Pentecost (Part 2 of 4): It’s A Big Day for Jesus Too

pentecostFor the few who still remember it, Pentecost is the Christian holiday 50 days after the resurrection. It began in the OT as the Feast of Weeks and is brought into the NT when Jesus pours out the Spirit upon the Church. So, as many then think, Christmas and Easter are about Jesus but Pentecost is all about the Spirit. Right? It is about the Spirit and we should take advantage of this day to remember why Jesus thought the coming of the Spirit was such a good thing for us (Jn. 16:7). But, often neglected is just how pivotal a day this was in the story of Redemptive History as well as what it tells us about Jesus. What might surprise is just how much Pentecost teaches us not only about the Spirit but about the Messiah, Jesus. The Christ’s incarnation, his holy life, his sacrificial death, his triumphant resurrection, his exaltation at the ascension, and his giving of the Spirit at Pentecost all prove to be of great significance for who Jesus is as Lord.

In John 14-16 Jesus clearly mentions both the unity of the Triune Godhead as well as the importance of the coming of the Spirit. In John 16:7: Jesus states when he goes he will send the Holy Spirit, and were he not to go the Spirit [Helper] would not come. John had earlier in his gospel mentioned the connection and the timing when he stated, “for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (Jn. 7:39). After Jesus rises from the grave and ascends to the right hand of God where he is exalted to the throne of David he is glorified in just a manner (see Acts 2:31-36).

As the exalted Lord who has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, Jesus now gifts the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33) as a new covenant blessing to the Church. Pentecost was the anticipated day when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Church, and He was poured out by Jesus who is the Head of the Church. Although we rightly associate Pentecost with the Spirit we must not forget that Pentecost is no less a celebration of Jesus.

What the Spirit Tells Us About Jesus
Amidst John the Baptist preaching and baptizing, the people began wondering if he was the Messiah, or Christ. John states that he is not the Messiah and he merely baptizes with water, but he provides a description of what the Messiah would do. “He [the Messiah] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Lk. 3:16; cf. Acts 1:5). Thus, John announces that the people will know the Messiah has come when He baptizes God’s people with the Holy Spirit. Remember, we have already noted that in John 7 and 14-16, prior to his death Jesus told the disciples he would send the Holy Spirit after leaving them and being glorified. In Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:4, 8, after Christ’s resurrection he tells the disciples to go wait until he sends the Holy Spirit, who is the promise of the Father and the one who will give power to Christ’s witnesses. What all of this tells us is that the day of Pentecost points to and proves the Lordship of Jesus Christ over the universe and over his Church.

Notice this in the structure of Acts. Verses 1-13 provide the account of the coming of the Holy Spirit, but then in the following sermon (verses14-41) Peter is clarifying what has just happened since some unbelievers present are either perplexed or think these people are drunk. Peter’s clarifying sermon explaining what has happened with the coming of the Holy Spirit does not focus on what this tells us about the Holy Spirit but what it tells us about Jesus Christ. Commenting on this text David Peterson writes, “The real cause of this event [Pentecost] is shown to be the resurrection and ascension of Jesus (vv. 22-35). In other words, the sermon is an opportunity to explain the significance of Jesus in the plan of God for his people. Instead of focusing on the Spirit, the preacher directs the attention of his audience to the glorified Messiah.”[1] Again, what this means is that Pentecost is to a major degree a celebration of Jesus as the Messiah who gives the Holy Spirit to his people.

We are Part of Christ’s Reward
In the OT, the first reaping of the harvest was offered back to God not only as a tangible act of worshipfully saying thank-you, but it also was in some sense returning to God what was rightfully his through the Passover. God delivered His people from Egypt, led them through the Red Sea and the wilderness, and planted them in their new lands. God’s redemption of them makes them His possession, which, since He is a good and gracious God, this works out to their great blessing and privilege. Charles Spurgeon also argues that the first Day of Pentecost after Christ’s death and resurrection, and the filling of the people with the Spirit and the harvesting of 3,000 souls were the firstfruits of Christ’s reward. The conversion of 3,000 people were bought by Christ’s act of redemption when his life was exchanged for our own. The salvation of people and the inclusion of those redeemed sinners into the Church is the Father’s gift to the Son (Jn. 17:6, 9). “We, ourselves, who are born to God whenever the Holy Spirit visits us in His fullness and sanctifies and elevates us, are a large part of our Lord’s reward.”[2] The sanctifying of God’s people now by the Spirit sets us apart to God as His holy possession. We are his, our lives are his, and the Spirit takes us from the world and sets us apart to God as His people. If God delighted in the giving of bread back to Him you can imagine how much more he enjoys when the Spirit sanctifies us, or sets us apart, as truly belonging to God.

As the beautiful and wonderful reality of the Trinity always is, the works of each person in the Tri-une Godhead are not independent. Pentecost is an excellent example of this as we’re reminded that the Father promised the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4) and the Father gives us to His Son (Jn. 17:6, 9). The Son pours out the Holy Spirit to his people and is vindicated as the exalted Messiah by the Spirit’s arrival (Acts 2:33). The Spirit makes us sons and daughter of the Father (Rom. 8:14-17) and then keeps us as the Father’s children (Jn. 17:11). The Spirit not only proves Jesus is the Messiah but He points us back to the glory of Jesus (Jn. 14), he reveals the truth of Jesus (Jn. 17:13), and he transforms us into the image of Jesus (2 Cor. 3:18). Jesus says his leaving is actually better for us because the Spirit will come as our Helper, our Guide, and our Comforter (Jn. 15:26-16:15). The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit joyfully give to one another and point to one another and at Pentecost we see how the Church is caught up in this perfect relationship as those made children of the Father, united to the Son, and sanctified by the Spirit. At Pentecost we not only see the Son and the Spirit more clearly and powerfully for who they are and what they’ve done, but we’re brought into the life of the Trinity where we’re recipients of their gifts of love to one another.

[1] David Peterson, The Acts of the Apostles (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009), 138-39.

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