Two Psalms for Easter

Lately I’ve been publishing a series of Psalms on this blog. With Easter Sunday quickly approaching, I began a search to find the Psalms that are often quoted for Easter. Two Psalms that were prominent (among several) in the results from my search are Psalm 16 and Psalm 118. Psalm 16 was written by David, and while the author of Psalm 118 is not named, “there is reason to believe it was [authored by] King David” (quote source here).

In an article published on April 7, 2020 on PorticoArlington.org titled, Preparing for Easter: Psalm 16 (the author’s name is not mentioned), the article states:

Psalm 16:1-11 is a Psalm that is uniquely helpful in preparing for Easter Sunday. This might not be obvious upon a first reading of this Psalm, (or even a second!), however, both Peter and Paul clearly understood the application that this Psalm had for the resurrection of Christ.

In Acts 2:25-28 Peter uses the text of this Psalm as a primary text for hisPentecost Sermonwhen he is discussing the impossibility of Jesus being held in death. The LORD had promised David an imperishable inheritance, and Christ is that inheritance! For Peter, Jesus is clearly the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise that David is claiming in Psalm 16.

In Acts 13:35, Paul also references this Psalm to show the continuity of the Old Testament promise of good news and the New Testament fulfillment of that good news in Jesus Christ. Here, we see one of the many ways that Jesus is greater and better than David, namely that he did not see corruption. David ultimately failed to be a pure hearted King, Jesus, on the other hand, is the perfect King that Israel had longed for. The evidence of Jesus’ purity is the resurrection. Death could not hold him because he was righteous.

Now that we have seen how this Psalm is pointing to Jesus and finds its fulfillment in him, let’s consider the ultimate hope of this Psalm. David’s hope is connected to the presence of the LORD. The presence of the Lord brings refuge (Psalm 16:1), community (Psalm 16:3), provision and sustenance (Psalm 16:5), beautiful inheritance (Psalm 16:6), wisdom (Psalm 16:7), stability (Psalm 16:8), joy (Psalm 16:9), eternal security (Psalm 16:10), eternal pleasure (Psalm 16:11). All of these blessings come with the presence of the LORD and they are ultimately dependent on God fulfilling his promises to David. If the promises rest on the faithfulness of David, there is no hope of these blessings. And if we pursue the blessings apart from the only faithful servant, our hope is fading at best.

This Easter Sunday, perhaps more tangibly than many of us have experienced before, we can direct our hearts to the only place where an undefiled hope can be found: to the presence of the LORD in Jesus and by the power of the Spirit. (Quote source here.)

Here are the eleven verses in Psalm 16 (ESV):

A Miktam of David.

1 Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
    I have no good apart from you.”

As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
    in whom is all my delight.

The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
    their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
    or take their names on my lips.

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
    you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
    in the night also my heart instructs me.
I have set the Lord always before me;
    because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
    my flesh also dwells secure.
10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
    or let your holy one see corruption.

11 You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Regarding the second psalm, Psalm 118, in The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik, teaching pastor at Calvary Chapel SB, Bible teacher, and author of the The Enduring Word Bible Commentary, he begins his comments on this psalm with the following (his entire commentary on Psalm 118 is available at this link):

Psalm 118 does not name an author in its title, but there is reason to believe it was King David, the Sweet Psalmist of Israel. Ezra 3:10-11 suggests that Psalm 118 was sung at the founding of the second temple, and when they sang it, they attributed it to David (“according to the ordinance of David king of Israel,” Ezra 3:10).

“Most probably David was the author of this psalm…. It partakes of David’s spirit, and everywhere shows the hand of a master. The style is grand and noble; the subject, majestic.” (Adam Clarke)

Though this was likely David’s psalm, it was also Jesus’ psalm. “This is pre-eminently the triumph song of the Christ, He the ideal Servant, He the perfect Priest, He the Leader of the people. How much all these words meant to Him as He sang them on that night in the upper room.” (G. Campbell Morgan)

Though this was likely David’s psalm, it was also Luther’s psalm. This is my own beloved psalm. Although the entire Psalter and all of Holy Scripture are dear to me as my only comfort and source of life, I fell in love with this psalm especially. Therefore I call it my own. When emperors and kings, the wise and the learned, and even saints could not aid me, this psalm proved a friend and helped me out of many great troubles. As a result, it is dearer to me than all the wealth, honor, and power of the pope, the Turk, and the emperor. I would be most unwilling to trade this psalm for all of it.” (Martin Luther, cited by James Montgomery Boice) (Quote source and complete commentary are available at this link.)

