All Together

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Pentecost

 

Numbers 11:24-30

Acts 2:1-21

John 7:37-39

Psalm 104:25-37

Remember that Pentecost is properly called Feast of Weeks—Sabuot in Hebrew. It is held seven weeks, that is, fifty days after the Feast of the Unleavened Bread. The Greek word pentecost literally means fifty.

The first festival of the Jewish year is Passover—Pesah—always held on 14 Nisan. The next day is the beginning of the Feast of the Unleavened Bread which is a weeklong event. Somewhere in that week there is a Sabbath. The first day after the Sabbath is celebrated as the Feast of First Fruits. The first shocks of harvested barley (an early spring crop) are brought to the Temple, presented to God, and then made into loaves of bread which are then presented to God.

The Sabbath, then and now, is always on Saturday, so the First Fruits is celebrated on Sunday. The year that Jesus arose from the grave just happened to coincide. Jesus became the First Fruits of the harvest of people for God. That is one reason why the years on our calendar, 30 and 33, are considered most likely to be when Jesus arose, because they have the Friday, Saturday, Sunday combination that fit with the feast days.

Now, fifty days later, the wheat is ready to harvest, and another First Fruits is celebrated like the one for barley. The Bible has trouble deciding what to call this feast. Deuteronomy 16:9-12 calls it Feast of Weeks. Exodus 23:16 calls it Feast of the Harvest. Exodus 34:22 calls it First Fruits of the Wheat Harvest. And Numbers 28:26 calls it Day of First Fruits. Acts uses the First Century common term, Fifty, or Pentecost.

Two big events occur on the first day of the feast. The first is the remembrance and celebration of the deliverance from Egypt—Exodus. Along with that is a reading of the giving of the Covenant at Mt. Sinai. The second is a reading of the book of Ruth.

As to the Pentecost of Acts 2, we should first see it as a reenactment of the Numbers event. And he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people and placed them around the tent. Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy eldersESV

This is hardly the first mention of the Spirit. Look at Genesis 1:2. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyssMSG This is not as literal as other translations, but I like the image.

Seven weeks had gone by since Jesus’ death and resurrection, and the Day of Pentecost had now arrived. As the believers met together that day, suddenly there was a sound like the roaring of a mighty windstorm in the skies above them and it filled the house where they were meetingTLB

I scrolled through about 30 translations of the two verses of the Acts reading and only the Living Bible used the word believers. Yet, it fits the literal Greek. They were all with one mind. Who else but those who believed in Jesus would be there? What is more important is to get the notion that it was not just the Twelve. Mary was there, and Mary of Magda, and Mary and Martha and Joseph, and James, and of course, Matthias the newest member of the Twelve. The believers.

Why were they all together of this day of all days? They are all faithful Jews who know that the Feast of Weeks is the next great harvest day; the next day when wheat and the bread made from it is presented to God. The next First Fruits Day.

We have no record that Jesus said, “Get together at Pentecost.” But for people who knew their calendar of Holy Days, Pentecost is most likely.

Where were they? Every single translation I looked at had the word house. There are, however, several Greek words that we translate as house into English. The one used in this verse is oikos, a jack-of-all-trades word. It is used of anything from a hut to the Temple. There is a school of thought, that I subscribe to, that they were meeting along the East Wall of the Temple Court of Gentiles. We know that there were partitioned ‘rooms’ that people could rent for special occasions.

Against that idea is the earlier references of the followers hiding in fear. But this is seven weeks later. No one else has been arrested. I don’t see them living in fear by the time of Pentecost.

There is no way to know from the text how many were meeting together. We know that thousands followed Jesus at different times, but we also know that most of them were not committed. Based on what we know today about group dynamics, one hundred people is about the max if you expect to be able to intermingle with everyone reasonably. A hundred people would hardly be noticed in that area. The Temple mount takes up 37 acres. About 75% was the Court of the Gentiles.

I doubt that there were a hundred people though. The number could have been that high, but fifty seems to me to be more likely as a ball-park number (to use the American idiom). If you want to say 25, fine. We don’t know. My real point is the group was more than just the Sacred Twelve.

Before their eyes appeared tongues like flames which separated off and settled above the head of each one of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different languages as the Spirit gave them power to proclaim his messagePhillips

No one was touched with fire. It sort of looked like flame but was just the power of the Spirit. No one spoke in tongues. Most, if not all of them, spoke Aramaic. Three people who spoke three different languages heard their own language come from one mouth. It was in the hearing, not in the speaking. The Holy Spirit changed the sound of Aramaic into the sound of Greek, or Latin, Or Persian so the hearer could understand.

For that matter, if it was by the power of the Holy Spirit, all the believers may have been speaking the language of Heaven. Wow!

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

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