Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.” John 14:23-24
Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
The Feast of Pentecost – (May 27, 2012)
John 14:23–30 & Acts 2:1–11
THEME: “The Divine Downpayment”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for this morning is from the Gospel just read from St. John chapter 14, as well as from the book of Acts, chapter two.
Pentecost is one of those days in the Christian Church that we just don’t get. It’s the culmination of Easter, but the color of the day is red, not white. It’s a harvest festival for the Israelites in the Old Testament, but it’s the wrong time of year for us. It’s a year of jubilee, which is really something we don’t get. Cancel all debts for the past fifty years? We wouldn’t even get that in an election year! So what is it about this day that made it such a big deal to the Jews, and an even bigger deal to the Christians?
It works like this. The Jews had this understanding of their lives called first-fruits. Sometimes it’s called tithing. Basically, what it meant was that they knew everything is God’s, and by offering him the first fruit of the harvest, they were confessing that all things are God’s, and that He is the giver of all good gifts.
So Pentecost was a day of great anticipation. It was a day when the people confessed with their lives and with their wallets, as it were, that God would take care of them no matter what.
Once every fifty years, though, it was an even bigger deal. Every fifty years, or after 7×7 Sabbaths, there is a big Pentecost. In this year, called the year of the Lord or the year of jubilee, everything was reset. All debts that Jews owed to each other were canceled, and if you lost your property, it was returned to you. If you were a slave, you were freed and returned to your family.
Can you imagine that? Can you imagine a day when everything in your life reset? Think of how great it would be to have a divine reboot, when everything that had gone wrong in your life, whether it was your fault or someone else’s fault, all of it was erased. Would you look forward to a day like that? I bet you would. I know I would.
And if that wasn’t enough, there was one more thing about Pentecost for them. Pentecost was not only a harvest festival, and a day of remembering God’s good creation. It was also a day of remembering God’s giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai. The giving of the Law, the Ten Commandments, was a sign or marker for the people of Israel that God had set them apart to be His own people. It was God’s covenant with them.
So that’s the sense of anticipation that the Jews had for Pentecost. Harvest, God’s creation, and the giving of the Law. All of this is wrapped up in Pentecost. They came from all over the known world to rejoice in this day. After the Passover, Pentecost was probably the biggest holy day for the people of Israel.
But this Pentecost was different. Jesus had risen from the dead, and ascended into heaven to be seated at the right hand of God. This same Jesus promised the disciples that He would return to them, and that He would not leave them orphans. He would send a Helper to them, the Holy Spirit. This Helper would lead them into all Truth, which connect them to Jesus, and would give them gifts unlike any they had received before.
So there they are, in Jerusalem, waiting for the big day. Would Jesus do what He promised? Yes. The Holy Spirit came, and with Him He brought gifts.
This was the first harvest of the resurrection of the dead. On Pentecost the promises that God had made in delivering His people from sin, death and the power of the devil by Jesus’ death and resurrection began to be fulfilled. God spoke through the tongues of fire, just as He had spoken through the burning bush on Mt. Sinai. But this time in the speaking, instead of the people giving their first-fruits to God, this time God gives His first fruits to us!
Pentecost is a sort of down-payment for what we will receive on the Last Day. The Spirit descends upon the Church and comes to us even now in Holy Baptism. God’s promises are given to you now, and those promises reach their fulfillment on the Last Day.
This is what it means for us to receive the Holy Spirit in our Baptism. God has sealed you with His Spirit. He has set us apart as His Chosen People, His Bride, His Church. The gifts of the Spirit are yours now. These gifts of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control (Gal. 5:22–23a), these gifts God gives to you now. We don’t fully realize them. We still battle with our sinful nature every day. But that promise is yours. You are baptized. You are washed. You are sealed in the Spirit.
Pentecost for us is a day when God brings to our remembrance that He fulfills His promises. Jesus has risen from the dead, and the Comforter has come down to guide us into all truth. You and I are not tossed about by every wind and wave of false doctrine. God’s mercy in Jesus is secure for you. You don’t have to look in yourself to find this out. You don’t have to despair that things aren’t perfect or that you continue to fail in your walk as a Christian. You are baptized. God’s Spirit is yours now, the Spirit that brings you to Jesus.
So come and receive Him who the Spirit confesses. Come and receive our Lord, united with our Father as one God. Come and receive Him, for this is a sure and certain guarantee that God loves you and forgives you and draws you into Him.
Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
And now the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, to life everlasting. Amen.