The Festival of Pentecost

May 20, 2018


Now when [the people of Jerusalem] heard this [Peter’s Pentecost ‘sermon’] they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37 ESV)

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39 ESV)

Today is the red letter day of the Christian Church – the Festival of Pentecost – the day the world began to hear the message from once timid and frightened apostles now turned into bold and confident witnesses.

We’re not drunk! This is God’s doing! The Holy Spirit is poured out on earth! He has one task! That you all believe that Jesus – remember him? – yes, he was crucified – but we are witnesses of the truth that God raised him from the dead! Jesus has defeated death! There is eternal life with Jesus! There is life with Jesus now! God loves you and forgives you! Trust Jesus! Stop living in fear and worry! Jesus isn’t a genii offering you a magic carpet ride over life but the Lord God who walks with you in life every day. With Jesus we can fully live on the mountain tops and in the valleys and everywhere in between.

By the evening 3,000 people heard and believed – the Holy Spirit was at work – such words lead incredibly to faith – life is reoriented – sin is exposed and the person is not left to rot and stink with it but is washed clean – baptised – forgiven – and also the new life is strengthened by a new meal – a morsel in physical terms – tiny amounts of bread and wine – but by the power of the Holy Spirit, every person who communes receives the body and blood of Jesus; Jesus himself. The Holy Spirit has been called the ‘shy member of the Trinity’ because he only wants us to have our focus on Jesus.

And the Holy Spirit continues to work because there are followers of Jesus still today around the world – as the languages we heard earlier testify. People around the world – even people who come from around the world to Brandon – know of the hope that is life with Jesus. Jesus talked about this before he died when at the Festival of Tabernacles – when the people of Israel each day for seven days saw water carried to the temple and poured on the altar and undoubtedly recalled the water flowing from the rock in the wilderness and undoubtedly recalled how God journeyed with his people – protecting them from enemies, feeding them with food including manna and quail, disciplining them when they rebelled so that they would be blessed by his presence with them in the tabernacle. At that feast Jesus stood up and proclaimed – if anyone is thirsty let him come to me (not to the temple altar, not to the law) and drink for out of he who believes will flow rivers of living water. This prediction of the new tabernacles – Pentecost – is fulfilled for the Holy Spirit is with the followers of Jesus – given in baptism – active through the word.

I understand that freshwater makes up a very small fraction of all water on the planet. While nearly 70% of the world is covered by water, only 2.5% of it is fresh. The rest is saline and ocean-based. Even then, just 1% of our freshwater is easily accessible, with much of it trapped in glaciers and snowfields.1

Wycliffe Bible Translators say that the full Bible is now available in 670 different languages, giving over 5,371 million people access to Scripture in the language they understand best. The New Testament is available in a further 1,521 languages, reaching another 658 million people. Selections
and stories are available in a further 1,121 other languages, spoken by 398 million people. But with all this work there are still more than 1,600 languages in which work can be done which means that there is an estimated 114 million people without access to any Scripture in their heart language and may need some form of Bible translation to begin. At least 1.5 billion people are without the full Bible in their first language.2

I find it intriguing that Jesus linked the Holy Spirit to water which is so vital and strictly so rare (and we usually associate the Holy Spirit with fire). I find it intriguing that Jesus talks about his followers as being sources of flowing water – flowing in my imagination into parched relationships, towns, villages, companies, armies, countries. This is possible because God is gracious and ever so generous – he is never a stingy God!

The truth is that Christians do – can – and should make a difference in their communities. Christians are the human water bearers of relief and new life – because the Holy Spirit works to bring Jesus to us through words, water, bread and wine – and this Jesus is the Word made flesh.

In a world full with words – the vast majority of which strangle, mutilate, tempt, betray, oppress, bully, scare, deceive, and / or kill us – Christians bring good news – your sins can be forgiven, your fears set aside, your shame taken away – you are not alone – Jesus loves you and has taken your punishment – it’s true – it’s real – repentance is not your doing but is really just a thirsty person drinking good water for a change – with Jesus you can live – forgiven, refreshed, invigorated – you can live a new life in a new way. Yes, it can mean struggles to change behaviour, to stop hurting yourself and others but Jesus doesn’t abandon his people.

We have a privilege to carry fresh water to people and tell the good news. In any language! At any time! In any place!

And we have the privilege to drink deeply and to live refreshed ourselves one day at a time.

Bible References

  • Acts 2:37
  • John 7:37 - 39