May 18, 2013
Easter Sunday, Ascension Day, and Pentecost are all connected. Easter is the celebration of our Lord and Savior defeating death and rising again. He spends 39 days on Earth before ascending into Heaven on the 40th day. Pentecost is a twofold celebration; first a celebration dating back to the time of Moses, and second, a celebration of Jesus fulfilling His promise and sending the Holy Spirit.
Ascension Day was May 9, 2013, forty days out from Easter. It is the day that our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who had risen from the grave and defeated death, ascended into Heaven to return to His Father’s side. Before He left, Jesus made two promises. The first was that He would send them the Holy Spirit. “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:4b-5, NIV) The second promise was that He would return. “So when they met together, they asked Him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom of Israel?’ He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’” (Acts 1:6-8, NIV)
Ten days after leaving His disciples, Jesus fulfilled His first promise; He sent them the Holy Spirit. “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:1-4, NIV)
Pentecost is an ancient Jewish festival, with its origins in the Old Testament. It was celebrated fifty days out from Passover. Today, it is calculated as the seventh Sunday after Easter. Pentecost or the Feast of Harvest, was originally an agricultural celebration in which the Israelites would offer the “firstfruits of the crops” they sowed as an offering to the Lord God. (Exodus 23:16, Leviticus 23:9-14) The celebration changed throughout history, and by the time of Jesus, Pentecost was a celebration of God’s creation, His people, and religious history. It was on this day that Jesus fulfilled His first promise and sent the disciples the Holy Spirit, allowing them to continue the ministry first started by Jesus.
Pentecost Sunday is a day of celebration and a day of hope. We celebrate because Jesus fulfilled His promise and because it renewed the mission of the disciples. It is also a day of hope as we await for Jesus’ second promise to be fulfilled.
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