Guest Post by Justin Kron
Pentecost. Confession: It’s not one of those days on the Christian calendar that I’ve given much attention to. The day often comes and goes without any tangible acknowledgement. Maybe the same is true for you too.
As a follower of Jesus I certainly understand the theological significance of it. It’s the day in biblical history when we recognize that the Holy Spirit—one of the three persons of the Godhead—made a special appearance 50 days following Jesus’ death and forever altered the way we interact with our Creator and He with us.
Nevertheless, Pentecost does not get near the attention that Christmas and Easter get, which is kind of ironic considering that Jesus had a lot to say about the immediate and eternal benefits of having the Holy Spirit in our lives, including the incredibly radical statement that He—the Spirit—would not just be with us, but in us.
I’m still trying to get my head around the practical implications of what it means to have the presence of God in me, but I do know this—if I had any reason to believe that God was obsessed about restoring humanity’s broken relationship with Him by sending His Son to be with us, then He’s even more obsessed about doing so by sending His Spirit to be in us.
Bottom line: Pentecost is first and foremost about relationship.
If I’ve learned anything about the God of the Bible it is that He is consumed with being in an unadulterated relationship with His beloved, just as He was with Adam and Eve before things went south because of their decision to rebel against the guidelines He had given them.
The story of the Bible is one that acknowledges that God ordained that those who live in the world should not only submit to their Creator, but to His guidelines and instructions for living. Doing so leads to life and freedom. Not doing so leads to death and bondage.
It’s the same reason why it’s always a good idea for someone to learn the rules of the road before getting behind the wheel of an automobile. Driving a vehicle without knowing the laws or deciding that red means go and green means stop is a recipe for disaster. Sometimes I wish I could write my own laws and force others to follow them (e.g., slow drivers should not be allowed on the road when I’m on the road), but that’s a recipe for disaster too, so I’ve succumbed to the reality that it can’t be my way or the highway.
Not only have I succumbed to this reality, but I’ve embraced it as a necessity that enables me to reach my intended destination safely.
In Jewish tradition it is understood that Pentecost, which is the name that Greek speaking Jews in the first century called the pilgrimage festival of Shavuot (Leviticus 23:15-22), was not only an opportunity to thank God for the wheat harvest, but for the gift of the Torah—God’s “rules of the road”—that He gave to them at Mt. Sinai.
The Bible doesn’t explicitly make this connection between Sinai and Shavuot, but the circumstantial evidence is incredibly strong, including the fact that the Israelites arrived to Mt. Sinai during the month of Sivan when Shavuot is celebrated (Exodus 19:1). They also declared at that time that Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Deuteronomy 8:3).
Another compelling indicator of the Sinai to Shavuot connection is found in Acts 2:41 following the Apostle Peter’s challenge to the people in Jerusalem on that day to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit by repenting of their corrupt ways, accepting the forgiveness provided through the sacrificial death of Jesus at Calvary, and declaring their allegiance to God by being immersed in water. We read:
Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. [Side Note: Archeologists have discovered 48 mikvaot (ritual baths) near the main entrance to the Temple mount in Jerusalem, which is most certainly where these baptisms would have taken place.]
The fact that about three thousand embraced Peter’s message on Shavuot/Pentecost is the primary indicator of the Sinai to Shavuot connection, because in Exodus 32:28 we are told that a similar number—about three thousand—died at that time because they chose to play by their own rules and follow their own path rather than follow God’s instructions.
Pentecost thus becomes one more reminder that we all have a choice to make: Embrace the Word of God and the One who put flesh on it (John 1:14) and we will experience life, or reject the Word of God and we will experience a U-Haul load of stress, anguish, despair, isolation, and even death.
I’ve been on both paths and time and time again I have experienced what God revealed through the Prophet Isaiah:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (55:8-9)
So whatever Pentecost has been to you, I pray that today, and every day thereafter, will become your Pentecost moment; a moment of surrendering yourself to the ways and presence of God that lead to and produce life.