This time last year, I was in a Virginia hospital while on vacation, having a surprise open heart surgery! Due to COVID, I was there for ten days without visitors, except for one hour before surgery when they let my wife in.
I was released on Sunday afternoon, May 31, 2020. That morning I was changing the TV channel from preacher to preacher. I was excited because I was getting out of the hospital. I was excited that it was Sunday. But I was also excited that it wasn’t just any Sunday – it was Pentecost Sunday!
With the restrictions on visitors, I’m sure I talked like a magpie to every nurse, lab tech, and even cleaning person who came into my room. But on this particular morning, I exclaimed to everyone who came in, “Today’s Pentecost!” Most of my nurses were church-goers and agreed with me and were glad for the day. One nurse, however, told me that her husband attends church and probably knows what that means, but she works every Sunday, and so she asked, “What is Pentecost?” She might as well have rolled-in a portable pulpit for this holiness preacher!
I began to tell her how Jesus had died on the cross, was buried in a borrowed tomb, but three days later He rose from the dead! He appeared to His disciples and as many as over five hundred at once during forty days, then ascended into heaven! His followers watched as He disappeared into the clouds. But before He left, He made a promise. He was not going to leave them as orphans, but the Holy Spirit He had told them about would come upon them and they would be empowered to be His witnesses. (Acts 1:8)
After Jesus was gone, the disciples went back to Jerusalem to an upper room to wait and pray. They weren’t sure what this coming of the Spirit would like but thought they would know when He came. And came He did – ten days later on the Day of Pentecost! Forty days of Jesus’ appearances plus ten days of waiting on the Spirit equals fifty days after Easter. (“Pente” of Pentecost means “fifty.”)
Pentecost Sunday is a big day on the Christian calendar. Church leader, Dr. Donald Owens, said, “Pentecost, after Christmas and Easter, is regarded as the third great event to be celebrated in the church year. In the Christian church, Pentecost is the anniversary of the coming of the Holy Spirit.”
Several things happened when the Holy Spirit came. (Acts 2:1-4) First, there was the sound of a rushing mighty wind. It wasn’t really an actual wind, just “the sound of” a wind, representing the power of the Spirit. Next, there was the appearance of cloven tongues of fire dancing over the heads of the believers. The fire represented purity. The fire of the Spirit would come upon every born-again Christian and burn away anything that was unlike Christ. Finally, there was an amazing ability for the believers to speak in languages that they didn’t know. Over 15 different dialects are mentioned in Acts 2:9-11, known languages of the day and area. This phenomenal miracle of speaking languages symbolized the proclamation of the Gospel.
So what does Pentecost mean for Christians today? It means once I am forgiven of sins I’ve committed, I can come to God again and consecrate myself to Him, including the sin in the singular, the condition with which I was born. To consecrate means to surrender. This means my time, my money, my past and future, my likes and dislikes, my attitudes, my everything. Each is presented to God as I surrender myself.
It is this Holy Spirit Who then leads and directs the life of the Christian. Paul referred to it as “walking in the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:16) Jesus gave some of the best teaching on the Holy Spirit in John, chapters 14-16. It all begins with a total surrender of ourselves. (Romans 12:1-2)
The importance of Pentecost is the coming of the Spirit! When Paul said, “Be filled with the Spirit,” (Ephesians 5:18) the Greek tells us it is not an option, but a command. He is ours for the asking.
Rev. Danny Goddard is senior pastor of New Castle First Church of the Nazarene.