Here are the 29 verses in Psalm 118 (NKJV):

1 Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.

Let Israel now say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron now say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
Let those who fear the Lord now say,
“His mercy endures forever.”

I called on the Lord in distress;
The Lord answered me and set me in a broad place.
The Lord is on my side;
I will not fear.
What can man do to me?
The Lord is for me among those who help me;
Therefore I shall see my desire on those who hate me.
It is better to trust in the Lord
Than to put confidence in man.
It is better to trust in the Lord
Than to put confidence in princes.

10 All nations surrounded me,
But in the name of the Lord I will destroy them.
11 They surrounded me,
Yes, they surrounded me;
But in the name of the Lord I will destroy them.
12 They surrounded me like bees;
They were quenched like a fire of thorns;
For in the name of the Lord I will destroy them.
13 You pushed me violently, that I might fall,
But the Lord helped me.
14 The Lord is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation.

15 The voice of rejoicing and salvation
Is in the tents of the righteous;
The right hand of the Lord does valiantly.
16 The right hand of the Lord is exalted;
The right hand of the Lord does valiantly.
17 I shall not die, but live,
And declare the works of the Lord.
18 The Lord has chastened me severely,
But He has not given me over to death.

19 Open to me the gates of righteousness;
I will go through them,
And I will praise the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord,
Through which the righteous shall enter.

21 I will praise You,
For You have answered me,
And have become my salvation.

22 The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This was the Lord’s doing;
It is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day the Lord has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it.

25 Save now, I pray, O Lord;
Lord, I pray, send now prosperity.
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
We have blessed you from the house of the Lord.
27 God is the Lord,
And He has given us light;
Bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.
28 You are my God, and I will praise You;
You are my God, I will exalt You.

29 Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.

As Easter Sunday approaches, let us take the words of Jesus found in John 11:25-26 into our hearts and our lives–“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” That is a question we all must answer.

I’ll end this post with the words from John 3:16-17: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son [Jesus Christ], that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world…

But to save . . .

The world . . .

Through him . . . .

YouTube Video: “Jireh” sung by Elevation Worship & Maverick City, and premiered on March 26, 2021:

YouTube Video: “Jesus Saves/Easter Song” sung by the Worship Team at Northland Church on Easter Sunday, April 12, 2009:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here

This Season of New Beginnings

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”Jesus Christ (John 20:29).
While it might not be common knowledge, the Easter season actually extends for 50 days beyond Easter to Pentecost, which will be celebrated this year on Sunday, May 23, 2021. These 50 days are referred to as “Eastertide” or a “season of Pentecost”.

In an article titled, Why is the Easter season 50 days long?” (the content of this article was produced by Ask The UMC, a ministry of United Methodist Communications), the article states the following:

Easter for Christians is not just one day–it’s a 50-day period. The season of Easter, or Eastertide, begins at sunset on the eve of Easter and ends on Pentecost, the day we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church (see Acts 2).

Easter season is more than just an extended celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. In the early church, Lent was a season for new converts to learn about the faith and prepare for baptism on Easter Sunday. The initial purpose of the 50-day Easter season was to continue the faith formation of these new Christians.

Today, this extended season gives us time to rejoice and experience what it means when we say Christ is risen. It’s the season when we remember our baptisms and how, through this sacrament, we are “incorporated into Christ’s mighty acts of salvation.” As “Easter people,” we celebrate and ponder the birth of the Church and gifts of the Spirit (Pentecost), and how we are to live as faithful disciples of Christ.

Many churches use these weeks to teach the theology of the sacraments and help people discern their spiritual gifts and callings. Congregations may have a service of commissioning laypersons into ministry as part of their Pentecost celebration. (Quote source here.)

An article titled, What is Pentecost?” by Dr. Ray Pritchard, author, speaker, and President of Keep Believing Ministries, describes the significance of Pentecost to Christianity, and it is available at this link. A brief explanation is found in an article published on May 29, 2020, titled, When is Pentecost This Year? Why Do Christians Celebrate It?” compiled and edited by the Crosswalk.com editorial staff:

Pentecost is a Christian holiday, observed on the seventh Sunday after Easter, that celebrates the blessing of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ as mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:1-31). The day of Pentecost is known in the Christian Church as the day on which the Spirit descended upon the apostles, and under Peter’s preaching, so many thousands were converted in Jerusalem.

