Holy Spirit at Pentecost
The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh, Special Writer
Background text: John 14:16-17
Devotional text: Acts 2:1-13
Pentecost Sunday is upon us. It is one of the most important events in the life of the new church of Jesus Christ. It was the day that 3,000 new believers were added to the already believing disciples numbering about 120.
There is much conjecture about this giving of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, which took place 50 days after Easter and at the same time the Jewish harvest festival of Pentecost was being celebrated.
Traditions have grown up around the truths found in scripture, leading to at least a couple of different interpretations. Be that as it may, all agree that Pentecost Sunday is celebrated as the birth of the church.
Let’s begin with John 14:16-17. Jesus spoke to his disciples about his coming arrest, death and resurrection. Here, he was telling them about the Holy Spirit as he said, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever, the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and he will be in you.”
Jesus knew his time was short, as he spoke to his disciples at The Last Supper. He wanted to assure them he was not leaving them without help. That help would be the Holy Spirit.
In the scriptures, Jesus had already been telling his followers about the coming of the Holy Spirit. Those disciples who followed Christ throughout his three-year ministry had a prior glimpse of the importance of the Spirit. They might not have understood everything Jesus told them about prior to his resurrection, but they believed in him. They trusted in him. The words of Jesus would become clearer to them as the days unfolded.
In John 20:21-22, it was after the resurrection of Jesus, and he had appeared to the disciples as they were together behind locked doors. Jesus stood before them and said, “ ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’.”
In this scripture, the risen Jesus gave the gift of the Holy Spirit to his disciples. We do not know any particular details, only that Jesus breathed on them to receive the Holy Spirit.
One disciple was not with the group at this time, and that was Thomas. Also, the disciples had yet to vote on a replacement for Judas. For these reasons, some people believe the disciples did not really receive the Holy Spirit or they received a temporary form of the Spirit.
However, when Jesus next appeared to them, Thomas was there, and the scripture tells us Jesus did “miraculous signs … not recorded in this book.”
As we know from scripture, we do not always get every little fact as it happened. I think Jesus breathed on Thomas when he saw him. As for Matthias, the one chosen to replace Judas, we do not know if Jesus had breathed on him too. We do know Matthias also knew of the Holy Spirit in that he was a follower of Jesus from the beginning of his ministry.
This is what I believe, that Jesus did breathe the Holy Spirit into his disciples that day. I also believe what he told them in Acts 1:4b-5: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
In verse 8, he continued: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Was it important that all 12 received the Spirit at the same time? Scripture doesn’t tell us all the details. It is up to us to take what we read as the word of God and to accept it. Scripture tells us the disciples were given the Holy Spirit before the Day of Pentecost, and they were told to remain in Jerusalem to receive “a power” from the Holy Spirit.
Although the disciples did not at that time know what the power of the Holy Spirit would be, they remained in Jerusalem and praised God daily in the temple. When the power came upon them, the Spirit enabled them to increase the number of believers by the thousands.
This is the Holy Spirit in action in our lives. We don’t need to know ahead of time what blessings God has planned for us, just believe, just trust. The disciples believed in Jesus, and they were rewarded with a great movement of the Spirit in their lives.
Pondering the scripture from John, and then reading the words of Jesus in Acts 1, I believe the disciples received the Holy Spirit in John. However, God had a special plan for the disciples at Pentecost. It was when they would receive the Holy Spirit’s power through a “violent wind” and “tongues of fire” (Acts 2:2), enabling them to speak in languages they did not know, paving the way for 3,000 new believers, from many nations, to join the new church of Christ.
Let’s talk about the actual coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Here’s what it said after the Ascension of Jesus and prior to the Spirit’s coming in Acts 1:13: “When they arrived (back in Jerusalem), they went upstairs to the room where they were staying.”
The 11 Apostles were in the room, along with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the brothers of Jesus and other women who were disciples. Notice, it does not say they were staying in the Upper Room or that it was the room in which they ate The Last Supper together. We do not know if it was the same room or not. It does say they were all together in prayer, and the believers numbered about 120.
While together in the room, the believers did cast lots for a new person to take the place of Judas. Matthias became the new Apostle, and the men remained The Twelve (Acts 1:23-26).
Again, dear friends, in order to give justice to all the scriptures, we will continue with the Day of Pentecost in the next column, where we will see what the scripture has to say about the power of the Holy Spirit and learn how 3,000 new believers could have been baptized that day.