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It has been 48 days since we celebrated the anniversary of Jesus’ resurrection.

This Sunday is the annual celebration of the Festival of Weeks, called Shavuot in Hebrew. Most people know it by its Greek name, Pentecost.

Some might say, 

“What’s this got to do with me?” 

Or, perhaps, 

“I’m not Pentecostal!” 

Let’s explore and answer a few questions together, such as:

Why should it be note-worthy for us, and why celebrate it? 

How is it celebrated?

And what does it mean for us?

We will begin with the last question.

What does Pentecost mean?

The Jewish Festivals of Passover and Firstfruits trigger the timing of this festival. Firstfruits is celebrated on the first day of the week (our Sunday) after the Passover. Seven full weeks are counted—that would bring us to a Saturday—and on the day after that Sabbath (another Sunday), Israel celebrated the Festival of Weeks. In Hebrew, Shavuot refers to “sevens” or “weeks.” In Greek, Pentecost refers to fifty, as this celebration falls on the 50th day after the Festival of Firstfruits. 

“So what?”

Well, here is a bit of a spoiler.

The crucifixion of Jesus Christ coincided with the Passover.

His resurrection occurred on the following first day of the week, the Festival of Firstfruits.

Despite that “spoiler,” let’s dig a bit deeper so you can understand the relevance and significance of Pentecost.

Pentecost instituted.

As always, we do well to (re)acquaint ourselves with the actual instructions given to Israel. Please take a moment or two to read one of the sections of Scripture that tell us about this festival (Leviticus 23:15-22, Deuteronomy 16:9-12, or both). 

What are some of our observations? 

1.         We have already noted that it was celebrated on the 50th day after the Festival of Firstfruits, which was always the day after the weekly Sabbath—our first day of the following week (Sunday). 

2.         We should also be aware that this festival marked the beginning of the wheat harvest.

3.         There were several sacrifices associated with this Festival. There were:

    • burnt offerings, 
    • grain offerings, 
    • drink offerings to the LORD,
    • “an offering made by fire, an aroma pleasing to the LORD” (Leviticus 23:19). 

Imagine being part of the large group of people at this festival. What would it have been like? 

4.         What senses were engaged?

Sight: The flames of the sacrifices leaped high. 

Touch: Perhaps you could feel the warmth of the flames. 

Sound: As the intense heat licked at the drink offerings, there would have been a loud WHOOSH! 

Smell: The aroma of roasting meat, grain, wine, and olive oil filled the air.   

5.         One thing you might wonder about is this (Leviticus 23:12):

... bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to the LORD

Considering that Israel was to eliminate leaven or yeast from its diet and houses in an earlier festival, I wonder why they are now presenting bread specifically “baked with yeast” as a wave offering. The heat of baking would have arrested the activity of the yeast—nevertheless, it had been baked with yeast. 

Furthermore, there was not just one loaf but two. Why two?

Pentecost fulfilled.

All seven festivals the LORD given through Moses are fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ had been crucified during the Passover. 

The first day of the week following the Passover was the Festival of Firstfruits—the day Jesus rose from the dead. 

Counting fifty days from that Festival of Firstfruits brings us to the day of Pentecost. 

What happened on the 50th day following the resurrection of Jesus Christ? 

The event is laid out for us in Acts 2. Among the thousands of Jews celebrating the feast in Jerusalem, about 120 followers of Jesus had gathered (1:15). The account begins this way (2:1-4): 

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 [or languages] as the Spirit enabled them. 

The sound: “like the blowing of a violent wind.”

The sight: “tongues of fire ... came to rest on each of them.”

And then other things began to happen. These followers of Jesus started to speak human languages they had never learned—even to the extent of speaking regional dialects. 

Some who heard it thought it was drunken gibberish. Others said, “No, that man there is speaking the dialect we speak back home.”

The attention of thousands of Jews was riveted to these strange happenings. “Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, ‘What does this mean?’” (2:12). At that point (2:14a), 

Peter stood up with the Eleven [apostles], raised his voice, and addressed the crowd. 

Peter explains what God had done and was doing through Jesus Christ (Acts 2:14-41). As a result, about 3,000 of these Jewish people became followers of Jesus Christ that day. 

Even though we have heard what Peter said in Acts 2, we still ask the question: 

“What does this have to do with me?”

We should recognize immediately that this is what Jesus had told his followers about only a few days earlier (Acts 1:4-5):

Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John [the Baptist] baptized [in] water, but in a few days you will be baptized [in] the Holy Spirit. [1]

Pentecost experienced.

In his letters to the Corinthians, Paul refers to each of the seven Mosaic festivals and explains their significance for followers of Jesus.

Here is what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:12-13: 

The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized [in] one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 

This text explains the importance of what happened on that Pentecost. It was the promised baptism in the Spirit

Although this text—and indeed, the whole event—is full of significance and power, here are a few insights into what it means for us: 

This “body” is a metaphor for all followers of Jesus who compose the “body” of Jesus Christ. Thus, those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ here and now, together, make up the tangible presence of Jesus Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit.

In this “body,” we maintain our uniqueness—our individual diversity. That includes

  • our ethnic identities (i.e., Jew or Gentile);
  • our social identities (i.e., slave or free);
  • our sex or gender (i.e., male or female); and
  • so many other characteristics that make each of us unique individuals. 

And yet, somehow, as followers of Jesus, we are unified. This unity is like the diverse parts of the human anatomy (e.g., toes, ears, lips, elbows, kidneys) together, making up one healthy, fully functioning body.

Similarly, the primary identities of followers of Jesus are no longer Jew or Gentile (e.g., Greek, Chinese, African, British, Indian, or whatever)—all of us find our primary identity in Jesus Christ. We are all parts of the same “body.” 

Remember the two loaves baked with leaven? Well, one represents the Jews and the other the Gentiles (everyone else). The result: “one new man out of the two, thus making peace” (Ephesians 2:11-18).

Despite each individual’s ethnic, social, and sexual identity, this is no longer our actual or highest identity. Followers of Jesus no longer find their primary identity in their social status: the rich and the poor, the slave and the free, the high and the low—all find their primary identity in Jesus Christ


What are you hearing from this Festival of Pentecost that is being spoken into your life? 

What differences are being made or could be made in your life because of what you’re hearing? 

What adjustments are being made to your worldview, self-image, identity, attitudes, and behaviors? What about your relationships with other followers of Jesus who do not share your ethnicity or social status?

Feel free to send us your questions and comments.

Click to listen to the PODCAST (9:53).

Click for “How Are You Baptized in the Spirit?”  Click the “Next” at the end of that post to continue exploring this wonderful subject. In these posts, find out why two loaves were offered.

Click here to learn about the Festivals of the Lord.


[1] I have inserted “in” instead of “with,” which is used in many English translations. My reason for this is that the Greek word used is en, which means “in.” I suggest that “with” weakens the meaning of what was happening in this baptism, and I suspect that “with” is a concession to those who do not view baptism as an act of immersion “in.” More on this in “How are you baptized in the Spirit?” 

See Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 374.

Photo credit: Unknown. If you know the source for this photo, please get in touch with me.



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