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Pentecost was originally a Jewish feast called Shavuot (Hebrew for Weeks). Today it is both a Jewish and Christian celebration. We call it by its Greek name, Pentecost (50th Day).
Jews are celebrating the giving of the Torah at Mt Sinai, and Christians are celebrating the giving of the Holy Spirit at Mt Moriah, the Temple Mount. The date of Pentecost is directly tied to the date of Passover; God instructed the Israelites to count seven weeks/fifty days between the two.
But why? Why not just set a date for Pentecost? Why this cumbersome counting of seven weeks each year?
Remember, Passover celebrates the deliverance of the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt. Shavuot celebrates the giving of the Torah on Mt Sinai fifty days later. Each of these were considered seminal events in the life of the nation of Israel.
If you asked any Jew over the centuries of their existence what was God’s greatest gift to them, their response would be a quick, automatic, and resounding: “Our deliverance and freedom from Egyptian slavery.”
If you asked what was God’s next great gift, the answer would be just as emphatic: “The giving of the Torah”—what we call The Law.
To the Jews, the Torah was not a burden; it was not a restrictive, rigid set of laws. Instead, the Torah was God’s gift of his teachings, and his instructions on how to live the life that is truly life. It was a wonderful, precious gift to them.
The Jews celebrated God’s two greatest gifts each year in Jerusalem with these feasts:
Passover – The gift of their freedom
Shavuot/Pentecost – The gift of God’s instructions and teachings for life
And these two gifts lead us back to the question: Why date the Shavuot celebration by tying it to fifty days from Passover—a Passover date that floats year to year?
Imagine your birthday was dated by counting fifty days from the death of your grandfather. Each year you had to count fifty days after his death to set your birthday celebration.
One day you ask your mother why, and she responds, “Your grandfather left you a fortune as his gift to you. I do not want you to ever forget his extraordinary act of kindness and grace, his gift that changed your life forever. Each year I have you count the days from his death, so you will always remember him, and his life-changing gift to you.”[i]
For followers of Jesus, the gifts of Passover and Pentecost happen on the same day—the day you are born again. On that day you are freed from slavery and you are given the Holy Spirit.
Are you celebrating the two greatest gifts God could ever give you?
The day he delivered you from your slavery to sin, as well as your slavery to your Self (Self: that most evil and tyrannical slave driver.)
The gift of his Holy Spirit, who gives you the power to remain free from the slavery of your Self, and to have the power to live the life that is truly life.
May you remember, and celebrate, your personal Passover/Pentecost each year. Make a big deal out of it, because it is a big deal.
But more poignantly, have you experienced a personal deliverance from the slavery of sin and Self? Do you have your own personal Passover/Pentecost day to celebrate? Mine is in June of 1995.
If so, party it up!
If not, it is not too late.
Note: To hear much more from me on Pentecost, including many fun and interesting details and connections and teaching points, tune into our YouTube Channel at www.721minsitries.org.
[i] Adopted from Messiah in The Feasts of Israel by Sam Nadler