Pentecost (Part 1 of 4): Out with the Old and In with the New

pentecostJune 8, fifty days after Passover, marks the day of Pentecost. In the Old Testament story God delivered in might and miraculous ways His people from Egypt on the day of Passover. The people took the life of a lamb and marked the doors of their homes with blood, and where God saw the blood of a life taken He spared the lives of those under its covering (Ex. 12:1-13). Every year their deliverance is celebrated at Passover by eating unleavened bread, marking the speed in which they got of Dodge…or Egypt.

Seven weeks later was the Feast of Weeks (Lev. 23:15-22), otherwise known as the Feast of Harvest (Ex. 23:16) or Pentecost. This celebration provided God’s people an opportunity to take the first two loaves from the harvest God provided and give them back to Him. The harvest reminded them that they now lived in God’s good land as freed people. The firstfruits represented the whole, so that all of the harvest was clearly recognized as God’s. He gives and we steward, enjoy, and say thanks. In this covenant relationship what’s ours is His and what’s His is ours and we recognize that in the Feast of the Harvest. It was also on this day that God descended upon His people at Mt. Sinai, giving them His Law. They were not redeemed from slavery to be left on their own but God’s Law was meant to organize them, consecrate them, humble them, and teach them how to live. This day of Pentecost in the Old Testament screams of significance: the descent and dwelling of God with His people, the giving of Law to guide the people, a reminder of the goodness of life in God’s new land, and a representation that God does bless and all that we have is truly His.

All these tangible pictures of God’s redemption and blessing inscribed into God’s story (the Old Testament) were giving us eyes to see the fullness of God’s redemption and blessing when Jesus Christ came, died, rose, and ascended into heaven. Looking back, we see that Jesus died as the lamb at Passover, and this was not a coincidence. It is through his blood that we are covered and through his sacrifice we’re redeemed from our own Egypts. But, what of the Feast of Weeks 50 days later, or Pentecost as it is known. We know in the New Testament that Jesus tells his disciples to “stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Lk. 24:49). This clothing with power is also “the promise of the Father” which Jesus will baptize his people with (Acts 1:4-5). To get our days straight, Jesus rises one day after the Passover, spends the next 40 days explaining what’s happened and how it relates to the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3), and then takes his well-deserved and fully-earned place on the throne of David at the right hand of the Father (Rom. 1:4; Acts 2:32-35). Ten days later, on the day of Pentecost or Feast of Weeks, Jesus pours out the Holy Spirit upon the 120 Jewish disciples of Jesus gathered together in Jerusalem. They were waiting just as Jesus had instructed, and whether they knew what was about to happen or not, the Spirit descended on them like a sudden storm with a rushing wind and miraculous tongues.

Pentecost: Shadows Becoming Bright and Clear
It is at this all-important part of the year, Pentecost, that Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to his people. Whereas once God gave the Law on this day, now God gives the Spirit to actually change our hearts to that we can obey God. A law written on stone is exchanged for the law written on our hearts (Heb. 8:10). Whereas once God descended at Mt. Sinai and fear gripped the people, they are now told to come freely and confidently as those washed by the blood of Jesus (Heb. 12:18-28). God’s occasional descent into a Tabernacle or Temple has become God’s permanent indwelling of His people. Whereas in the Old Testament a harvest of barley or wheat was given on Pentecost Day God converts a ripe harvest of 3,000 people (Acts 2:41). This firstfruits of Christ’s reward for his act of redemption and the provision to His people is but the beginning of a world-wide harvest of Jews and Gentiles. And finally, whereas the giving back of two loaves of bread reminded the people that God has given us what is His (land) and so we give back what we have (bread), now we have a much more vivid picture in that God actually gives us Himself (the Spirit) so we know He holds nothing back and we in return give back our own lives as living sacrifices to God (Rom. 12:1).

God did all these things on the day of Pentecost, not by mere coincidence or as a neat memorization tool, but so that we would see that Jesus completes, fulfills, and inaugurates the dawning of all God’s plans of salvation for His people. If at Christmas we celebrate the coming of our Savior in Jesus, and at Easter we celebration the accomplishment of our salvation, then at Pentecost let’s also joyfully and thankfully celebrate the application of Christ’s work through the giving of the Spirit. It is a day and event that tells us not only that Jesus is the vindicated Messiah, but that we’re given the Holy Spirit to now help us follow Christ. The fact that the promised Spirit comes proves that Jesus is the Spirit-giving Messiah who has been exalted to God’s right hand, accomplished salvation for his people, and dawned the new-covenant age of the Spirit. So, the day of Pentecost is not solely about the Spirit, but it’s also a day to understand who Jesus is, be amazed and made grateful for what he’s done for us, and to worship Him as the ascended King and Messiah.

At the same time, Pentecost is also about the Spirit. The Spirit is “the forgotten God” and the neglected member of the Trinity but all we have from Christ, and are we are as the Father’s, and all the work of God in us comes through the Spirit. It is the Spirit who guides us into truth and gives understanding. It is the Spirit who convicts us of sin and changes our very hearts. It is the Spirit who transforms us into Christ-likeness and makes us into a new creation. It is the Spirit who gives life to us and works powerfully in us so we can do through Him what we couldn’t do on our own. It is the Spirit who comes as our Helper and Comforter. It is the Spirit who dwells with us and even in us. It is the Spirit who unites us as one body to one another. It is the Spirit of adoption who makes us sons and daughters of the Father and it is the Spirit who points us back again and again to the glory of Jesus. Pentecost is that calendar-event popping up to help us remember all that we have in the Spirit, how we’re blessed by the Spirit, and why should with hearts of gratitude love the Spirit.

[The graphic above was from Tucker Fitzgerald’s website:

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