In the Jewish calendar, Pentecost is 50 days after Passover and commemorates Shavuot which is when God gave the Israelites the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai 50 days after their exodus from Egypt. But, for Christians, it means a whole other thing entirely—when it is remembered at all.
Pentecost has great significance to Christians. While Christmas and Easter get the most play on the Christian calendar, Pentecost is the oft overlooked but no less significant Holy Day. Pentecost marks the day that the disciples – some one hundred and twenty of them – received empowerment from the Holy Spirit to go into all the world preaching the gospel and displaying miracles, signs, and wonders as evidence of what they spoke of. It was, in effect, the start of Christianity.
After the resurrection, Jesus spent 40 days teaching the disciples. Probably doing some remedial work since they now could understand what he had been telling them with better comprehension. Even after 40 days of walking and talking with God, they still lacked one thing they would need in the coming years: courage. Yes, they needed power, too, but courage was sorely lacking in the disciples as of yet. They cowered in fear of the Jewish religious leaders. So, as He prepared to ascend to heaven, Jesus gave one last instruction. “Wait.” “Wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” So, wait they did. They gathered in an upper room in Jerusalem. That must have been a large room because when the day of Pentecost dawned, there were 120 of them gathered in prayer. And, then it happened.
Wind and Fire. Those present would say that as they gathered in prayer that morning, as they had for 10 days, there came a rush of strong wind. That in itself may not have been terribly noteworthy. Strong wind was probably not unusual. But, ‘tongues of fire’ alighting on each individual certainly was! As the fire alighted, each individual began to speak in an unknown tongue. Actually, in this instance, “unknown” is relative. Those outside who heard them each heard them speaking in their languages—but languages unknown to these uneducated Jewish peasants. Later, “unknown” would come to also include “heavenly languages” of which no one on earth was familiar. But, for that day—the disciples were praising God in a language that was heard by others in whatever language those others understood.
Not only did the “tongues of fire” impart this interesting speaking ability, it imparted something even more wondrous: courage. Peter, a brash but not particularly courageous fisherman and disciple suddenly found the boldness to stand up and PREACH. And, preach he did. He actually sounded like someone worthy of being the leader of this upstart religion. What the “tongues of fire” had imparted was the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Okay, so that was Pentecost 2000-some-odd years ago. What about today? Well, today, Pentecost doesn’t get much attention. Even amongst Pentecostal churches – for whom you would think this was a Big Day – the 7th Sunday after Easter doesn’t get any fanfare. Hardly even an also-ran. Pentecost Sunday deserves to receive more attention from the church crowd. This was the day we went from cowards hiding in an upper room to people of power to be reckoned with. This was the start of a movement marked by fire and wind and power…a movement of healing, restoration, and rebirth…