Ten days ago, on Ascension Day, we commemorated Jesus’ ascent into heaven; today we remember the Holy Spirit’s descent from heaven onto the disciples. Pentecost is a major holiday in the Christian calendar. It marks the end of the Eastertide season, the fifty-day period of time that begins on Easter. Pentecost is when the disciples were given the “the gift of tongues”—the miraculous ability to speak to men and women in a host of languages.
The story of Pentecost can be found in Acts 2:1-13:
And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in the same place. And suddenly a sound like a violent rushing wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. And divided tongues like fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit gave them ability to speak out.
Now there were Jews residing in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the crowd gathered and was in confusion, because each one was hearing them speaking in his own language. And they were astounded and astonished, saying, “Behold, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how do we hear, each one of us, in our own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and those residing in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya toward Cyrene, and the Romans who were in town, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own languages the great deeds of God!” And all were amazed and greatly perplexed, saying to one another, “What can this mean?” But others jeered and said, “They are full of sweet new wine!” — Acts 2:1-13 (LEB)
In my mind, this is one of the more exciting stories in Scripture. After the disciples dismiss accusations that they are drunk, Peter delivers a powerful sermon making the case that Jesus is the promised Messiah. It was a persuasive argument; Acts 2:41 notes that after Peter’s sermon “about three thousand people were added to the number of believers that day.”
Pentecost marks the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to send the Holy Spirit to empower the disciples; Peter’s evangelistic sermon is just the first of many that will be delivered by the disciples as they travel far and wide to spread the Gospel message. And with the conversion of Pentecost’s three thousands begins a period of incredible—miraculous—expansion for the fledgling Christian church. After Pentecost, the book of Acts recounts story after story of amazing works of God done through the apostles as they go into the world preaching the Gospel of Jesus.
Christians believe that the Holy Spirit continues to work in hearts today as Jesus’ followers share the Good News with others. Give thanks today that Jesus’ promise was kept, and that the Holy Spirit is present in His church today to offer comfort and counsel.
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