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Feast of Pentecost
Rev. Jacob Sutton, Pastor
31 May 2020
+ In the Name of Jesus +
What is Pentecost? Fifty days after Easter, fifty days after Passover, seven weeks of seven days plus one day after Passover – marking for the people of Israel a Sabbath’s Sabbath rest after seven weeks of barley harvest, and summer wheat planting. It also marked the day when Israel received the Law from God at Mt. Sinai, fifty days after they passed through the Red Sea on dry ground.
Then it was time when the sickle was to be put to the harvest, and the ingathering was made. The men of Israel who had passed bar-mitzvah travelled to Jerusalem with the first-fruits of harvest and to rest in the Word of God – to delight in the Law of the Lord, to meditate on it day and night for a time.
Now the reality is that this Pentecost we hear about from the Evangelist is about more than crop harvest, the time has come to swing the sickle of the Word of God: for the Word, sharper than any two-edged sword, comes down with the Holy Spirit, comforting the believer, challenging the faithless and idolatrous. Preaching breaks out. Remember the words of Christ: “Lift up your eyes,” He said, “and look on the fields, for they are white already to harvest.” (John 4.35) And again, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few.” (Matt. 9.38) Jesus is talking about preaching and those who hear it.
Jesus, God’s Son, took upon Himself our nature, and bore it up on high to draw all men to Himself, to atone for the faithlessness and idolatry, the pride of Babel, the rebellion of Eden. For our sake, Jesus Himself was first put in the sickle, fell to the ground dead as any seed, but came out alive the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. Therefore also He calls the Word the Seed in quite a few parables – a seed that needs to be planted in the ground in order to spring up and bear fruit.
So, “When,” it says, “the day of Pentecost was fully come” – Jesus had indeed gone to the Father, as He promised His disciples. On that great and magnificent day of the Lord, Good Friday, when the sun was turned to darkness and the moon to blood, His blood dripped from the awful cross, shed to cleanse the world of sin. Then the glorious third-day resurrection that justifies all who believe, and then He ascended on high to the right hand of the Father.
So the great miracle day of Pentecost comes. The Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit. The harvest begins. And the harvesting would be done by men, preaching the wonderful works of God, the Holy Spirit filling that preaching. The mighty rushing wind, the tongues of fire resting on the Apostles, the speaking of the Gospel in every tongue – God’s lavish seven-fold gifts given to His Church in a mighty display for sure – but the great miracle of Pentecost is that through the voice of humble men preaching Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected, the power of God unto salvation for all who believe, many will call upon the name of the Lord and be saved.
The Spirit in that mighty rushing wind filled the house. This filling indicates how lavish and generous the Spirit comes, as the fire indicates the ferocity and strength of the Spirit. This never happened in the case of the Prophets of old when they were given the Spirit and the call to preach. Perhaps this is why some in the Pentecost crowd took the Apostles to be drunk – full of themselves. Ezekiel is given the roll of a book, and Ezekiel ate what he was about to utter. And it became “in [his] mouth as sweet as honey.” (Ezk. 3.1-3) The hand of God touches the tongue of Jeremiah – “behold, I have put my words in your mouth.” (Jer. 1.9) The angel sanctifies Isaiah’s lips with a coal from the heavenly incense altar from before God’s throne. (Is. 6) Elisha receives grace through the medium of Elijah’s mantle falling to him (2 Kings 13); David was anointed by oil (1 Sam. 16.13); and Moses by fire, as we read of him at the burning bush. (Exod. 3.2)
Now Moses was the greatest of the Prophets, yet he and all the prophets decreased – the Lord Christ increased. And so the manifesting miracles of Pentecost show here the largeness and lavish giving of the Holy Spirit, in that each one received a fountain of the Spirit. Jesus had said that those who believe in Him, should have “a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4.14) And good reason that it should be so. For the Apostles, and all who preach the Gospel, do not go forth to argue with hard-hearted Pharaoh, or to preach against idolatrous and unfaithful Israel, but to wrestle with the devil.
