The Day of Pentecost, May 23, 2021
Text: Acts 2:1–21
Theme: The outpouring of the Holy Spirit
Other Lessons: Ezekiel 37:1–14; Psalm 139:1–12 (13–16); John 15:26–27; 16:4b–15
1. In the Name of the Father…Amen.
1. The reading from Acts 2 serves as our sermon text for this morning.
1. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us pray: – ‘Cleanse me from my sin, Lord,
put thy power within, Lord,
take me as I am, Lord,
and make me all thine own’ (RH Pope, 1879–1967).
1. Grace, mercy, and peace be yours from God the Father through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
1. Today, We Celebrate the Outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. 1. Christ, before ascending to heaven, promised his believers that another counselor would come (John 14:16). 2. God kept his oath by sending the Holy Spirit among the believers.
1. For the believers on Pentecost Day.
1. We’ve all seen pictures of this incredible day. 1. The Holy Spirit is God, and he is spirit, which means he doesn’t have a physical body. 2. However, he appeared like the form of fire to the people gathered to celebrate Pentecost. 3. Why did the Holy Spirit do this? 4. For the sake of people, he became “visible.” 5. He wanted people to see the evidence of his presence and be comforted. 6. God is powerful, and whenever the Lord would interact with his creation, especially with his crown of creation, that is humanity, something extraordinary happens.
1. Acts 2 gives that long list of people gathered in Jerusalem from all over the Roman world. 1. Why were they in Jerusalem in the first place? 2. Pentecost was one of the major Jewish feasts, and people from all over the Jewish resettlement would converge on Jerusalem to worship the Lord during this feast.
1. It’s interesting that Pentecost was the occasion to thank God for the harvest of crops, especially wheat. 1. The point of the feast was to emphasize that the Lord was the one who gave the ability to work (Deuteronomy 8:18). 2. Additionally, the Jews reminded themselves that it was God who made crops to grow and yield the harvest, that the Lord was responsible for everything. 3. Perhaps the Jews were tempted to view only the physical blessings on Pentecost, but God sent the Holy Spirit to focus on his desire to save the souls of people as well. 1. “God wants all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (see 1 Timothy 2:4). 4. A festival of harvest would now become a festival of God harvesting souls!
1. So the Holy Spirit gave to his small band of believers special abilities to speak in different languages. 1. Obviously a remarkable miracle! These men of Galilee were able to speak their messages not only in the Greek language, which all those visitors to Jerusalem could already understand, but in the local “native” languages of these people from all the various regions of the Roman Empire and beyond. 2. An amazing miracle! 3. How sweet for all those listeners! 4. It’s the part of the Pentecost story many remember best.
1. Unfortunately, believers in other church bodies that are not Lutheran single out Acts 2 to be very special, fixating on this speaking in tongues. 1. Unfortunately, they then miss the real importance of Pentecost Day, for two reasons. 1. One, they overlook that the different “tongues” spoken by the apostles on Pentecost were recognizable languages, clearly understood by the hearers, not ecstatic “tongues” or “prayer language” that fellow worshipers can’t understand, as encouraged by certain church denominations. 2. Two, the focus should not be on the people speaking in other languages; attention should be given to the One who gave these abilities. 2. It’s a common temptation to praise the creation rather than the Creator. 1. The believers who had gathered on Pentecost were proclaiming the “wonders” of the Lord (verse 11). 2. The text gives no details on what these first messages were all about. 3. However, they were surely connected to how the promises given to the Old Testament people were fulfilled in Christ, just the way that Jesus explained to the two disciples on the way to Emmaus (Luke 24:27).
1. After hearing these languages, what were the reactions of the people? 1. Some were amazed. 2. But some started to mock that these Galileans were drunk. 3. Peter, the disciple who had denied Christ three times to save his own skin, now stood up courageously and defended these brothers by reminding all those gathered of the words spoken by the prophet Joel. 4. God made the promise to pour out his Spirit on all people. 5. Pentecost is the time when his promise was fulfilled. 1. The Old Testament believers trusted that the Lord would follow through on what he said.
