May 23, 2021
Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID
We’ve all seen pictures of that Pentecost Day and imagined it in our minds. God sent His Spirit upon the disciples. Now the Holy Spirit is God, of course, but He doesn’t have a physical body. However, He appeared like the form of fire, like tongues of fire resting upon the Disciples. Why do you think that the Holy Spirit appeared like the form of fire to the people gathered at Pentecost? For the sake of the people, He became visible. He wanted people to see the evidence of His presence and be comforted by the Comforter.
Acts 2 gives us this long list of people gathered in Jerusalem from all over the Roman world. They were there to celebrate the Feast of Weeks, or more known to us as Pentecost. This was the second of the great pilgrim festivals of the Old Testament, along with Passover and Festival of Booths. Pentecost celebrated both the giving of the Law to Moses, but also was the occasion to thank God for the harvest of the crops, especially wheat. The point of the feast was to emphasize that the Lord was the one who gave the ability to work (Deuteronomy 8:18) and that He provides for His people. Additionally, the Jews reminded themselves that it was God who made crops to grow and yielded the harvest, that the Lord was responsible for all of this. This Pentecost was different. A festival of harvest of crops would now become a festival of God harvesting souls.
So the Holy Spirit gave these disciples of Jesus the ability to speak in different languages. Notice here that He doesn’t reverse the confusion of language brought about at the tower of Babel, but He enables His people to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those of different languages and different cultures. Identity wasn’t found in becoming the same, but in the Gospel, in unity of faith in Christ. Remember in Revelation 7 where St. John sees the Church triumphant, “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (Revelation 7:9). God pours out His Spirit because He wants to include all nations and languages in the new covenant through faith in Christ.
After hearing the disciples speak in their own languages, some were amazed and some mocked them. Peter, who had denied Jesus three times to save his own skin and later was restored three times and given the charge to feed Christ’s lambs, now stood up boldly and proclaimed Christ crucified and risen and the sending of the His Spirit as the fulfillment of all God’s promises. That message is at the very heart of our celebration today. The great miracle of the day was the giving of the Holy Spirit, the planting of faith, and harvesting of souls for eternal life.
The Holy Spirit continues to convert people to faith in Jesus and preserve people in the faith just as He did in the first century. We are the evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit done by the voices of those faithful Christians. The Gospel has reached our ears and our hearts. We’ve heard what brought these first few believers together: Jesus – His death on the cross, resurrection, and ascension. The Holy Spirit has been bearing witness about Christ ever since.
That’s the reason we now know Christ as our Savior. When the crowds saw what had happened and heard Peter’s sermon proclaiming Christ crucified and risen from the dead, they asked what they were cut the heart and asked, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself” (Acts 2:37b-39). The Holy Spirit’s continual working through the good news of Jesus and by means of those blessed waters of Holy Baptism, God has poured out His Spirit upon you and in this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all your sins and the sins of all believers.
The Holy Spirit continues to strengthen our faith through the Gospel and Sacraments. The Word of God is the power of God for salvation to all who believe (Romans 1:16).
The same Spirit of God at work in you lead you to be the people of Pentecost. At that Pentecost so long ago, God took ordinary men who had been made extraordinary by Christ, taught them, delivered the Holy Spirit to them, and sent them to believe and to proclaim. He still does today. This morning two ordinary young women who have been made extraordinary by Christ will be confirmed. Two children of God whom the Lord has called by the Word, delivered His Holy Spirit to them through those blessed waters of Holy Baptism, enlightened with various gifts, and has sanctified them. God is now about to feed them with the very body and blood of Christ, to forgive, strengthen, and preserve them in the true faith to life everlasting. This is not just for their sake, but so that they might speak the Gospel to others, that as one confessed just this last week that they might live by faith alone and that the Holy Spirit would work through them to be a faithful confessor of Christ.
This will be part of the mission of the church until that other day that the prophet Joel foresaw, that Peter preached about on Pentecost, “The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day” (Acts 2:20, quoting Joel 2:32). Jesus is coming back again. Our Lord will come back to judge the living and the dead. Because of His sacrifice and forgiveness, proclaimed to us at Pentecost, proclaimed by us since Pentecost, we and countless others may called upon the name of the Lord and be saved.