Why do Christians celebrate Pentecost?

According to Ray Pritchard from Christianity.com, “Modern Christians observe Pentecost as a holiday, not to celebrate a wheat harvest, but to remember when the Holy Spirit invaded the Church in Acts 2.”

The description in Act 2 states that, after Jesus ascended into heaven, Jesus’ followers were gathered together for the Feast of Harvest (aka Pentecost), and the Holy Spirit “filled the whole house where they were sitting” (Acts 2:2). “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:4). This unusual event drew a large crowd, and Peter stood up to speak to them about repentance and the gospel of Christ (Acts 2:14). By the end of the day that the Holy Spirit came, the Church grew by 3,000 people (Acts 2:41). This is why Christians still celebrate Pentecost… (Quote source here.)

In an article published on June 17, 2017, titled, The Grand Diamond of the Psalter (Psalm 119: 1-16),” by Dr. Timothy C. Tennent, professor of World Christianity and President of Asbury Theological Seminary, he states:

The season of Pentecost has always been a season in which the church instructed new believers. So, I thought it would be helpful if over the next eight Sundays [note: this article is part of a sermon series], our Daily Text focused entirely on Psalm 119. Psalm 119 is the grand wisdom psalm of the Bible. With 176 verses, this psalm is to the rest of the psalter [Book of Psalms] what the Grand Canyon is to all other canyons. Psalm 119 is not only the longest psalm in the Bible, but also the most extensive acrostic in the psalter. Each of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet are called forth to offer eight verses of praise. Each of the eight verses under each of the headings begins with that letter, making it the grand acrostic of wisdom. Even most English Bibles seek to honor the exquisite construction of this psalm by retaining the name of each Hebrew letter at the heading of each of the eight verse sections.

This psalm’s intricate plan is designed to aid in memorization and thereby help train young people in the nature and content of God’s Law. Like a wise grandfather with his grandchildren at his knee, this psalm seems to gather up all the wisdom of the Scriptures and turn it into a glorious act of praise and an ever rising crescendo of instruction and catechesis which makes it one of the great treasures of the Bible. This psalm is like a precious diamond with multiple facets, and it will take us eight Sundays to complete just this one psalm!

The opening insight of Psalm 119 is that this psalm is a celebration of God’s Law. In the Hebrew world, the number seven was considered the number of perfection. So, one might expect to find seven different words for the Law. We actually find eight different Hebrew words repeated throughout the psalm. This is because it is an act of praise. Seven may be the number of perfection, but eight is perfection with a superlative. It is the addition of joy. It is like a baker’s dozen, which is 13, as an added dose of joy to the standard twelve. For the same reason, we have divided Psalm 119 into 8 separate meditations, as our own kind of superlative of praise. None of the 22 stanzas of this psalm ever contain fewer than six of the eight words, and six of the stanzas contain all eight.  Remarkably, only four of the 176 verses do not contain (in the Hebrew text) at least one of these eight words for God’s revelation.

In singing or reading through the first two stanzas of this psalm, just let the words flow over you. We will discuss the meaning of the words next week, but for now, just sense the exuberance and joy of this psalm. As Christians, we sometimes see God’s Word (one of the terms for law) as burdensome. This psalm is the great liberation from that perspective. It is his word that allows a “young man to keep his way pure” (vs. 9). Notice how he joyfully memorizes and cherishes God’s word: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (vs. 11). So, may the grand psalm of 119 transport you to that delightful place of joy. May you find yourself saying with the psalmist: “I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches” (vs. 13). The psalm is like a rare and perfectly cut diamond, and all eight of these terms become the various facets or cuts in the diamond which allow us to see its beauty and majesty. Welcome to the joyous journey of Psalm 119! (Quote source here.) [Below are the first two stanzas, “Aleph” and “Beth,” of Psalm 119 (verses 1-16)]:

Psalm 119:1-16 (NIV)

Aleph

Blessed are those whose ways are blameless,
who walk according to the law of the LORD.
Blessed are those who keep his statutes
and seek him with all their heart—
they do no wrong
but follow his ways.
You have laid down precepts
that are to be fully obeyed.
Oh, that my ways were steadfast
in obeying your decrees!
Then I would not be put to shame
when I consider all your commands.
I will praise you with an upright heart
as I learn your righteous laws.
I will obey your decrees;
do not utterly forsake me.

