“When the day of Pentecost had come” – Acts 2:1a

The festival of Pentecost is a Jewish festival. The timing of the festival and its purpose are found in Exodus 23:16 and Numbers 28:26. These verses state that the festival is for the grain harvest and for the first fruits (respectively). The Hebraic name for Pentecost translates as “Festival of Weeks.” Greek-speaking Jews in the Greco-Roman world gave it the name “Pentecost” which simply meant “Fifty.” They named it as such because it was the fiftieth day following the celebration of the Passover.

The festival held a deep connection with the Temple in Jerusalem. Part of the annual observance was to bring grain and first fruits to the Temple. Pilgrims would then recount God’s deeds of power to the Temple Kohen (priests) (you can find the passage they recited in Deuteronomy 26:5-10 and it begins with “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor”). During the Babylonian Exile, when the Temple lay in ruins, the festival became a celebration of when God gave the Torah to Moses and established a covenant with Israel. Many Jewish folk (and Gentiles who liked Judaism) made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for this festival. In fact, it was more popular than Passover. The festival of Pentecost was a joyous time.

The echoes of deep theology resound with the Holy Spirit’s decision to descend upon the apostles at this particular festival. The apostles spoke of God’s deeds of power, as was customary of the day’s rituals. As it was the grain harvest festival, one recalls Jesus stating that “the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.” As the festival of first fruits, one remembers that Jesus is the first fruits of the Resurrection and, with fruit on the mind, the fruits of the Holy Spirit also might be thought of.  

In recent years, it has often been the case that the meaning of Pentecost has been reduced to simply be about the Holy Spirit descending. However, when we look a little bit deeper, we see that there is a greater richness of holy meaning. For our ordinary lives, we must remember that this is not only true of festivals and holidays: it is true of our day to day life. When we take a deeper look at our lives, we find the Holy Spirit bringing holy meaning. This happens even when we think all is ordinary.

God continue to be with you,
Yours in Christ, Pastor Paul+