Each year we revisit the miraculous story of Pentecost and remember God’s gift of salvation poured out upon his people from Acts 2. We remember that Jesus commanded his apostles not to depart from Jerusalem, but instead to remain there in expectation of a baptism from on high. We remember that as they waited faithfully in one place, God the Holy Spirit came upon them with the sound of rushing wind and the appearance of fire. We remember that although they came from different lands and spoke different languages, they were enabled to understand each other. They were of one accord, united by the Spirit.
This story by itself is a depiction of the supernatural power of God, and a proof that God keeps the promises he makes. Examined outside of its context, however, this story is robbed of its place in the salvation narrative of a God who loves and saves rebellious, traitorous people. To understand the meaning of the Pentecost miracle for the life of a Christian, we must first learn to see it through the lens of the history that came before it.
We remember the Garden of Eden and the way God spoke his creation into existence. All things were created over six days, and everything in creation was blameless and beautiful, full of life and void of death. Everything was exactly the way God meant it to be. We remember God’s command that his children not eat the forbidden fruit and how they were tempted into failure. Their rebellion broke the world and everything in it. They were cast out of the garden and cursed with struggle and death. Their treason separated them from God.
To understand the meaning of the Pentecost miracle for the life of a Christian, we must first learn to see it through the lens of the history that came before it.
We remember the Tower of Babel. The people of the earth were united in a singular language with a singular purpose: to make a name for themselves by building a tower that reached into the heavens and allowed them to overthrow God. We remember that God saw their wickedness and confused their languages, scattering them about the face of the earth. No longer were they united. No longer would there be understanding between them. Their treason had separated man from man.
We remember that the Old Testament people were promised that a Messiah would come. He would crush their enemies. He would lead them to a promised land of unending abundance, safety, and peace. He would end their warfare. He would make them one people. Above all, he would reconcile them to their Father. Despite the people’s persistent rebellion, wickedness, idolatry, and failure, God never ceased in his promises to redeem his errant people.
We remember that God the Son undid the curse of Adam and Eve when the heavens opened up over Bethlehem, and the angels declared to the shepherds tending their flocks by night that their Savior was born. God kept his promise to send a Redeemer, and Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of that promise. He was both fully God and fully man, and he obeyed the will of his Father blamelessly. There was no rebellion in him. He was tempted by the devil but did not fail. He took the sins of all mankind upon himself, and was crucified to death to atone for us all. He rose again to declare us innocent, even though we are not. Jesus, the new Adam, undid what was done at the Garden of Eden. He reconciled God and sinner.
We remember at Pentecost that God the Holy Spirit established the church by uniting mankind in a common language. People, once scattered by their rebellion, were gathered and unified in the language of Christ and him crucified for the forgiveness of sins. The Holy Spirit enabled those in the room at Pentecost to believe in Christ and to be guided in the way of truth. Christ ascended, but the Helper he promised had come. From that room emerged a people who were unified in a singular purpose: not making a name for themselves, but instead proclaiming the saving name of Christ. The Holy Spirit undid what had been done at the Tower of Babel. He reconciled mankind again in a common language.
Pentecost is the continuation of God’s work of redemption and salvation to his treasonous yet beloved children. God the Father sends God the Son to reconcile sinners to himself, and God the Holy Spirit creates faith in that reconciliation by enlivening dead souls. Pentecost reveals to us that by the power of the Holy Spirit, God generously provides for us the faith that he requires us to have. The pattern established at Pentecost goes forward today, as the Holy Spirit works through word and sacrament to call our hearts to repentance, to create the faith that believes in the Gospel of Jesus, and to guide us in the way of truth.
Pentecost reveals to us that by the power of the Holy Spirit, God generously provides for us the faith that he requires us to have.
We remember now at Pentecost that God’s full identity and his love for us have been revealed. No one has seen the Father except in the face of Jesus Christ, and no one can believe in Jesus Christ apart from the Holy Spirit creating faith in him. Pentecost reveals to us the Trinitarian shape of the Christian life, which displays God’s identity in relationship to our own. We can now see that we have one God who is three persons, and this God is the one who created us, seeks us when we flee from him, loves us when we hate him and forgives us when we rebel against him. He has graciously and recklessly intervened in the history of mankind to rescue us death hell and the devil.
This year as you celebrate the miracle of Pentecost, view it in light of the God who loves the people he has created, would do everything necessary to win them back from death, and keep them in saving faith until the end.