“The Holy Spirit”
The Day of Pentecost, May 23, 2021
The Holy Spirit
Text: Acts 2:1–21
Today is the birthday of the Christian Church. Today, We Celebrate the Outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Before ascending to heaven, Jesus promised His believers that another counselor would come (Jn 14:16). God kept His promise by sending the Holy Spirit to the believers.
The Holy Spirit is God, and He is a spirit, which means He doesn’t have a physical body. However, He appeared in the form of fire to the people gathered to celebrate Pentecost. Why did the Holy Spirit do this? For the sake of people, He became “visible.” He wanted people to see His presence and be comforted. God is powerful, and whenever the Lord would interact with His creation, especially with His crown of creation, which is us, people, something extraordinary happens.
Acts 2 gives that long list of people gathered in Jerusalem from all over the Roman world. Why were they in Jerusalem in the first place? Pentecost was one of the major Jewish feasts, it was a thanksgiving to God for the first fruits of the harvest, and Jewish people who were scattered all over the world would go to Jerusalem to worship the Lord during this feast.
The point of the feast was to give thanks emphasize that the Lord is the one who blesses us. Additionally, the Jews reminded themselves that it was God who made crops to grow and yield the harvest, that the Lord was responsible for everything good. Perhaps the Jews were tempted to view only the physical blessings on Pentecost, but God sent the Holy Spirit to focus on His desire to save the souls of people as well. A festival of harvest would now become a festival of God harvesting souls!
So the Holy Spirit gave to His small band of believers special abilities to speak in different languages. Obviously, this is a miracle! These blue-collar men of Galilee were able to speak their messages not only in the Greek language, which all those visitors to Jerusalem could already understand, but in the local languages of these people from all the various regions of the Roman Empire and beyond. Everyone visiting appreciated hearing the Gospel in their own language. It’s the part of the Pentecost accounts many remember best.
The text gives no details on what these first messages were all about. However, they were surely connected to how the promises given to the Old Testament people were fulfilled in Jesus Christ, just the way that Jesus explained to the two disciples on the way to Emmaus (Lk 24:27).
After hearing all this, what were the reactions of the crowd? All were amazed. But some looked at these followers of Jesus and started to mock them and make fun of them, saying that these Galileans were drunk. Now, we know this isn’t right. And I can tell you why it isn’t right. In your life, have you ever seen someone who got smarter when they were drunk? Anyone? It doesn’t work that way, does it.
Peter, the apostle who had denied Jesus three times to save his skin, now stood up courageously and defended his brothers by reminding everyone of the words spoken by the prophet Joel. God made the promise to pour out His Spirit on all people. Pentecost is the time when His promise was fulfilled. The Old Testament believers trusted that the Lord would follow through on what He promised. And He did.
Now, with all that being said, How is the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy relevant to us? The Holy Spirit continues to convert to faith people of all nations and continues to preserve people in the faith, just the way He did in the first century, with both Jews and Gentiles, males and females, slaves and free. Remember we talked about that two weeks ago. These faithful people of God then carried out the “Great Commission” themselves; they truly became the witnesses of the love of Jesus, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ was proclaimed in many places.
We are the evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit done by the voices of those faithful Christians. Somehow the Gospel has reached our ears and our hearts. We’ve heard what brought these first few believers together: Jesus—His death on the cross, His rising from the grave, that has taken away our sins. The Holy Spirit has ever since been announcing Jesus Christ crucified. That’s the reason we now know Jesus Christ as our Savior. God’s desire to save started from the beginning of time, and He’s still at work. The Holy Spirit is strengthening our faith through the Gospel and Sacraments. The Word of God is the power of God for salvation to all who believe (Rom 1:16). (BREAK)
And we remember this and celebrate this with these folks this morning. We rejoice as a church that they are here today, that the Holy Spirit is in their hearts and that they believe that Jesus Christ is their Savior. In a few moments we will observe, for them, the rite of confirmation. What is confirmation about? Is confirmation equivalent to graduation? The answer to that is no. I know it kind of looks like a graduation here, but that is not what we are up to today. And I have impressed that upon all those who have had confirmation class with me. These confirmands have not learned everything they need to know about God, so that they do not have to come to church anymore. Instead, they have learned the basics of what they need to know about God to help understand what is going on in the Lord’s Supper, Baptism, and all the major doctrines of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. They have been given the information they need to be responsible communicant members of this, and future, congregations. Today is the beginning of their communicant membership here, not an end. So what is confirmation then? It says in the catechism, “Confirmation is a public rite of the church preceded by a period of instruction designed to help baptized Christians identify with the life and mission of the Christian community.”
In other words, confirmation is that period of time where we as a church body, take the time to educate our young people on the Word of God, and the way our church body interprets that Word of God. It is the opportunity we take to teach them the doctrines of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, so that when they come to the communion rail, they know what they will be receiving there, and have that faith in common with those who come up to the rail with them. And we start to equip them in such a way that they may share their faith and what they know about Jesus.
And I need to remind you, and you all, that we need Jesus. One of the things going on in our church body today, and has been going on for decades, is the number of young people who disappear from church from the time they are confirmed to the time they get married or need a baby baptized, or the number who never come back. I don’t believe that is going to happen with you. I don’t think your families will allow it. But when you go off on your own, whether that is to college or whenever, the devil will tempt you to think that you don’t need to go to church. That you don’t need Jesus. But you do. And you will. We all do and we all will.
Therefore, it is a big deal today that Zachary, Violet and Behrend are going to stand up here in a few moments, and confess their faith in Jesus as their Savior, as well as partake of the Lord’s Supper for the first time.
(BREAK) We all have the assurance that we have the Holy Spirit in here, and we are all the people of Pentecost. As Paul says, “We are the jars of clay bearing the treasure” (see 2 Cor 4:7). The Lord uses people like us, sinful and weak, to speak/live the Gospel to others. How can we do this? It is the Holy Spirit living in us who is saving people, and He alone is enabling us to proclaim His WORD, His Gospel.
Whenever we are disappointed at our frailties and sins, we remember our gracious God, who sacrificed Himself for us on the cross. He did not remain dead there but kept His promise by rising again and conquering death. By His conquering power, given to us by the Holy Spirit, our God will accomplish His will through us, just the way those lowly Galileans became the proclaimers of the almighty God on Pentecost.
This will be the mission of the Church until that other day the prophet Joel foresaw, that Peter preached about on Pentecost, the day Jesus returns. Jesus is coming back again. And until then, we need to remember that we all need Jesus. We need to be here, gathered around here. We need the Holy Spirit, and we need what He gives us: faith, forgiveness and eternal life. We need it, and because of what Jesus did and because of what the Holy Spirit gives, we have it.
In the Name of Jesus.