Beth

How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
By living according to your word.
I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.
I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.
Praise be to you, LORD;
teach me your decrees.
With my lips I recount
all the laws that come from your mouth.
I rejoice in following your statutes
as one rejoices in great riches.
I meditate on your precepts
and consider your ways.
I delight in your decrees;
I will not neglect your word.

The rest of Dr. Tennent’s 2017 series on Psalm 119 can be read at these links:

Taking some time each day or week to read and study Psalm 119 is a great way to journey through these next few weeks leading up to Pentecost.

And here’s one last an article for this blog post that was published today, April 5, 2021, titled, 6 Prayers to Pray the Week After Easter,” by Lysa TerKeurst, speaker, author and President of Proverbs 31 Ministries. She writes:

“The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: “He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.” Now I have told you.'” —Matthew 28:5-7 (NIV)

I don’t think Easter is quite done with me yet.

I know what glorious things this Holy Day says to the world at large.

But what does Jesus want me to know, to think about, to wrestle through at this time of year? This season of new beginnings.

So, I’m lingering here a bit longer.

I feel like the girl who wears the same outfit to school two days in a row. Easter is done now. Time to put it back in the closet. Only for me it isn’t. I want to wear it again today, tomorrow and many more tomorrows.

After all, Easter is no longer a ritual to me. It’s a revelation. A time where Jesus splits my soul along the fault line of a scar deep within: I was an unwanted child to my birth dad.

Unwanted.

But to Jesus… I was wanted so much that He gave His life for me. It feels so personal. Even though I know God so loved the world, He gave His son, it becomes very individual if we let it.

Be personal.

With Jesus.

Yes.

So, in the midst of a world putting Easter away, might we let it sit with us for just a bit more?

I keep my Bible open to the place where the angel spoke to the women at the tomb. And I tangle my thoughts around His words from Matthew 28 as six prayers emerge….

• “Do not be afraid,” – God, I hand over to You those things that make me so afraid. Resurrect the parts of my faith squelched by fear.

• “I know that you are looking for Jesus,” – God, when my soul is searching, help me know the answer to every longing can be found in You.

• “He has risen,” – God, the fact that Jesus is risen should lift my head, my heart and my attitude. Help me to live today as if I really believe this with every part of my life.

• “just as he said,” – Jesus, You keep Your promises. Help me live as though I believe that with every part of me. Help me trust You more, obey You more and resemble You more.

• “Come and see,” – Jesus, You had the angels invite the women in to see for themselves that You had risen. You invite me into these personal revelations every day. Forgive me for sometimes rushing about and forgetting to come and see for myself… You, Your Word, Your insights.

• “Then go quickly and tell his disciples,” – Jesus, I don’t want to be a secret keeper with my faith. I want to be a bold and gracious truth proclaimer. For You. With You. Because of You. Me, the unwanted girl whom You loved, redeemed and wanted.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Yes, let this miraculous Easter be personal. And prayerful. And linger a bit longer.

Dear Lord, I want to let Your Truth sink deep down into my heart and soul today. Help me stay focused on You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post with the words of Jesus from Matthew 11:28-30: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls…

For my yoke is easy . . .

And my burden . . .

Is light . . . .

YouTube Video: “The Father’s House” by Cory Asbury:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

The Road to Pentecost

“One of the great metaphors of the Bible is “the journey.” The Bible is filled with journey upon journey. From Genesis to Revelation, Scripture is full of people on the move”. . . .

The quote above is taken from a Holy Week sermon in 2009 titled, Three Journeys,” given by The Reverend Michael Seiler, Managing Associate Rector, at The Parish of Saint Matthew in Pacific Palisades, California. Here is more from that sermon:

In the beginning of the Old Testament, Abraham journeys from Ur of the Chaldees to the Promised Land. Many generations later, Abraham’s descendants journey from slavery and oppression in Egypt into the land of Israel. Many generations after that, they journey back to their Promised Land after the tragic downfall of their civilization and their forced exile in Babylon. In the New Testament, Jesus himself journeys through Palestine, preaching the Good News of the Kingdom of God. As he journeys, he shows people what that Kingdom looks like by his deeds of love and power. After the Resurrection, Paul and the apostles journey all over the Roman Empire, and their message reaches to the ends of the earth – and here we are, millennia later, with our journeys touching theirs.

