Pentecost joy? It’s all up to us!

The workspace of all Christians is the world. It is through believers that the triune God desires to speak and act. And that is precisely how the Son of God set everything up: His gospel needs a church in which it can be preached. Thoughts on the feast of Pentecost 2020.

This year, Pentecost is different than usual. Due to the impact of the corona pandemic, the world has become rather quiet and thoughtful, but at times also angry or even aggressive. Isolation and unprecedented safety precautions have created a gloomy mood. Life is lonely without hugs. And even if our familiar everyday life does eventually manage to return, there will still be plenty of fear and worry about infection and poverty. And yet Pentecost is actually a feast of joy:

“When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2: 1–4).

The Pentecost miracle

Outrageous things happened. The events related in Scripture are often described as the “Pentecost miracle”. Immediately following the initial feelings of helplessness and dread, the miracle unleashed great joy and unprecedented powers! That was how the people of the time must have felt—many of them, in any case. A miracle occurred right before their eyes.

And then Peter began to open his mouth. He held the best sermon of his life, talked about the good old days, made reference to a special future, and made the crowds rejoice:

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know—Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it” (Acts 2: 22–24).

These words cut them to the heart, and many—filled with faith—asked what they should do in order to follow this Jesus Christ. “Repent … be baptised … and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,” was Peter’s answer. And that is the actual message of Pentecost: in order to provide such answers with authority, the church is needed! For this reason, Pentecost is considered the founding date—the birthday—of the church of Christ, because His Apostles courageously made a reality of the mission they had received from the Lord. They stood up, preached, and baptised—and the people felt the power of the Holy Spirit:

“Then those who gladly received his word were baptised; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them” (Acts 2: 41).

That was how things started. Yet the Pentecost miracle continued to spread like wildfire, and new believers were added daily, according to Scripture. The people stayed together, experienced many signs and miracles through the Apostles, held all things in common, were in the temple daily, praised God, and found favour with all the people. These were the immediate effects of the Pentecost miracle.

Let us not allow the miracle to be muted!

With all due respect, we are far removed from that today. The miracle has become history. Christians are being persecuted and killed. Sermons are often found to be nothing but fair weather speeches, and professing a better world has become unfashionable. How could such a thing happen when the start was so powerful and magnificent? Well, that is up to us. We have it in our power to proclaim Christ. We are to work as missionaries, not know-it-alls or doomsday preachers. Rather, we are to spread the gospel with thoughtful and joyful commitment, filled with kindness and love for our neighbour. We are disciples of Jesus. Our working area is the world in which we live. We continue to write the gospel of salvation and redemption with our own pens.

“And they continued steadfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2: 42).

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Peter Johanning