1. For us, Christ’s believers today.
1. How is the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy relevant to us?
1. The Holy Spirit continues to convert to faith people of all nations and continues to preserve people in the faith, just the way he did in the first century, with both Jews and Gentiles, males and females, slaves and free. 1. These faithful people of God then carried out the “Great Commission” themselves. 2. They truly became the witnesses of the love of Christ, and the Gospel of Christ was proclaimed in many places.
1. We are the evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit done by the voices of those faithful Christians. 1. The Gospel has reached our ears and hearts. 2. We’ve heard what brought these first few believers together: 1. Jesus—his death on the cross, his rising from the grave, that he has taken away our sins. 2. The Holy Spirit has ever since been announcing Christ crucified. 3. That’s the reason we now know Christ as our Savior. 4. God’s desire to save started from the beginning of time, and he’s still at work. 5. The Holy Spirit is strengthening our faith through the Gospel and Sacraments. 6. The Word of God is the power of God for salvation to all who believe (Romans 1:16).
1. That same assurance then energizes us to be the people of Pentecost. 1. As Paul says: 1. “We are the jars of clay bearing the treasure” (see 2 Corinthians 4:7). 2. The Lord uses people like us, sinful and weak, to speak the Gospel to others. 1. How can we do this? It is the Holy Spirit living in us who is saving people, and he alone is enabling us to proclaim his Gospel.
1. Whenever we are disappointed at our frailties and sins, we remember our gracious God, who sacrificed himself for us on the cross. 1. He did not remain dead there but kept his promise by conquering death. 2. By his conquering power, given to us by the Holy Spirit, our God will accomplish his will through us, just the way those lowly Galileans became the proclaimers of the almighty God on Pentecost.
1. This will be the mission of the Church until that other day the prophet Joel foresaw, that Peter preached about on Pentecost: 1. “The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day” (Acts 2:20). 2. Jesus is coming back again. 3. Our Lord Jesus Christ will come back to judge the living and the dead. 4. Because of his sacrifice and forgiveness, proclaimed to us at Pentecost, proclaimed by us since Pentecost, we and countless others will welcome that Last Day with praises of Christ that will never end.
1. “It’s no longer Greek to me!” people who were gathered for that first Christian Pentecost Day might have exclaimed.
1. The crowds—you heard the list (Parthians and Medes and Elamites, from Phrygia and Pamphylia)—they all had homes somewhere else. 1. And yet, to God’s faithful people in those days, Jerusalem was always to be like coming home. 2. Like going off to college on the other side of the country, then getting a job there and staying. 3. It’s your address: 1. it’s where you have your things and pay your taxes. 2. But, oh so sweet to get back to Mom and Dad’s . . . 3. The hometown cooking 4. The friends you have not seen in years 5. And hear the down-home phrases, maybe even fall back into your old accent again.
1. Faithful visitors to Jerusalem hadn’t been able to do that, because their “native languages” were the languages of all those distant countries. 1. When they came to Jerusalem, they could get along just fine with Greek. 1. It was the lingua franca (the common language) of that day. 2. Jews living in different parts of the world knew it, but it was impersonal, for business, not for intimate conversations among friends and family. 3. It would have been wonderful to hear God’s good news, the Gospel, in their native languages. 4. Then Jerusalem would be like coming home—even hundreds of miles from where they lived.
1. Well, that’s what suddenly happened at Pentecost. 1. Suddenly they could hear the wonderful works of God, Jesus’ death and resurrection for their salvation, as the sweet words of Mom and Dad, the way they meant the most. 2. That is what has happened to us as well. 3. All thanks, praise, and glory be to our God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
1. Let us pray: – ‘Be thou my armor, my sword for the fight,
Be thou my dignity, thou my delight,
Thou my soul’s shelter and thou my high tower
Raise thou me heavenward,
O Power of my power’ (EH Hull, 1860–1935, from Old Irish, ‘Be thou my vision’).
1. Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21)
1. The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
1. In the Name of the Father…Amen.