Pentecost Sunday is the day when we celebrate the birth of the church and the coming of the Holy Spirit into the world. I have always strongly advocated that we should be Jesus-centred because he is the fullness of God in bodily form and thus the member of the Triune Godhead to whom we can best relate. However, with such focus on the Lord Jesus, we could neglect God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. Pentecost is a time when we can rectify this tendency and so in this article I want to connect the Holy Spirit of Pentecost to Jesus.
The Pilgrim Feasts
The Day of Pentecost was one of the three pilgrim feasts of ancient Israel. By ‘Pilgrim’ I mean that these were the three feasts that all Jewish men were required by the Law of God to travel up to Jerusalem to attend. The three feasts were
- Tabernacles, and
and the Gospels record how Jesus attended Passover and Tabernacles; but what about Pentecost?
Jesus at the Feast of Pentecost
Well, perhaps the Gospels are not totally silent on Jesus’ attending the Feast of Pentecost. John 5:1 records that Jesus ‘went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews’. Could this have been the Feast of Pentecost? The passage goes on to describe how he healed a lame man at the pool of Bethesda. The Pharisees wanted to kill him over what he said and did on this occasion. To start with, he healed the man on the Sabbath and, in their opinion, this was breaking their holy law. Then to make things intolerably worse for them, Jesus called God his father, thus making himself equal to God.
In responding to the Pharisees, Jesus included something that, by implication, connected his baptism by John the Baptist to the Day of Pentecost he was in Jerusalem to celebrate. He told them that if they were not prepared to take what he said about himself as true, then they should rather accept John’s testimony about him. Then he went further and said that if even that was not good enough for them, then they should accept the fact that God himself had attested to his status. When did these two testimonials occur? They happened on the day that Jesus was baptised in the Jordan river at the beginning of his 3 years of public ministry. Matthew 3:11 records John’s words: “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire”. Matthew then recounts what happened when John baptised Jesus, the one he had foretold would come. He wrote: ‘As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
John baptised Jesus in water and said that he, Jesus, would baptise not with water, but with fire. Jesus spoke about this baptism of fire when he told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they had received power from on high. He said, “John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:5). And when did that happen? Just ten days later on the Day of Pentecost. And what did this baptism look like? Fire! Fire from heaven.
The Empowering Spirit
When John baptised Jesus in water, the Holy Spirit came down upon him and filled him with power. After his baptism, the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness and Luke recorded that at the end of that time of testing ‘Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit’ (Luke 4:14).
It seems to me that there are reasonable grounds to believe that Jesus’ baptism occurred around the Day of Pentecost as he was on his way up to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast.
However, what is certain is that Jesus’ ministry started with a mighty empowerment of the Holy Spirit and the church’s ministry started the same way, on the Day of Pentecost. You see, on that day a group of 120 frightened but expectant disciples were baptised into the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. On that day the church was born, drew its first breath of the Spirit and rushed out into the streets to testify to the glory of God in Christ Jesus. On that great and wonderful day, the new Body of Christ on earth came into being. A body empowered by the same Holy Spirit that empowered Jesus for ministry. A continuation of the Lord’s earthly ministry and the ongoing place of his presence on earth.
Jesus’ Public Ministry
If Jesus’ public ministry perhaps started on the Day of Pentecost, when do you think it ended? When he died on the cross? No, because he rose again and continued ministering for another 40 days. Did it end when he ascended into heaven? No, because just 10 days later, possibly three years to the day, after his ministry started, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to raise up a body for him to continue his ministry on earth; the church.
The Day of Pentecost is Important
The Day of Pentecost should be a very important memorial for all Christians because:
- It is the birthday of the church, the Body of Christ on earth, the ongoing representation of his presence and ministry. Everyone born again of the Spirit is baptised into this glorious body… and that means you and me.
- It is the celebration of the time when God the Holy Spirit took up residence in the church, of which we are part. When Jesus walked this earth, God was present with us in human form. Now he is with us in the person of the Holy Spirit in and through the church.
- The Day of Pentecost is also important in that it reminds us that we, like Jesus and the very first church members, need to be empowered from on high. We need this to BE the effective, powerful, glorious church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Being born again is not an optional extra to being a Christian and being filled with the Spirit is not an optional extra either. Holy Spirit empowerment is essential for without it we can only function as part of a religious school or a social agency. But we cannot be part of the supernatural, world-changing, church of the Living God. Without the enabling of the Holy Spirit, we are little better than that poor man at the pool of Bethesda, lame, useless, and without hope.
So, dear disciples of Jesus, come to church every Sunday as though it were Pentecost Sunday. Come in desperate expectation, knowing that unless the Holy Spirit empowers us, we cannot hope to live and minister as Jesus’ representatives here and now. If you are able, spend time with God before you come to the church service. Prepare your spirit and cry out to him to fill you with power from on high and then come expecting this to happen. Come in full anticipation that the Holy Spirit will reveal Jesus more clearly to you and then send you out into your world to reveal Jesus and make him known.