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When the day of Pentecost arrived.
It may surprise you to learn that the day of Pentecost has been a part of the Church’s celebration a lot longer than either Christmas or Easter. The festival of Pentecost was first established way back when Israel was in the desert making its way to the Promised Land. God told Moses and Moses told the people that when they entered the Promised Land, it would flow with milk and honey. That is, it would be a very fertile land. Lot’s of crops and abundant harvests and plenty of food.
Pentecost is a celebration of the harvest, a harvest festival. Initially, it was called the “Feast of Weeks.” From the day that the first grain was cut, they were to count a ‘week of weeks,’ seven weeks. The time that it would take for them to bring in the harvest. The day after the week of weeks had past, on the 50th day from when the harvest began, they were to bring baskets of the grain to the temple as a thank offering to God for the harvest. “Pentecost” literally means “50th.” “The 50th day” after the first grain was cut.
So the day of Pentecost was originally something like our “Thanksgiving.” A day to give thanks to God for the harvest. Throughout Israel’s history, Pentecost was the celebration of the harvest of grain.
But what kind of harvest are we talking about here in the 2nd chapter of Acts? Everyone who was there for the “Day of Pentecost” was there for the ‘harvest festival’ – to celebrate the harvest of grain.
Little did they know that on this particular Pentecost, there would be another kind of harvest to celebrate. Not a harvest of grain, but harvest of souls. As with all of the Old Testament festivals, the old Pentecost pointed to the new Pentecost that can only be understood through the life of Jesus Christ.
50 days before the day of Pentecost, Jesus rose from the dead. On Easter Sunday, Jesus began to harvest the crop of souls that His suffering and death and resurrection from the dead produced. The holy Seed that was sown in the virgin Mary has produced a crop of Christians, and what a crop it is.
The harvest began with the Apostles. He walked through the locked door of the upper room and said, “‘Peace be with you.’ And when He had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:21-22). That was His little Pentecost.
Later that same evening He came to some of His disciples on their way to Emmaus and and opened their minds. That same evening He ate with them and opened their eyes. The harvest had begun. For 50 days the harvest continued.
Pentecost is a ‘thank offering’ for the harvest. 3,000 souls sounds like a lot, but it was just a small token, just the first-fruits of the the crop of souls that to this very day continue to be brought into the barn, the holy, Christian Church.
The day began at 9:00am. (They had just moved to their ‘summer schedule.’) They were all gathered together in one place. The congregation consisted of the Apostles and who knows how many disciples, all followers of Jesus. Sounds a bit like our gathering here doesn’t it? Followers of Jesus gathered together around the Apostle’s word.
When we gather together, we know its time to settle down and prepare for worship when we hear the ringing of the bells and the prelude. Today, on this Pentecost day, it’s Bach and Buxtehude and the sound of “Komm, Heiligen Geist.” On the first Pentecost the prelude was “the sound of a mighty rushing wind from heaven.” Not even Bach or Buxtehude have ever written music anything like it.
50 days after Easter, the ascended Lord Jesus bends down from the right hand of God the Father almighty and breathes His Holy Breath on them again. This is the Lord’s BIG Pentecost. This is the one that fulfills the Scriptures. “I baptize you with water for repentance… He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matthew 3:11)
The breath He breathed on them 50 days earlier gave them PEACE. The breath that He breathes onto them here gives them SPEECH. “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to SPEAK…”
Just as He had promised, “When the Spirit of truth comes…whatever He hears He will SPEAK… He will take what is mine and DECLARE it to you.” (John 16:13,14)
Just as the prophet Joel had promised, “In those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall PROPHESY.” (Acts 2:18) “Prophecy” is just an Old Testament word for “speaking, declaring, preaching.”
And what speaking it was. We would probably appreciate this more if we lived in Boston or New York City where there are so many different languages. Everyone could understand exactly what was being said. Not because they could interpret foreign languages but because what they were hearing was in their own language.
In the book of Genesis we read that there was a time when the whole world spoke the same language. In the book of Revelation we read that in heaven everyone speaks the same language. But in the meantime, the harvest is gathered language by language.
