how big a pile of sins we might have dragged in here with us today, our God has claimed us for his own. The feasts that pointed to Jesus’ work pointed to what he would do for us. It was our life he lived. It was our death he died. It was our grave he defeated. And it’s our home now he’s preparing. And now that he’s harvested us, he sends the Holy Spirit to us to use us as harvesters. He sends us into the ripened fields of our lives to tell more people of what Jesus did for them, to harvest more souls and bring them into God’s storehouse in heaven. It’s Harvest Time! We’ve seen the harvest begin on Pentecost and now it continues with us.
And it’s right about here that I start to lose people. When we start talking about working in God’s field, doing mission work, telling of Jesus’ love—that’s where it’s easy for people to check out and think, “That’s not for me.” Maybe pastors can do that and other people who really know their Bibles well and have those kinds of gifts, but not me. But you know what, that’s just not true, because the same Holy Spirit who so demonstratively displayed his presence at Pentecost lives in you and me. God gave him to you at your Baptism. He’s the one who brought you to faith and to Jesus. It’s because of him that you have the forgiveness of sins and will live forever in heaven. And God continues to bless us with the Holy Spirit every time we are gathered around his Word and Sacraments. And remember what we said about this gift for the disciples? It wasn’t the violent windless wind or the fire or the speaking in tongues that was the gift. It was the transformation of timid men and women into bold and unashamed confessors of Christ. And God gives you that same boldness. He makes the same transformation. It may not come with flames or tongues, but it’s the same Spirit at work. No, you may not bring 3000 to faith in one day, but when God works through you to reach just one friend, one co-worker, one relative; it is no less of a miracle. On this day of Pentecost, It’s Harvest Time! What God began in Jerusalem fifty days after the first Easter, he has privileged us to continue! Your harvest field is waiting right outside these doors! May the same Spirit who empowered the disciples work in you to bring more and more people to know of Jesus’ love. It’s Harvest Time! Let’s get to work! Amen.