Pentecost is a Jewish festival that falls on the fiftieth day of Passover. In biblical times, Jews from all over the Roman Empire gathered in Jerusalem for the festivities of Pentecost. On the Pentecost after Jesus’ resurrection—ten days after Jesus had ascended into heaven—the apostles and other believers were gathered together in one place, when they were suddenly empowered by the Holy Spirit to preach the gospel. They went out into the crowds and attracted attention by preaching in the native languages of all the people present. This created quite a stir. Peter seized the opportunity to address the crowd, preached Jesus’ death and resurrection, and won several thousand converts.
These events are recorded in Acts 2:1-41.
Accordingly, Pentecost is celebrated by Christians as the birthday of the Church by the power of the Holy Spirit. Since the Jewish Pentecost is the fiftieth day of Passover, the Christian Pentecost is the fiftieth day of Easter.
Pentecost is not the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit made His first appearance in Genesis 1:2! Rather, Pentecost is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on human flesh to give birth to the Church.
Pentecost derives its origin from the tradition of the Jews. It originally stems from a Jewish Festival called the “Feast of Weeks,” otherwise known as the Shavu’ot. The Feast of Weeks, deriving from the Greek word Pentekostos, meaning “fifty,” occurs fifty days after the Passover, just as we celebrate Pentecost fifty days after Easter.
Pentecost Sunday falls this year on May 15. But many people, including Christians, may not know why the day is special or what is celebrated. Unlike Easter and Christmas, when colorful eggs, Easter bunnies, Christmas trees and Santa Claus are harbingers of the upcoming Christian holidays, there are no such social markers by secular society ahead of Pentecost. For those who need a quick and basic understanding of what Pentecost Sunday is, below is listed 10 things you should know about the holiday.
1. Pentecost Sunday marks the day when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles.
2. Pentecost Sunday occurs 50 days after Easter.
3. The Bible records the Pentecost in Acts 2:1-13.
4. Pentecost comes 10 days after the Ascension of Jesus Christ.
5. Pentecost is also known as “the birthday of the Church”.
6. Pentecost fulfills Jesus’ promise to send the “Counselor” and “Spirit of Truth” in John 16-5-15.
7. Pentecost launches the large-scale spreading of the Gospel after Jesus’ ascension. Acts 2:41 records that after Peter spoke to the crowd after receiving the Holy Spirit, some 3,000 people were baptized.
8. The Pentecostal movement derives its name from the New Testament event in Acts 2.
9. Jews also celebrate Pentecost, but not for the same reason as Christians. The celebration by Jews of Pentecost is to observe God giving the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai 50 days after the Exodus. The Pentecost in Jewish tradition takes place 50 days after Passover.
10. In Western Churches, Pentecost is usually represented with the color red, which symbolizes the fire of the Holy Spirit.
If we go back to the Day of Pentecost, the day the church was born, we will see that God gave us the church to satisfy one of the great hungers of our time — EMPOWERMENT.
Have you heard that word before? It is a current buzz word in our society. Everyone nowadays wants to be empowered. We want to feel that we have control over our lives. We want to feel we can take charge of our destinies. We want to know we can follow the dreams of our hearts. But many of us feel powerless. Some of us are held back by our lack of initiative. Others of us are held back by a deprived environment. Others by barriers in our society. Still, we hunger to believe we can pull ourselves out of the muck and the mire of a disappointing and dismal situation. And the church is the place where true empowerment takes place.
Can we not see that Pentecost is about empowerment? A handful of farmers, fishermen, tax-collectors and housewives became so empowered that they turned the Roman empire upside down. That’s quite an accomplishment. It may very well be the greatest single act of empowerment in recorded history. How did they do it? The answer is quite obvious. And, if we study their example and pattern our lives after it, we will become empowered too.