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From Passover to Pentecost

By Myrtle Virginia Thompson

The season called Passover, celebrated by both Jews and Christians has this year ended on a tragic note for the Jewish community. A synagogue in California was attacked by a violent 19-year-old. Weeping and death, wounds and the need for healing are the order of the day. In Psalm 120:7, the psalmist lamented, “I am for peace…but they are for war.” The Jewish people of our day are known for defending themselves but not for aggression. They had done nothing to this young man.

There is an abundance of spiritual warfare going on today. Christians in Sri Lanka and Nigeria have also been undergoing persecution of the vilest type, innocent victims because of their Christian faith.

Pentecost is the next important date in both the Jewish and Christian calendars. Pentecost, sometimes thought to be “a Christian celebration,” began with roots deep in the Jewish faith,  a picture of consecration, recognizing all we own is a gift from God. The word means “50 days,” or seven weeks after Passover, celebrated when the people harvested their grain, offering a “tithe” of it to God. Its importance is told in Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

This people freed from slavery had settled in the land God had promised them from the days of Abraham (Genesis 12-17:8.) They had planted barley and wheat for bread. Three months, or about 50 days after Passover, was harvest time, Pentecost. (Exodus 23, Leviticus 23 and Deuteronomy 26.) The first sheaf cut from their field was placed in a basket, taken to the priest who waved it in four directions and offered it to God, the “first fruits” of harvest in accordance with the Old Testament and traditions. James, who calls himself “a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ,” says Christians are a “kind of first fruits,” implying consecration, giving over the right of our own will in obedience to the will of God (James 1:18.)

Jesus had been seen by more than 500 people during the 40 days after the Resurrection. Before He left them, He told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem for “the promise of the Father.” They watched Him ascend into Heaven, then secluded themselves in the Upper Room. Jerusalem was still in turmoil. They were fearful. Pentecost was at hand, but 10 days would pass before they understood what Jesus intended for them.

A large group had gathered, Jews and Gentile believers “from every nation” were seated in the Upper Room when they heard the sound of rushing wind, “saw cloven tongues of fire” on each person, reminiscent of the fire on Sinai when the Law was given, but this time a difference. Each person heard God’s message in his own tongue, a manifestation only God could bring about.

Peter and the other disciples stood up. Calming the crowd, Peter began to quote from the prophet Joel, reminding them God had promised “in the last days” He would “pour out His Spirit on all flesh…” They would see signs and wonders, a new kind of “harvesting.” Pentecost, an Old Testament concept (Leviticus 23:15) with new meaning. Empowered by the Spirit, the disciples would do extraordinary things.

Resurrection life. Jesus, the “first fruits” from among the dead. Today’s Christians a part of the harvest. The Holy Spirit, present at Pentecost, will direct Peter to point the group back to the finished work of Christ (Acts 2:22). Conviction for sin was so strong they asked Peter what to do. He says “Repent!”

Pentecost was always about surrendering to God the first and best of everything we possess. Now, forgotten or passed over for the moment was the earlier concern about when Christ would set up His Kingdom on earth. John on Patmos will deal with that in Revelation.

In its place is the urgency to go into the world with the Good News. The same Holy Spirit present at Pentecost can change hearts. It may mean suffering like these recent experiences but He will be there to comfort and guide us. A new look at Pentecost may help us understand the need to share His Word while we await whatever God has for us in the future.

 

Myrtle V. Thompson, 91, is a retired missionary, educator and Bible teacher. Contact her at mvtgrt@gmail.com.