Thursday, 24 May 2012 14:20
“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place”, explains Luke in the second chapter of Acts. “And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.” But where were they sitting? The answer might surprise you...
The day of Pentecost is the fiftieth day after Passover. God instructed his people to count seven weeks, that is seven times seven - 49 days, until they arrive at the Feast of Weeks.
The holiday can be called Pentecost (from the number 50) or The Feast of Weeks (‘Shavuot’ in Hebrew).
In Jewish tradition, it is believed that the Torah, or Law, was given to Moses on Mount Sinai at Pentecost, 50 days after they escaped from Egypt. For this reason, those who wish to celebrate the giving of the Torah stay up all night reading it! It is thought to help bring redemption and healing to the world, or “tikkun”. The giving of the Torah at Sinai was a definitive event for the Jewish people, as they were now as a nation called to be different and follow God’s unique laws for them.
But as important as that moment was, God had even greater plans to come for the whole world.
The three main Jewish high holidays that require all of Israel to make the trek to the temple are: Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. All of the people of Israel were to go up to Jerusalem to celebrate these three main festivals. So Jewish people would come from all around - even from other countries - to Jerusalem for this feast. Where were they to go? The temple.
So looking again at the description of Acts 2, we find that they were sitting in one place, and that when the Spirit came upon them and they started to speak in other languages, people around them from many different countries were amazed: “Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”
They were not locked up in a house, but were in public - in the temple area. God’s Spirit was poured out on “all flesh” as the prophet Joel said, and now his dwelling place is with men - all kinds of men and women, from all nations. At this stage, all of these people from different countries were Jewish - either by birth or “proselytes” that had converted to Judaism, but soon after that, Peter would discover that God was planning the unthinkable - that his Spirit would also be poured out to the Gentiles.