It makes sense that the concept of “the journey” would be so central to Scripture, because we human beings are journeying people. We make sense of our lives by understanding them as journeys, as the unfolding story of who we are and what we do in the world. We think and talk and worry about our career arcs, or our family histories, or our financial forecasts, or our estate plans. In our better moments we think and talk and pray about our spiritual journeys – all ways of thinking about our lives, our stories, about the journey that has been, and the journey that will be. In some deep way, journeying is an elemental part of who we are as human beings.

This image, this metaphor of the journey has been very helpful to me over the past week or so, as I’ve tried to understand the deeper meaning of this morning’s reading from the twelfth chapter of John’s Gospel. John tells us in this passage about the moment when several different journeys intersect, and he tells us something about what it means that those journeys come together.

The first journeyer in John’s Gospel is, of course, Jesus himself. From its very first words, John’s Gospel makes it clear that Jesus is on a journey – a journey that is far more than just a walking tour of Palestine. The pre-eternal Word of God, who is with God and who is God, has journeyed into this world, has chosen to be with us, to become flesh, to reveal his divine being and nature and love to us by becoming a human person in the man Jesus of Nazareth. For John’s Gospel, this is the first and greatest journey – the cosmic journey of Christ from the Father into this world, through suffering and death and then back to the glory of the Father. Every other journey in John’s Gospel, all of the lives and experiences of all the other people in John’s Gospel, only make sense in the light of that great journey of Christ. John’s Gospel wants to tell us that apart from the great journey of Christ, our lives don’t really get anywhere.

Apart from the grace and power and love of Christ, our lives are just a kind of going in circles. But, John wants to tell us, in the light of the great journey of Christ, our lives can be a journey into God.

There are other journeyers in this morning’s Gospel. John doesn’t tell us their names – all we know about them is that they are “some Greeks.” They are the only Greeks – the only non-Jews, that is – in John’s Gospel [see John 12:20-33] who encounter Jesus during his ministry. They have somehow heard of Jesus, they have learned something about him, and what they’ve learned has given them a desire to be with him. They have journeyed to be with Jesus, perhaps over a very long distance. That distance may be geographical, or spiritual, or both. They seek out the follower of Jesus who has the most Greek-sounding name – Philip – and they ask Philip to arrange a meeting with Jesus. And in this moment, their lives, their journeys, and the cosmic journey of Christ from God and to God, suddenly and dramatically intersect.

And that, Jesus says, is precisely the point. The journey of Jesus, the journey of destiny and salvation and healing that he is traveling, now starts to touch not just Jews but non-Jews. The Greeks have arrived. “The hour,” Jesus’ decisive moment of glory and revelation that will climax in the Cross, has come. This is the moment, in John’s Gospel, when the full meaning and power of Jesus’ journey begins to be revealed. This is the moment when the saving journey of Christ begins to be revealed as the work of God that will heal and save and transform not just the covenant people of Israel, but the whole human race. “The hour has come,” Jesus says, “and when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.”

These mysterious, unnamed Greeks become the sign that all human journeys, all human lives, find their meaning in Christ. These mysterious, unnamed Greeks are the people through whom Jesus demonstrates that he is drawing every person, bending every journey, toward himself. Christ, now that he is lifted up from the earth by his crucifixion and his resurrection, has become the pole star, the magnetic north, for every journey, for every person, for the meaning and destiny of every individual and of the whole human race. All our journeys are destined to find their meaning by intersecting his great journey. Until our journeys are caught up in the journey of Christ from God and to God, we really are just going around in circles of our own making. Once we make Christ’s journey our own – or rather, once Christ makes our journey his own – then and only then are we are safely on the road to God. . . .

But there is one last detail about this Gospel passage that has puzzled me for years. What happened to the Greeks? Do they get to see Jesus? Doesn’t Jesus ever talk to them? Do they ever get what they came for? John’s Gospel doesn’t say. It just leaves them – and us – hanging. And for years, that loose end in the story drove me crazy.

But now I think I am starting to understand. I think the Greeks did see Jesus. I think John’s Gospel is suggesting to us that the Greeks did see everything they needed to see of Jesus – because they had come to Jerusalem, and they were going to see his suffering and his death and perhaps even be eyewitnesses of his Resurrection. It’s as if they came seeking an interview, but what they got was to SEE the cataclysmic, earthshaking events that were going to unfold in Jerusalem over the next few days. If they showed up, they would see. If they saw, and let the cosmic journey of Christ fully intersect theirs – if they saw, and understood what they were seeing, and if they believed – they would find what they were seeking. They just needed to show up for the next few days. They needed to show up – for Holy Week. They had to be brave enough to take it all in, and to believe what they heard and saw. (Quote source here.)

