Pentecost was originally a Jewish agricultural feast, where farmers would give thanks for the harvest of the winter wheat crop and the first signs of the summer barley. A portion of each was brought to the Temple and offered to God with prayer, recorded in Deuteronomy 26. There was something tremendous in seeing everyone gathered in Jerusalem on the same day, offering the same prayer, making the same offering. This represented their thanks to God for taking care of them in the past and expressed their trust that God was going to take care of them in the future. It expressed the truth that their relationship with Him was not just personal and private, but also corporate.
Jewish tradition also said God’s Law was given to them on this day, fifty days after Passover. (“Pente” is fifty in Greek, hence the day is called Pentecost.) The Law is God’s will for us and it is both an individual’s responsibilities to God and also each person’s corporate responsibilities TO others and WITH others as a nation.
Just before Jesus’ Ascension back to the Father, He told His followers to wait in Jerusalem for the coming of the Spirit. This was not an idle waiting – it was not “just hanging around” – but a time of worshiping together, a time of reconciliation with each other, a time of pondering what God had done in the past and would do in the future.
Notice the progression: (a) God’s blessings in nature, (b) God’s rules, (c) God’s power.
It’s good there’s food to eat, but what is RIGHT? What’s the point of having food to eat if society is in chaos because no one knows the right things to do and the bad things to avoid? God answers with the Law.
Then, it’s good to know our responsibilities and duties and what we will be punished for doing, but we need God’s help / power to do so. God answers with the Spirit.
Notice throughout all of this: (a) God acts, people respond; (b) religion is both personal and corporate. We are not “blessing collectors” ever seeking what God wants from us but not responding. “If you want God’s favors, you must follow God’s orders.” Our faith isn’t just about my personal relationship with God – although we cannot hide behind the corporate Church to avoid having such a personal relationship. Our faith is also corporate in the body of God’s new community The Church.
Ephesians 5:1 says “be filled with the Spirit.” The Greek phrase “be filled” is in the “present continuous tense” so a better translation would be “KEEP ON BEING FILLED with the Spirit. God’s grace and blessings are expended as we serve and as we struggle to be holier people. Just as we need regularly to fill up the gas tank of our car, we need to fill up the Holy Spirit empowerment tank of our soul.
Why did God send the Holy Spirit? “The Power of God for the Purpose of God:”
(1) TO WORSHIP from the heart – whether liturgical or free form; whether traditional or contemporary; whether individual or corporate; whether loud or soft.
(2) TO OBEY, hearing from Scripture, God’s voice in us, others, where we need to repent, and receiving God’s grace to make the changes in ourselves He wants. God wants us to be ever more like Jesus. A process.
(3) TO LOVE, wanting to put others and their hurts and needs, ahead of ourselves and our needs.
(4) TO SERVE, discerning which gifts of the Spirit we have, receiving the grace of God to use them to bear fruit.
(5) TO WITNESS, first realizing that people are really, truly LOST without the Lord Jesus, and then sharing the
truths of the faith and your experience of what God did for you with others.
–Canon Mark A. Pearson, Pentecost 2011