Sunday, May 27, 2007

Today is Pentecost and I thought I'd share a bit about its significance in the Jewish calendar. Pentecost was a high holy day in Judaism known as the "Shavuot". We read in Acts 2 that a great many people had journeyed to Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost which commemorated the giving of the law on Mt Sinai. Pentecost gets its name which means "50th day" because after passover, one would count 7 weeks (49 days) and then Pentecost week would begin. In Hebrew it has a number of names including Hag ha-Shavuot which means the "feast of weeks", and Yom ha-Bikkurim which means "day of first fruits".

We Christians celebrate Pentecost on the 7th Sunday after Easter, but of course it was first a Jewish holiday and understanding it in that context gives a lot of insight into how the Apostles interpreted its meaning. Pentecost was directly connected to passover which commemorated how the Israelites marked their doors with blood indicating that they belonged to the Lord. Passover has to do of course with the exodus out of Egyptian bondage, and to when Israel became a nation. Jesus when he had the last supper was celebrating passover with his disciples and gave this celebration a new meaning saying as he lifted the cup of redemption in the meal and declared "This is the cup of the new covenant in my blood".

Notice that he is speaking of a "new covenant". There are references in Scripture that connote Christ's death with the temple sacrifice, but here Jesus is giving us a different picture related to passover. Through his blood we are liberated out of the bondage to sin and death by a new covenant that God would make with humanity. The old covenant was established at Sinai where God gave the Torah, and just as God instituted a new exodus out of the slavery of sin, death, and the devil in Christ's cross, so to there was a new Pentecost where God poured out his "word" into our hearts. In this new covenant, God says "I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts" (Heb 8:10). God has not written this new covenant in paper, but inscribed his word on human hearts. A new covenant founded on inner relationship not external law. Paul when he says that the Spirit at work and alive in us is the "first fruits" of salvation, is likely drawing a reference to Pentecost being the festival of first fruits.

Its unfortunate that we are not more aware of Pentecost in the Evangelical church since it could be argued that the vital personal relationship with God in Christ that was inaugurated at Pentecost is the very heart of Evangelical faith. So happy Pentecost!

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At 2:21 PM, Blogger Weekend Fisher said...


And from the Christian Pentecost's roots in the Jewish Pentecost/Shavuot, if the Law is written on our hearts then we are the most holy place, we are God's Temple, which some of the NT writers mentioned. Dovetails nicely with what Christ said about Himself being the Temple.

Take care & God bless


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