5/22/2015 3:00:00 PM
This Sunday, May 24, most of the Church celebrates Pentecost, the day when a small group of believers in Jerusalem became the first to receive the Holy Spirit. The account in Acts 2 is widely considered the founding event of the early Church.
To observe such a monumental event is the right thing for us to do. Without the Holy Ghost, the life of Jesus becomes just an historical event. But the arrival of the Spirit, to fill and empower believers on that day and every day since, is a fulfillment of prophecy that gives believers confidence that Jesus will return. The Holy Ghost provides “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,” in the words of the classic hymn.
But He also does much more than that, and that’s the reason Pentecost should be celebrated every day by all believers.
Pentecost was a Jewish festival, commanded in the Old Testament book of Leviticus. Here’s how it’s discussed in my newest book, Divine Encounter
“From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the LORD.
“From where you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of the finest flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to the LORD.
“Present with this bread seven male lambs, each a year old and without defect, one young bull and two rams. They will be a burnt offering to the LORD, together with their grain offerings and drink offerings – a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the LORD. Then sacrifice one male goat for a sin offering and two lambs, each a year old, for a fellowship offering. The priest is to wave the two lambs before the LORD as a wave offering, together with the bread of the firstfruits. They are a sacred offering to the LORD for the priest.
“On that same day, you are to proclaim a sacred assembly and do no regular work. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live. When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 23:15-22, NIV, emphasis added).
The commandment that two loaves were to be waved before the Lord were to be made with yeast could be surprising. After all, leaven is the biblical symbol of sin and wickedness. Why in the world would God want loaves made with leaven to be used in His holy festival?
These two loaves represent sinful mankind. They represent men with the sinful nature “baked” in them. Yet in the latter part of the harvest of Israel, God wanted Israel to remember the outsiders, and so He commanded that these very loaves be waved before Him in gratitude. Gentiles – those “leavened” ones outside “unleavened” Israel – are going to be welcomed too.
God is saying to Israel, Remember the Gentiles. Remember that you are blessed to be a blessing. Remember that I intend to redeem the whole earth, not just Israel. Don’t forget them, rich and poor, in all that you do, even in how you bring in the harvests I give you.
The great fulfillment of this promise came, of course, on the Day of Pentecost. In the waving of two loaves made with leaven and in the command to leave some of the harvest for the poor, God was showing His people that He cared for the wider world outside Israel.
If there was ever a day that fulfilled this divine concern, it was the Day of Pentecost. On that day, the disciples gathered in Jerusalem as Jesus had commanded them to do before He ascended to the Father. According to Acts 1:4-8, they had been commanded not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait there until they were endued with power from on high to become witnesses unto Him in Jerusalem, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth.
The Holy Spirit was poured out upon the approximate 120 believers in a house in Jerusalem. We learn from Acts 2 that many were there from Gentile nations: Parthians, Medes, and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabians. More than fifteen Gentile lands are mentioned as looking on, and many of these were born again after Peter preached and explained who Jesus and the Holy Spirit are.
What greater fulfillment of God’s passion for the lost Gentile world than for a New Covenant church to arise comprised of every tribe and tongue? What better fulfillment of the twin symbols of harvest and leavened bread but that the Gentiles are harvested for the gospel of Jesus Christ and filled with the Spirit of the living God? How perfectly the Day of Pentecost, as we know it from our New Testament, fulfills the heart of God expressed in the Feast of Weeks – as we know it from our Old Testament.
Thank God for His mercy, as the Apostle Paul wrote, to those of us who were “excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12, NIV). Thank God for the meaning and the fulfillment of the Feast of Weeks!
This is certainly worth celebrating once a year. But it’s also important to be mindful of it every single day. More from Divine Encounter
In Luke 4:14, we read of a moment early in Jesus’s earthly ministry in which He is returning to His hometown in Galilee. He has been baptized by John. He has conquered temptation in the wilderness. Now, He is going to the city of His childhood: Nazareth.
As was His custom, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath, and as He entered, He was given the scroll of the prophet Isaiah to read. He chose these words:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19, NIV).
These are the words of Isaiah 61:1-2, and they describe the “year of the Lord’s favor.” Their immediate application is to the Year of Jubilee, the fiftieth year when all debts were canceled, all slaves were freed, rest was commanded, and God’s blessing was proven more than sufficient to sustain His people. Yet the broader application of these words was to the messianic age, as the rabbis wrote. It was to the ultimate millennial rule of the Messiah.
Now, focus on this single moment. Jesus has read the words of an ancient prophecy in the synagogue of Nazareth. These beloved words have been read in that place many times before. Faithful men and women memorized them and longed for the Jubilee – which, if they were fortunate, might happen once in their lives – and for the ultimate rule of the Messiah on earth.
Keep watching Jesus. He stands to read this famous passage and then sits down. This is the position of one who will teach the verses just read. All eyes are on Jesus as His eyes sweep over the eager crowd.
Then He says it: “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21, NIV). They are among the most powerful words He would ever speak on earth. In fact, they may be the banner over His entire earthly life. He was saying, What you have been waiting for, what you have longed for the Messiah of God to do one day, can be done right now and right here. I am that Messiah. You must wait no longer, not for fifty-year cycles or the return of the Messiah. I am He. All that is promised is possible at this moment.
Though His audience would not fully understand it, every healing, every deliverance from poverty, every recovery of sight, every victory over oppression needed in that place was possible. Jesus was among them. Their Jubilee ceased to be a date or an age. Jesus was their Jubilee. The time had come. Nothing more was needed.
I remind you of this dramatic moment in Jesus’s life because I want you to know that this is the way it is with all God’s feasts and all God’s promises. They are all “yes,” and they are all “right now” in Jesus. The time has come because He has declared it. The time has come because He holds time in His hands. There is nothing symbolized, promised, or anticipated in any of the feasts we have studied that you must wait to experience. Jesus is that fulfillment, and He is with you now.
We do not have to wait for a given day of the year to experience the liberation of Pesach or Passover. Jesus is that liberation. We do not need to wait for fifty days after Firstfruits so that once a year we can experience abundance. Jesus is that abundance. How urgent it is that you grasp this truth. Jesus is the fulfillment of all and the answer to all. We keep the feasts to understand what He has done and what He will do. The doing, though, is in Jesus right now.
It is as true now as it was on that day in Nazareth: “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
- May 22, 2015