The Day of Pentecost: A Bible Study for Asbury's Worship
by Rev. Lee Johnson
may 23, 2021
Some say there are three main “festivals,” call them celebrations, of the Christian faith tradition. I suspect, most can name two of the three: Christmas, celebrating the birth of Jesus, and Easter, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. Now for the third: Pentecost, celebrating the arrival of the Holy Spirit. Well, the Day of Pentecost arrives this Sunday. “I will not leave you orphaned,” says Jesus to his disciples on the night before his death in John 14.18. “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom God will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.” Four days later in the Gospel of John, Jesus, on the evening of Easter, appears to his disciples and breathes on them the Holy Spirit (see John 20.23). He then sends them out to do the work of the Spirit, forgive others. Both of these stories in John give us a glimpse of how God intends to use the Holy Spirit to fulfill God’s promises. Finally, 10 days following Jesus’ ascension into heaven, and 50 days after Easter, the Advocate arrives, making itself known beyond the experience of the disciples. Acts 2 captures the arrival. And, let’s just say it’s quite an arrival. Indeed, we are not left orphaned. Start your study by reading some from John 14 and John 20. If you follow along in the story, we already know some about the Spirit before it arrives. What do these short verses tell you about the Holy Spirit?
Acts 2 marks the Holy Spirit's arrival. The story uses traditional imagery from the Old Testament that came to be associated with God’s presence: wind and flame. Surely those present that day, having been familiar with such Old Testament imagery, would have guessed God was making God's self known once again. But, this time, there was a twist. The event was witnessed by representatives from “every nation under heaven.” It was a diverse group, representing different ethnicities and languages. Only one thing knit them together, their faith in both Jesus and God. As the wind and flame brought the Holy Spirit's presence, each person began to speak in their native language. Amazingly, each person could understand the other. That day, the Spirit’s gift to the word was understanding. Outsiders witnessing the event thought the crowd was drunk. That’s when Peter explained the event for what it was – the gift of the Spirit had been poured out. And, besides it was “only 9 o’clock in the morning.” It was too early to be drunk! (That what the story says.) Now read Acts 2.1-13. Try to imagine the astonishment everyone felt. Ponder the question, “What does this mean?” Then, read Peter’s address to the crowd, Acts 2.14-21. Now, once again, ask yourself, “What does this mean?”
Think for a moment about all those places, nearby and far away, that could benefit from the Spirit’s gift of understanding. Think of all the relationships, now broken, that might be healed. I think of families torn apart by disagreements. I think of anyone who suffers from an addiction and believes, “No one understands me.” I think of our nation, adrift by a growing political divide. I think of the Israeli / Palestinian conflict, rooted in thousands of years of misunderstanding. Think of all the places that might benefit from the presence of the Holy Spirit. Maybe more than any other Christian festival, Pentecost offers an invaluable gift, hope – the hope that we might yet understand each other and be understood. Have you ever prayed the presence of the Holy Spirit upon someone? Now, I believe, on this Day of Pentecost, is an opportunity to do so. Pray the Spirit’s presence into those places that stand in need of understanding. But, first take a moment and pray the Spirit’s presence into your heart.
John 14:18; John 20:23; Acts 2:1-21
Asbury's Weekend Worship: https://www.visitasbury.org/worship/
Beginning Sunday, May 23 at 11 am for Live-Stream or 5 pm for Recorded Worship
"Spirit of God, descend upon my heart."