Jesus told His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful.” (Luke10:2). You and I may not see it that way, but John saw what Jesus saw. In his Revelation, John writes,“I looked and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb…” (Rev.7:9). That’s the harvest of souls that Jesus saw when He said, “the harvest is plentiful,” when Moses talked about a land of ‘milk and honey.’
Ezekiel saw the same plentiful harvest. The same “Spirit of the Lord” Who lead John leads Ezekiel to the plentiful harvest of souls on earth. “[He] set me know in the middle of the valley; it was FULL OF BONES.” “The harvest is plentiful.” “Behold there were VERY MANY on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry.” That looks more like the harvest the way we see it.
Bone dry! Thirsty! Parched! The kind of thirsty the psalmist was talking about when he said, “my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.” (Psalm 22:15). Dry mouth – can’t speak. Dry eyes – can’t see. Dry bones – can’t stand. Exhausted, weary, worn out. “My strength is dried up like a piece of broken pottery.” (Psalm 22:15). Scorched, parched, panting. A mouth full of sand and not enough saliva to spit it out and no one to give you a drink of water. Thirsty!
It’s horrifying to see how many dry-bone skeletons were lying in that valley. And I bet if you were to scan the DNA of those bones, you’d find that it would match ours. Exhausted from trying to keep up with all of the other skeletons in the valley; victims of our own selfishness and the selfishness of others; all hope dehydrated. “Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are clean cut off.”
The Psalmist speaks for all of the skeletons in the valley when he writes, “As a deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, the living God.” (Psalm 42:1). “My soul thirsts for you in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1). “My soul thirsts for You in a parched land.” (Psalm 143:6).
And God hears the prayer of His dry boned people and answers us. In former times, the answer came from the prophets. “Come, everyone who thirsts! Come to the waters and drink,” Isaiah PROPHECIES. (Is. 55:1)
But now in these last days, God has spoken to us by His Son who SPEAKS, “If anyone is thirsty let him come to ME and drink.” (John 7:38). Pointing to the dead water that we drink from Jesus says, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again.” Then pointing to Himself He says, “But whoever drinks of the water that I give Him will never thirst. Indeed the water I give him will become a spring of [living] water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14).
Bubbling up, running over, splashing around. Cool, clear, refreshing LIVING WATER for all who thirst for righteousness in the desert that this world can be.
The Spirit of the Lord asked Ezekiel the question that eats away at every one of us. “Son of man, can these bones live?” Is there any reason for hope, any meaning or purpose, any reason to continue to try? “Then He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones.” “Preach to this dry-boned congregation Ezekiel.” “And say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.”
Hear the word of the Lord who PROPHECIES from the cross, whose tongue was stuck to the roof of his mouth, whose strength was dried up like a piece of broken pottery, who cried out, “I thirst.” He has taken all of your thirst upon Himself. “Thus says the Lord God, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people.”
And the Word spoken, preached, prophesied, has the power of the Holy Spirit in it to do just what it says. “As I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling and the bones came together bone to its bone, and behold… the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.” What a harvest.
The Holy Spirit poured out on the Apostles and Peter PROPHECIED, and 3000 dead in their sins came to life. Three-thousand baptized into the name of Jesus. Three-thousand believed that Jesus died and rose for them. Three thousand received the forgiveness of their sins. Three thousand went back to their homes, bearing the good news of Christ crucified, risen and reigning, SPEAKING in their own native tongue, TELLING their children and coworkers and neighbors the good news.
It was like a field full of ripe dandelions. When the wind blew on them, all the seeds blew off and landed and took root and sprouted and grew into a whole new crop. What a harvest.
The Holy Spirit poured out on you in your baptism. LIVING WATER that hydrates your parched soul with the infallible Word of God that SPEAKS God’s total forgiveness for all of your sins by the blood of Christ, poured out for you from the cross and into the cup and washing over your parched lips in the Sacrament. What a harvest.
So today, we celebrate not just the day of Pentecost in the valley of dry bones, and at the Temple in Jerusalem, but also the great and final Pentecost. The “plentiful harvest.” The “great multitude that no one can number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” We celebrate this day of Pentecost by SPEAKING, PREACHING, PROPHECYING, the message that gives life to the dead. “Christ is risen!” “He is risen indeed!”
“O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Behold, I will cause breath to enter you and you shall live.”