The Day of Pentecost
Pastor George Pejakovich
John 20:19-23

 


HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CHURCH! THE DAY OF PENTECOST IS CONSIDERED THE DAY THE CHURCH OF CHRIST WAS BORN. IT WAS BORN WITH THE RUSHING SOUNDS OF WIND AND THE IMAGE OF FIRE FROM HEAVEN ON THE HEADS OF THE DISCIPLES. IT WAS BORN IN THE ASTOUNDING VOICES OF THE DISCIPLES TESTIFYING TO THE LORDSHIP OF JESUS HEARD IN THE NATIVE LANGUAGES OF ALL WHO LISTENED. IT WAS BORN IN THE EXCITEMENT OF SOMETHING NEW WHICH HAD COME INTO THE WORLD; THE ORIGIN OF WHICH WAS AT THE VERY BEGINNING OF EXISTENCE. IT WAS BORN IN THE PROPHECY OF OLD NOW MADE NEW IN THE PROPHETIC MISSION OF THE CHURCH. IT WAS BORN AS A TESTAMENT TO THE WORLD THAT THE LORD IS RISEN INDEED. THE ACCOUNT IN THE BOOK OF ACTS, WHICH WE HAVE JUST HEARD, HAS A UNIVERSAL TONE, AND THE OUTPOURING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT COMES ON THE JEWISH FESTIVAL OF SHAVOUT; OR THE CELEBRATION OF THE FIRST FRUITS OF THE HARVEST, FIFTY DAYS AFTER PASSOVER.

THE ACCOUNT IN THE GOSPEL OF JOHN, HOWEVER, IS DIFFERENT, AND IS MARKEDLY DIFFERENT IN TONE. IN JOHN, THE HOLY SPIRIT COMES TO THE DISCIPLES ON THE EVENING OF THE DAY OF RESURRECTION, WHEN JESUS BREATHES ON HIS FOLLOWERS AND SAYS, “RECEIVE THE HOLY SPIRIT.” HERE THE FOCUS IS LESS ON THE UNIVERSAL OUTPOURING OF THE SPIRIT, AND MORE ON THE PARTICULAR IDENTIFYING, EQUIPPING, AND SENDING OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE DISCIPLES. THE ACCOUNTS OF THE COMING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT DIFFER BECAUSE ONE IS PRIVATE FOR JESUS’ CLOSE FOLLOWERS AND THE OTHER IS PUBLIC FOR THE WORLD TO SEE.

IN THE HEBREW SCRIPTURES, THE WORD FOR SPIRIT IS RUACH. OR BREATH. THIS IS THE SAME WORD FOR THE SPIRIT OF GOD AT CREATION, AND THE SPIRIT OF GOD WHICH COMES TO THE PROPHETS OF OLD. THE WORD IN THE GREEK SCRIPTURES IS PNEUMA, WHICH MEANS THE SAME THING; BREATH. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS THE BREATH OF GOD, SO WHEN JESUS BREATHES ON HIS DISCIPLES HE IS NOT JUST ACTING OUT A PARABLE, BUT IS GIVING THEM THE LITERAL BREATH OF GOD TO EQUIP THEM FOR THEIR COMING MISSION. IN ADDITION TO THIS, HE HAD ALREADY PROMISED THEM THAT HE WOULD NOT LEAVE THEM ALONE, BUT WOULD SEND TO THEM THE ADVOCATE, WHICH WOULD INDEED COME TO THEM ON THE DAY OF PENTECOST.

THE HOLY SPIRIT, THE BREATH OF GOD, IS THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH, WHO DWELLS WITH BELIEVERS FOREVER YET CANNOT BE RECEIVED BY THE WORLD. IT IS THE BREATH OF GOD, SENT BY THE FATHER AND THE SON, WHO WILL TEACH JESUS’ FOLLOWERS AND REMIND THEM OF ALL HE TOLD THEM. IT IS THE BREATH OF GOD WHO TESTIFIES ABOUT JESUS AND EQUIPS HIS FOLLOWERS TO TESTIFY ABOUT HIM TO OTHERS. IT IS THE BREATH OF GOD THAT GLORIFIES JESUS, AND COMFORTS HIS BELIEVERS IN ALL THE TRIALS THAT COME TO THEM FOR THE SAKE OF THEIR LOVE FOR HIM. IN THE HOLY SPIRIT, THE FOLLOWERS OF JESUS RECEIVE NOTHING LESS THAN THE FULLNESS OF THE GLORIFIED LORD. ALL THIS AMAZING, OVERWHELMING GIFT OF THE BREATH OF GOD IS BESTOWED ON EACH AND EVERY FOLLOWER OF CHRIST ON THE DAY OF OUR BAPTISM. WE ARE CREATED NEW, LIKE THE BREATH OF GOD ON THE WATERS OF CHAOS; A NEW CREATION AND A PART OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST, A NEW CREATION IN THE WORLD.

IN RECEIVING THE HOLY SPIRIT, THE CHURCH, AND WE, RECEIVE JESUS, AND JESUS’ OWN POWER TO MAKE GOD MANIFEST TO THE WORLD; TO BRING THE LIGHT OF GOD TO THE WORLD. THIS IS WHAT JESUS MEANS IN HIS OFTEN MISUNDERSTOOD WORDS, “IF YOU FORGIVE THE SINS OF ANY, THEY ARE FORGIVEN THEM; IF YOU RETAIN THE SINS OF ANY, THEY ARE RETAINED.” HE IS NOT APPOINTING THE CHURCH AS THE MORAL WATCHDOG FOR THE WORLD, OR TO KEEP SOME SORT OF HEAVENLY BALANCE SHEET ON OTHERS. IN JOHN’S GOSPEL, SIN IS UNBELIEF; THE UNWILLINGNESS OR INABILITY TO GRASP THE TRUTH OF GOD MANIFESTED IN THE PERSON OF JESUS. THE HOLY SPIRIT ENABLES THE FOLLOWERS OF JESUS TO BEAR WITNESS TO HIM, AND IN SO DOING, SET OTHERS FREE FROM THEIR UNBELIEF. FAILING TO DO SO LEAVES THOSE TRAPPED IN UNBELIEF STILL TRAPPED. A CHURCH, OR A FOLLOWER OF JESUS, THAT FAILS TO BEAR WITNESS TO THE RISEN CHRIST, FAILS IN THE MISSION OF MAKING CHRIST KNOWN TO THE WORLD.

BY THE HOLY SPIRIT, BY THE VERY BREATH OF GOD, WE ARE A PART OF THE WONDROUS GRACE OF GOD IN CHRIST JESUS. BY THE HOLY SPIRIT, THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE BELIEVER AND GOD IN CHRIST IS MORE INTIMATE THAN ANY OTHER POSSIBLE RELATIONSHIP. BY THE HOLY SPIRIT, BY THE VERY BREATH OF GOD, WE CAN TESTIFY WITH ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY THAT THE LORD IS RISEN INDEED. JESUS LIVES, NOT APART FROM US, BUT BY THE HOLY SPIRIT, IN AND THROUGH US.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CHURCH. AMEN