The Day of Pentecost (May 27, 2007)
“The Meaning of Pentecost for Us Today” (John 14:23-31)
(Based on an outline by Dr. Harold Buls)
You’ve heard me say before that every Sunday is a “little Easter.” Week after week, on the first day of the week, we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. It was on that day, after all, that Jesus rose to life again. We recall that Christ rose from the dead and so we too shall rise from the dead. We may not pull out all the stops like we do on Easter Sunday. But every Sunday is indeed a “little Easter.”
We might also say that every Sunday is a “little Pentecost.” On that first New Testament Pentecost in Jerusalem the Holy Spirit came to teach the apostles all things and to remind them of all that Jesus said. That’s similar to what happens now every Sunday. God the Holy Spirit comes to us through the Word of Christ. He teaches us all things necessary for our salvation. Pentecost is a reminder that our relationship to God is by faith in Jesus. And St. Paul tells us in Ephesians 3 that God strengthens us “with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” (Eph 3:17)
So every Sunday is not only a little Easter. Every Sunday is also a little Pentecost. Listen to the Gospel lesson one more time as together we consider “The Meaning of Pentecost for Us Today.”
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. "These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, 'I am going away, and I will come to you.' If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here. (John 14:23-31)
PENTECOST MEANS THAT FAITH IS NECESSARY
First of all, Pentecost means that faith is necessary. In our text, Jesus talks a lot about “loving God.” To love God means to believe in Him. Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Matt 22:37) What else can this mean than to believe in him...to trust in him?
The disciples were weak in faith at this point in their lives. In verse 28, Jesus says, “If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.” The disciples were sorrowful because Jesus said he was going away. He was on his way to the cross...followed by the empty tomb...and after that to be received in the cloud on the Mount of Olives. All this talk about Jesus going away made them sorrowful, even though, as Jesus explained, it was his Father's will. Jesus said that “the Father is greater than I.” According to Christ’s human nature that was true. And so the Son of God completely submitted to his Father’s will by dying, rising, and ascending for the salvation of the world. But the disciples’ understanding was darkened and their faith was weak.
What about you? Are you weak in faith? Well, so were the disciples. But notice how Jesus treated them. He treated them with kindness and patience. He didn’t cast them out.
And that’s the same way our gracious Savior treats us. Scripture says, “A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench.” (Is 42:3) And Jesus said, “Whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (Jn 6:37) He sends his Holy Spirit to us through his Word and creates faith in our hearts. And where there is faith in Christ, there God makes his home. God himself comes and takes up residence in the believer. Recall last week’s Gospel lesson from John 17 where Jesus said, “I in them and you in me.” Remember David’s prayer of repentance in Psalm 51, “Take not your Holy Spirit from me.” And Jesus promises in vs. 23 of our text: “We will come to him and make our home in him.” The Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—lives in your heart by faith. That's Pentecost.
PENTECOST MEANS THAT WE CONTINUE TO LEARN
Pentecost also means that we continue to learn. Verse 26 of our text says, “The Helper, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
Victor Borge, the late piano-playing comedian, told the story about a couple going on vacation who were standing in line waiting to check their bags at the airline counter. The husband said to his wife, “I wish we had brought the piano.” The wife then said, “You’ve got to be kidding me! We have sixteen bags already!” And the husband said, “Yes, I know...but the tickets are on the piano.”
Have you ever done something like that? Did you ever find that you had forgotten your airline tickets when you were already at the airport? I’ve never done that, but I was with some friends once who forgot our concert tickets after we were already at the arena. We listened to half the concert outside while they drove all the way back to their house to get our tickets. But you and I have forgotten more important things than that. You and I have hurt our spouse when we have forgotten something important he or she told us. We’ve disappointed people when we have forgotten birthdays or anniversaries or other important information about them that we should have remembered. We have forgotten to pray for those to whom we promised “I’ll remember you in my prayers.” And we have sinfully forgotten portions of God’s Word that we should know better and remember.
Sinful human beings forget very quickly. That's why we have Pentecost. The Holy Spirit came and reminded the Apostles of what Jesus said. Read the sermons of the Apostles in the book of Acts. They are full of what Jesus said. Then the Spirit caused Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to write all that Jesus said and did. We have all of that, including the words of Jesus that tell us that we are forgiven for our sinful forgetting.
The Holy Spirit would also teach the apostles everything. They were God’s inspired witnesses to record for us what Jesus said and to bring us the very teachings of Jesus. The biggest problem in the early church was circumcision. The Jewish Christians said that Gentiles had to be circumcised before they could become Christians. But the whole New Testament says: “You don’t have to DO anything. Christ has done everything. He offers Jews and Gentiles full salvation without requirements.” The Holy Spirit caused Paul, Peter, John, James and Jude to record the Epistles in which we have teachings based on the word of Christ. They are not their own words. They are God’s Words, inspired by the Spirit as II Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness”...as well as II Peter 1:20-21, “no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Pentecost means that we continue to learn from God’s Spirit-breathed words.
PENTECOST MEANS THAT WE ARE ASSURED OF GOD’S PEACE
AND FAITH IS STRENGTHENED
Finally, Pentecost means that we are assured of the peace of God and that he strengthens our faith. The peace of the world only means that war has ceased...and that kind of peace, as we well know, is few and far between. The world's peace does not make our hearts courageous and brave. The world's peace does not forgive us our sins or give us everlasting life.
Before Pentecost the disciples were fearful. After Pentecost, they were changed men. Just read the whole book of Acts. They stood before government officials and religious rulers and said, “We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard (Acts 4:19)...We must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).” The peace of God gave them fearless and courageous hearts. And God’s peace in our hearts will do the same for us.
Pentecost strengthens our faith. Jesus says towards the end of our text: “And now I have told you before it takes place so that when it does take place you may believe.” In other words, he said, “Just wait, guys. It’s going to happen, just as I promised. I will rise again. You will see me alive. I will ascend into heaven, and you will see that, too. And I will send the Holy Spirit. Then you will believe.” The fulfillment of Pentecost, 50 days after Easter, and 10 days after Ascension, indeed strengthened their faith.
So many times, we say, “If only I could have been there. If only I could have seen Jesus alive. If only I could have seen him going up into heaven. If only I could have heard that rushing wind. If only I could have had one of those tongues of fire upon me. If only I could have spoken in tongues like those Christians on the day of Pentecost.” But really, you and I are even more blessed. We may not have been there. But we have the eyewitness testimony of the apostles recorded for us. And we have ALL of God’s inspired Word. That’s more than what the first Christians could say. Not all of them had the inspired words of Paul recorded for them. Not all of them had all four of the Gospels in their possession...Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. But you and I do. So we, too, know the faithfulness of God in all of his fulfilled promises. The Spirit was poured out upon us in Baptism. The Spirit comes to us even today when the Gospel is proclaimed. We have all that those disciples had that first New Testament Pentecost. And that causes us to believe in Christ more and more each day, as we await that one unfulfilled promise of Jesus coming back again. But he has a pretty good track record, so you can count on that happening, too. Let’s prepare by loving Jesus, keeping his word, and knowing that God himself has made his home with us.
And remember: Every Sunday is Easter...every Sunday is Pentecost.