Pentecost: “Lord and Giver of Life”

by The Rev. Dan Feusse

In the Third Article of the Apostles' Creed you confess that the Holy Spirit is the "Lord and Giver of Life." That is the work of the Holy Spirit - to give life. It is on Pentecost that the work of the Holy Spirit is given special attention by the Church. But have you ever stopped to consider what was going on in Jerusalem on that first Pentecost?

It is at the time of Pentecost that all of Israel gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Weeks. The Feast of Weeks, also known as the Day of Firstfruits, or Pentecost, was a festival of joy and thanksgiving, celebrating the completion of the harvest season. It was the second major feast which all able-bodied Jewish males were required to attend - the first one being the Feast of Passover. The Feast of Weeks was celebrated as a sabbath with rest from ordinary labors and the calling of a holy convocation.

The Feast of Weeks, a harvest celebration, was a term used to describe the period from the grain harvest to the barley harvest, and finally to the wheat harvest. It is called the Feast of Weeks because the Lord specifically told the sons of Jacob that they were to count seven sevens of weeks (49 days) from the Day of Firstfruits, and then on the "morrow", a feast was to be observed (Leviticus 23:16). That brings the total number of days between the feasts to fifty. This Feast was to occur precisely fifty days after the Day of Firstfruits and was given the name "Pentecost," which means "fifty."

On this occasion, the children of Israel would bring the firstfruits of wheat to the Temple. In this ceremony, they waved sheaves back and forth, creating a loud noise like that of a mighty, rushing wind. The Feast of Weeks in the Old Testament is the festival which foreshadows the giving of the Holy Spirit. On Pentecost, fifty days after Jesus rose from the grave as the Firstfruits of all who die, the Holy Spirit is given.

At the end of Luke's Gospel account, Jesus tells the apostles to wait in Jerusalem until they were clothed with power from on high - the Holy Spirit. The apostles knew exactly how long they would have to wait. The Holy Spirit would come on Pentecost - fifty days after Jesus rose as the Firstfruits. This would be the next great Feast of Israel - a time when Jews from different countries would be in Jerusalem to celebrate the completion of the harvest season.

The disciples waited as they were commanded. Fortunately, their wait was not long - only ten days after Jesus ascended into heaven. And then it happened. The Holy Spirit is given by the Son, and the ordination of the apostles, begun at the end of St. John's gospel, is completed.

Oh, and one more thing: in the Old Testament, the twelve tribes of Israel gathered at Mount Sinai. There is noise and wind and fire. And there is Moses - the called and ordained servant of the Lord - preaching the Word of God.

Here, on the Day of Pentecost, it's Mount Sinai all over again. The loud noise; the wind; the fire; the twelve apostles gathered together and the Word of God being preached by those who have been called and ordained.

This is how it started. And Jesus has continued to give the Holy Spirit ever since. Every Divine Service is a Pentecost. The Word of God is preached and the Holy Spirit is given. The Body and Blood of Christ is distributed and the Holy Spirit is given. In the giving of the Holy Spirit, you have been made one with the Father and the Son for all eternity.

Created: June 4th, 2007