This coming Sunday is Pentecost Sunday, and it marks the end of the seven week Easter Season also known as Eastertide which is the time between the resurrection of Jesus Christ celebrated on Easter Sunday and the filling of the Holy Spirit in his disciples and followers in the Upper Room fifty days later (known as Pentecost–see Acts 2). In an article titled, What is Pentecost? Why Does It Matter?” by Rev. Dr. Mark D. Roberts, pastor, author, leader, speaker, blogger, and Executive Director of the Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Seminary, he states:

On the day of Pentecost, seven weeks after the resurrection of Jesus, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon those followers of Jesus who had gathered together in Jerusalem. What happened on the first Pentecost continues to happen to Christians throughout the world today, though usually not in such a dramatic fashion. We rarely get a heavenly wind and tongues of fire anymore. Nevertheless, God pours out the Spirit upon all who put their faith in Jesus Christ and become his disciples (see Romans 8:1-11).

Christians are meant to live in the presence and power of the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit helps us to confess Jesus as Lord (1 Cor 12:3), empowers us to serve God with supernatural power (1 Cor 12:4-11), binds us together as the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:12-13), helps us to pray (Rom 8:26), and even intercedes for us with God the Father (Rom 8:27). The Spirit guides us (Gal 5:25), helping us to live like Jesus (Gal 5:22-23).

Personal Implications: Pentecost presents us with an opportunity to consider how we are living each day. Are we relying on the power of God’s Spirit? Are we an open channel for the Spirit’s gifts? Are we attentive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit? Is the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, etc.) growing in our lives? Most Christians I know, including me, live in the presence and power of the Spirit, but only to an extent. We are limited by our fear, our sin, our low expectations, not to mention our tendency to be distracted from God’s work in us. Pentecost offers a chance to confess our failure to live by the Spirit and to ask the Lord to fill us afresh with his power.

On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended on individual followers of Jesus as they were gathered together in Jerusalem. This gathering became the first Christian church. New believers in Jesus were baptized as they joined this church. They, along with the first followers of Jesus, shared life together, focusing on teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. They shared their belongings so that no one was hungry or needy. As these first Christians lived out their new faith together, “the Lord added to their number those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). Thus we speak of Pentecost as the birthday of the church.

In theory, the Spirit could have been poured out on the followers of Jesus when they were not gathered together. There are surely times when the Holy Spirit touches an individual who is alone in prayer, worship, or ministry to others. But the fact that the Spirit was given to a gathering of believers is not incidental. It underscores the centrality of the church in God’s work in the world. The actions of the earliest Christians put all of this in boldface. The Holy Spirit is not only given to individuals, but also, in a sense to the gathered people of God. Thus, in 1 Corinthians 3, the Apostle Paul observes that the church is God’s temple and that the Spirit dwells in the midst of the church (3:16-17; in 1 Cor 6:19-20 we find a complementary emphasis on the dwelling of the Spirit in individual Christians). (Quote source here.)

GotQuestion.org adds the following information on Pentecost Sunday:

Today, in many Christian churches, Pentecost Sunday is celebrated to recognize the gift of the Holy Spirit, realizing that God’s very life, breath and energy live in believers. During this service, John 20:19-23 may be the core of the message about our risen Savior supernaturally appearing to the fear-laden disciples. Their fear gave way to joy when the Lord showed them His hands and side. He assured them peace and repeated the command given in Matthew 28:19-20, saying, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Then He breathed on them, and they received the Holy Spirit (John 20:21-23).

The celebration of Pentecost Sunday reminds us of the reality that we all have the unifying Spirit that was poured out upon the first-century church in Acts 2:1-4. It is a reminder that we are co-heirs with Christ, to suffer with Him that we may also be glorified with Him; that the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7); that we are all baptized by one Spirit into one body (1 Corinthians 12:13); and that the Spirit which raised Jesus from the dead lives inside believers (Romans 8:9-11). This gift of the Holy Spirit that was promised and given to all believers on the first Pentecost is promised for you and your children and for all who are far off whom the Lord our God will call (Acts 2:39). (Quote source here.)

The road from Easter to Pentecost is one of the many roads we as Christians take in our journey of faith. It is crucial that we remember what Jesus said in John 15:5I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit . . .

For apart from me . . .

You can do . . .

Nothing . . . .

YouTube Video: “Which Way the Winds Blows” by the 2nd Chapter of Acts (1974):

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here