Today we celebrate Pentecost. Just as we will remember those who gave up their lives in defense of this nation tomorrow, people are wearing red in remembrance of Pentecost. In fact, there are numerous similarities between Pentecost and Memorial Day.
To start with, many people are ignorant or indifferent to the meaning of Memorial Day. Many people post pictures of relatives who served and gave their lives defending this country in war to remind others of their sacrifice. Some of these accounts breathe life into the significance of their deaths. The United States would not be what it is without them.
Pentecost is like that, too. It is just a word until we are reminded of the events of that day 2,000 years ago. It has to come back to life as we read from the pages of scripture.
But, what is Pentecost? Why is it so important?
Pentecost means fiftieth. It is the fiftieth day after Passover. The Jews celebrated this day long before Jesus came. It was one of three feast days on the Jewish calendar. The Jews would recall God’s giving of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai at this feast. It was a celebration of the birth of Israel. New life in the world. God’s representative to the nations was born.
This is truly significant to what happens to the disciples in Acts. They receive the Holy Spirit on this important Jewish feast. The one who breathed life into Adam, the Spirit who hovered over the waters of God’s creation, the spirit who descended like a dove upon Jesus; descended upon the disciples after Jesus went up into heaven.
Instead of giving a new law, God sent the Holy Spirit to the disciples of Jesus. The Third person of the Trinity. The nation of Israel never could keep the Law. The Law’s ministry was a ministry of death (2 Cor. 3:5-9). It never delivered what it demanded; perfect obedience. No one could meet the Law’s demands. Only God, himself, could meet the uncompromising requirements. That God is Jesus.
But, by giving the Holy Spirit to Jesus’ 120 disciples, He birthed a new Israel. He birthed the church! One which would not live according to the Law, but according to the Spirit. This is our celebration today! God reversed the curse of the Tower of Babel where mankind was divided by language. In an instant, the disciples were proclaiming the works of God in languages they apparently were educated enough to possibly learn.
Jesus had prophetically spoken about this day in our passage in John. He told them that the Spirit would come to them after He went to Heaven. He told them that the Spirit would testify about Jesus. That was the Spirit’s ministry, to point to Jesus; to remind the disciples of who Jesus was, and how he fulfilled not only the Law, but the prophets, too.
Then Jesus explains:
8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world sis judged.
The key word here is ‘convict’. The Holy Spirit convicts the world of three things. The first thing is sin. Not just any sin. The Holy Spirit isn’t only working through the Law. The Holy Spirit convicts the world about the capital sin; unbelief in Jesus.
This means that people have to hear about Jesus first. In order to reject Him, you have to know what the disciples said about him. You have to hear the Gospel. Sin is not only about breaking moral codes. Believe it or not, all of these infractions can be forgiven by God through Jesus. It is the deeper sin of rejecting the testimony of the Spirit of Life concerning Jesus that brings death.
After all, faith comes by hearing the word of Christ, according to Romans 10:17. Unbelief is the rejection of the Good News that God has given His Son to die for your sins and mine.
Then, the Holy Spirit convicts the world of Righteousness. Jesus was the one who did this before. When He was asked, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God”, Jesus replied, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” Righteousness does not come from efforts to keep God’s law. It never has, it never will. Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. Since Genesis, righteousness has come by believing in the promise made by the living God.
Finally, the Holy Spirit convicts the world of Judgment. We usually think of this as the judgment of the world and its sin. But, just as the Spirit convicts the world of sin in relation to Jesus, the Spirit convicts the world about the Judgment of Satan. That Judgment is not temporary, but the eternal damnation of the Devil. This Judgment took place at the cross.
Even this last bit is good news for those who are being saved. Our enemy has been judged and will ultimately be defeated. We will live, and he will meet his end.
It was this way back in 1944, too. Once the Allied troops from America, Britain, Canada and its allies got a toehold on European soil, it was only a matter of time before Hitler would be defeated in World War II. For the Europeans, like my parents, they knew their liberation was coming. Hope was kindled. Freedom was no longer a distant dream. Life would be restored.
The underground resistance was emboldened at that point. And the Disciples were emboldened by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. They began to proclaim the life-giving message of the savior, Jesus Christ.
Righteousness and life does not come through the law. It never has, it never will. True righteousness comes through faith in Jesus.
So, on this Pentecost Sunday, you might be thinking, “Where’s the Holy Spirit?” After all, our witness is not as bold as the disciples. We don’t have tongues of fire resting on our heads.
Maybe you think to yourself, where is my faith? I struggle to believe this good news for myself. My life doesn’t reflect the power of believing that these others had.
Or, maybe you could care less. This church stuff is only for Sunday mornings, anyhow. It doesn’t really make a difference in my life.
That is the work of man, to disbelieve. And disbelief leads to the last place you’d never want to be, an eternal place not meant for humans. A place of true death.
You see, with all of the good works of the law set before them, Israel could never believe in Jesus. Righteousness never came through the Law. It never has, it never will. Unbelief can only be taken to Jesus.
“I do believe, help thou my unbelief” I cannot keep myself believing. That is why you have truly come here today; to receive faith. To have your faith fed.
And faith is fed by the testimony the Holy Spirit gives. It is not a testimony about himself. It is not a testimony about God the Father. The testimony is about Jesus, who is the resurrection and the life. Today, we could use a little resurrection of our faith.
That resurrection occurs here, at the table of the true body and blood of Jesus Christ. In the words of institution, Jesus becomes present in the bread and the wine for your faith. In the words of absolution, Christ forgives you all of your sin. In the proclamation of the Gospel, Faith is reborn in your hearts.
Because Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. I testify to you today that there is life in no other name in heaven and earth. He has taken your sin and mine, and nailed it to the cross. More than this, he has been raised to make us righteous before the Father. And through the waters of your baptism, he poured out the living Holy Spirit into our hearts to make us new creations in this life, in his name.
This baptism doesn’t just make you a Christian. It makes you a disciple of Christ Jesus. Deputized for the work of God. That work is to testify to Jesus. It is the Holy Spirit’s witness to you.
You have been baptized to continue the powerful work of God in this world. To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. To tell those who are perishing, Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. Come to him, you who are heavy-laden, and He will give you rest. His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
It is the day of God’s blessed favor. As we celebrate Pentecost today, remember, Jesus has already taken all of your sin and mine. The Holy Spirit testifies to our hearts that this is true. And if we struggle to believe, we can come to him and confess this. He is not ashamed of you. He does not turn away sinners, in fact the Spirit testifies, this is exactly why Jesus Christ came.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,