This weekend is Pentecost Sunday, the culmination of the “real time” of the church year. The Christian church celebrates that the Holy Spirit has been poured out on all nations of people.
The “real time” of the festival half of the church year means that we are following the exact chronology of the life of Jesus from Palm Sunday to Pentecost.
In the New Testament, the Gospel writers record various prophetic words of Jesus prior to his crucifixion and resurrection. Christ prepared his apostles for both his ascension into heaven and the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Luke records the actual event of the Ascension of our Lord in Acts 1:6-11: “So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’
“And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. and while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’”
Luke also records the event of the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2:1-8: “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. and suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. and divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
“Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. and at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. and they were amazed and astonished, saying, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? and how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?’”
What effect do these two events have on our lives?
First, Jesus ascended into heaven after completing the work of our redemption. He paid the price for our salvation on the cross, as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. His resurrection proclaims to the whole world that we are justified by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now he rules from God’s right hand in heaven. Since he fills the universe with his presence, he promises to be with us always, until the end of the world.
Second, the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was poured out on the earth after Christ’s ascension. The Gospel is now proclaimed in the all the languages of the world to all people. Jesus is truly present among us through the Word of God. His word comes to us through preaching, teaching, baptism, absolution and holy communion. He is not absent, but he is really present with us.
After Pentecost, on the following weekend, it will be Trinity Sunday. The Athanasian Creed will be spoken, which proclaims the wonderful and powerful mystery of the Holy Trinity. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are Three Persons in One God.
The Holy Spirit has indeed been poured out on all nations of people.