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Pentecost: The Gift of the Holy Spirit
What do Christians celebrate at Pentecost?
Before Jesus returned to heaven he set out for the disciples the work he now expected them to do:
‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’ (Matthew 28:18-20).
This was a tough job for anyone to undertake, there was no way that the disciples could do this on their own. Therefore Jesus had promised that he would send the Holy Spirit to them as a helper. The Holy Spirit would equip the disciples for the task that they had been set; to tell the world about Jesus.
As the disciples gathered together for the festival of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them.
You can read all about this in Acts 2.
The disciples felt brave as a consequence of receiving the Holy Spirit and they went into the centre of Jerusalem They talked boldly about the good news of Jesus’ life, his death on the cross and how he came back to life. The central square was full of people from many different countries who had come to celebrate the festival of Pentecost. The disciples were able to speak in all the variety of languages that the gathered crowd spoke and the visitors were amazed to hear the gospel message in their own mother tongue.
Some thought it was a miracle. But others thought the disciples were drunk. The disciples pointed out that it was only nine o’clock in the morning. Peter, the disciple who had denied even knowing Jesus just a few short weeks before, explained to the people what had happened. He explained that the gift of the Holy Spirit was the fulfilment of the prophecy given to Joel, as recorded in the Old Testament of the Bible.
Peter went on to explain how Jesus was even more important than King David, who the Jews believed was an image of what the Messiah (the special leader sent from God) should be like. Peter believed that Jesus fulfilled the promises God had made.
Today Christians celebrate Pentecost as the birthday of the Christian Church and remember especially the gift of the Holy Spirit. Many churches will be decorated in red and special banners will be hung up. Christians will often join together to celebrate perhaps with a march of witness, or fun events like a party in a local park with Christian bands and special speakers.