Notice this too about Pentecost Day: unlike the Prophets, the Apostles when sent make no objections; there was no “I am weak in voice, and of a slow tongue” like Moses said to God (Exod. 4.10) They did not claim they were too young like Jeremiah (Jer. 1.6) Moses and Jeremiah had made them wise. Jesus had warned them that men would hate them for this Gospel’s sake, and even on this day, some reject it. But they were angels of light, and ministers and messengers of things above – confirmed by the sudden appearance of the Spirit from heaven. Now that the Man has gone up on high, the Spirit also descends mightily from on high.
And God’s great preaching harvest began at Jerusalem that day with “devout men from all nations” – including some of the ancient hostile enemies of Israel: Cretans, Arabians, Egyptians, Persians, Romans: all who had come in compliance with the old Law, to appear for the third time in the year in the Temple. These men were confounded. They hear the wonderful works of God coming from Galilean fishermen in their own native tongue, and the works of God they hear of are about the Man Jesus Christ who had been crucified just over fifty days before. His blood was so to speak still on their hands. Maybe some had even called out “Crucify him.” Though it is as Peter says that day about the pilgrims true of you and me as well: “You crucified the Lord of life” – through your sins and wickedness against God and His Word.
Peter and the apostles mince no words. They are not afraid. They have the Comforter, they have the peace of Christ Himself. So they stand up and preach. And they preach to the ends of the earth until they can preach no more. This very thing becomes an unquestionable proof of the Resurrection of Jesus: in the midst of men who could deride and make a joke of such things as these and accuse them of drunkenness, and in the future others would persecute and torture and kill them – it didn’t matter. The Lord had risen indeed. Alleluia. And so wherever the Holy Spirit is present, He makes men of gold out of men of clay, said the great early church preacher John Crysostom. And through that preaching, God began harvesting His fields.
Are you a part of that harvest? Indeed you are! The great miracle of Pentecost is that God’s Word concerning Christ and His saving work goes out, nothing can stop it going out, and the same Holy Spirit gathers Christians from every tribe and nation under heaven into the Church, “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2.21) There is a message for today! Every life matters. Every soul matters.
You called upon the name of the Lord by the power of the Holy Spirit when you were brought to the saving waters of Holy Baptism. Each day since you call upon the name of the Lord given you on your Baptism day, as each day faith in Christ bears the fruit of repentance of sins, drowning that old Adam and rising each day in Christ anew to live a godly life here in time, and one day, there in eternity. God continues, daily, and without ceasing, to raise up and send men to preach His saving Gospel and Baptize and Absolve and give out the Lord’s Supper in Jesus’ name, to comfort you and all Christians with His peace, by the power of the Holy Spirit – God keeps sewing, growing, tending, nourishing, and bringing in His great Pentecost harvest – you, me, every Christian ever to walk this earth.
Today our three blessed catechumens remember their Baptism day publicly, renounce the devil, affirm their unity with Christ, His Word, you, and each other – that they too stand with the Apostles, Prophets, saints, martyrs, faithful confessors and preachers and doctors of the church across two millennia – one holy, catholic Church – the gift from above, gathered and called by the Holy Spirit. We see that unity in a heavenly glimpse – the holy Communion of Christ’s body and blood given and shed for the forgiveness of sins. With joy they receive that gift today, too.
Adam, Hailey, Amanda – we thank God for you and for the miracle of Pentecost that the Spirit of Christ continues in you since your Baptism, even to this day, and by God’s grace, continuing until that day when the Holy Spirit completes your Baptism and raises you to stand in heaven dressed in the white robe of Christ’s righteousness. Remember, even now you possess those royal robes of Christ’s holiness – and even if you stumble, and fall, your Baptism into Christ stands firm for you.
Dear catechumens, soon to be given the confirmation blessing, here is the truth for you and every Christian heart this Pentecost day: God began a good work in you, a work He promises to bring to completion: “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” Nothing – no threat, no pandemic, no sorrow, no grief, nothing in all creation – can take that away from you. As the Apostles on Pentecost were bold to confess their Savior by the power of the Spirit, so boldly hold onto Christ and His promises by faith, come what may.
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit +