You probably know that many churches will be celebrating Pentecost Sunday on May 24—but did you know that the original Day of Pentecost” fell during the Jewish celebration of Shavuos?
Shavuos (pronounce shah voo ohs), sometimes called Pentecost, is one of three Jewish festivals that entailed a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The other two are the Feast of Tabernacles and the Feast of Passover.
Pentecost is a Greek word that means “fifty days.” Shavuos, the Hebrew name for the holiday, means “weeks.” Both refer to the period of time between the festivals of Passover and the first fruits of the wheat harvest in the Land of Israel.
God wove the seasons of worship together with the physical Land of Israel, linking the two inextricably. Anyone who fails to see the connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel cannot grasp the full significance of these God-given festivals. The Feasts of Israel simply cannot be divorced from the land which God swore to give to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Thus, even when the Jewish people were scattered to the four corners of the earth, these festivals reminded us of what was happening back in the land of our ancestors.
The observance of Pentecost was an act of consecration as well as celebration. It was an occasion to give God His due, to offer Him the first and the best portion of the harvest. That offering was also a celebration because the “first fruits” would indicate both the character and the quantity of the remainder of the crop. If the first fruit was good, so would the rest of the harvest be. If the first fruit was abundant, there would be an abundant harvest yet to come.
It was against the backdrop of this holiday that the first Jews for Jesus gathered in the upper room. Remember, Yeshua (Jesus) had commanded the disciples to wait in Jerusalem, “for the promise of the father”(see Acts 1:4,5). And wait they did—for fifty days. God chose the fiftieth day after the Passover on which Yeshua was crucified to unleash the power of His Holy Spirit in a new way:
When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:1-4).
Some who heard the disciples speaking in foreign languages thought they were merely babbling. Yet God had chosen the time when people from all over the world would be in Jerusalem, and He used that “babbling” to reap a spiritual harvest of souls among every tribe, tongue and nation on the face of the earth. As thousands wondered how these uneducated Galileans could be speaking in their native languages, Peter began to preach the gospel in power. Jews who had come to offer God the first fruits of the wheat harvest became the first fruits of a great spiritual harvest. They represented the harvest to come, not just for the Jewish people but for all of the world.
What a mighty God we serve, who is able to turn all things for good! Think about it: how did people come to have such a diversity of languages in the first place? It was the result of sin and pride. Thousands of years before, at a place called Babel, the Lord prevented the human race from uniting to do evil. He cursed humanity by confusing their language and scattering them into many different nations and tongues.
How like our gracious God to reverse the curse of Babel on this great Pentecost after Christ’s resurrection. Languages that once confused and alienated people were now employed to proclaim the good news that God’s salvation had come to the nations. People once divided through sin would now be united in the Savior. Out of chaos and cacophony God created a beautiful diversity and harmony, that people of all languages might come together as a choir of praise to the glory of God.
Have you ever wondered what would have happened on Pentecost had the disciples tired of following Yeshua’s instructions? They had been waiting together for a long time, certainly any number of disagreements and quarrels might have occurred. Yet when the Day of Pentecost came, they were all with one accord in one place.
Had the disciples bickered and scattered throughout Jerusalem, God’s purposes would not have been thwarted, I’m sure. But think of what the disciples would have missed! Likewise, those devout Jews who had traveled from afar to obey God; what if they had decided not to make the trip that year?
God is gracious to pour out His blessings, but to some extent He leaves it to us to be in the right place at the right time to receive them. Sometimes being at the right place means waiting when He says wait; sometimes it means moving when He says move. God does not keep us mystified as to what He would have us do when we are in the habit of seeking His will. As we gather with other believers in one accord, and as we are willing to move here and there to give God His due, we can expect to receive power from His Holy Spirit—power to bring in a harvest of souls.
Can’t you hear the strains of that chorus which began in Jerusalem on Pentecost? It continues to echo throughout the world. And the choir continues to gain in strength and number as the Lord of the harvest continues His work. Together with Him we can lift our voices in songs of praise to the Master. We are privileged to help in the work of the harvest as God’s Spirit draws Jews and Gentiles to salvation in Yeshua. The harvest truly is plentiful. We Jews For Jesus will continue to sow and water so that together with you dear friends and supporters, we can rejoice to see the Lord of the Harvest give the increase.