Sermon for Pentecost based on Acts 2:1-21 and John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15
Dear hearers of the Gospel: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Pentecost is one of the three chief holy days of the Church, along with Christmas and Easter. Fifty days after Easter, it is the day that the Gospel goes into all the world. It is the day that the Christmas and Easter message is heard by peoples of different nations and languages. Pentecost is thus considered the day the Christian Church was born.
So that peoples of different languages could hear and understand the Gospel, the Holy Spirit gave the apostles the supernatural ability to speak the Gospel in the languages of the people visiting Jerusalem from all over the known world. It was the miracle prophesied by the prophet Joel.
Pentecost was a reversal of what God had done at Babel. At Babel, God confused the language of all the earth.
The people of the earth gathered together in sinful pride at Babel. God had blessed Noah and his family, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth,” (Gen. 9:1) but not much later the people gathered in Babel so that they would not be dispersed over the face of the earth (Gen. 11:4). They wanted to make a name for themselves. They saw no need for God to get to heaven. They wanted to build a tower themselves that reached heaven. They trusted in themselves and were united in rebellion against God.
In order to squash their rebellion, God confused their language. No, God was not concerned that they could actually build a tower to reach heaven, but He was concerned at their rebellious attitude towards Him. They did not want to follow God’s instructions to fill the earth, so God confused their language and forced them to disperse and fill the earth. God crushed their rebellious pride as He took even their ability to communicate away.
Pentecost, however, was to unite all the peoples of the earth. It was to unify all nations in the promises of the Gospel. On Pentecost, God overcame the confusion of language, as each person heard the Gospel in his own language. This is because the Gospel is for every nation, for all tribes and peoples and languages (cf. Rev. 7:9). On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit bore witness about Jesus, that His death was for everyone; that He is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world; that He rose again from the dead to open the kingdom of heaven to all believers.
The Holy Spirit continues to do what He started on Pentecost. He continues to convict the world concerning sin (Jn 16:8).
The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in Jesus for salvation. He convicts us of our rebellion against God and leads us to repentance. He convicts us that by ourselves, we are dry bones, but through Jesus, the Holy Spirit has given us the breath of life so that we will live eternally (cf. Ezk. 27:1-14).
The Holy Spirit must convict us of sin if we are to believe the Gospel. See, the Gospel is only good news for sinners. It is only good news if you need it. If you think you’re not a sinner, the Gospel is foolishness to you. If you think that you’re not a sinner, the Gospel sounds like drunken speech to you, just as it did to unbelievers on Pentecost.
However, the Holy Spirit has convicted us that we are sinners. We know that we have sinned in thought, word, and deed; by what we have done and by what we have left undone.
He has also convicted us of righteousness (Jn 16:8). Not our own righteousness, but that of Christ. Christ is the Righteous One, and His righteousness covers our sin. This is the work of the Holy Spirit.
That’s why Jesus told the disciples that it is to their advantage if He goes away and would then send the Holy Spirit to them (Jn 16:7).
Consider this: after Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, the disciples were still mostly timid and afraid. They hid in fear behind locked doors even after Jesus had appeared to them, proving that He has risen from the dead (Jn 20:26). They were still troubled with doubts arising in their hearts, even when Jesus was with them (Lk. 24:38). They still disbelieved and were confused and afraid, even as Jesus opened the Scriptures to them (Lk 24:41).
Then Jesus ascended into heaven and sent them the Holy Spirit, and everything changed. The apostles were no longer afraid, but they were bold.
When those in Jerusalem heard the sound of the mighty rushing wind and gathered together, Peter didn’t cower in fear even when people mocked them as being drunk. He boldly went out and preached to them. You know what he said? He called them murderers! He accused them of crucifying and killing God! (Acts 2:23) Peter knew what they were capable of. He had heard them shout “crucify!” not too many days before. Yet, he preached to them, calling them to account for what they had done.
And when the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees arrested Peter and John and dragged them before the same Council that had just crucified Jesus, even there, Peter did not cower in fear, but he accused them of the same thing as he had accused the crowd – the murder of Jesus (Acts 4:10). The threats of the council only resulted in the apostles praying for more boldness to keep preaching (Acts 4:29).
The apostles were changed. The Holy Spirit had made them bold to preach the truth of the death and resurrection of Jesus. It was to their advantage the Jesus went away and sent them the Holy Spirit.
This is also to our advantage. Jesus ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of God the Father Almighty and He there intercedes for us. And He has sent us the Holy Spirit, who has called us by the Gospel, enlightened us with His gifts, sanctified and kept us in the true faith.
The Holy Spirit also makes us bold. We may not have to face a council who seeks to put us to death, but we will have to face death. We will have to face suffering, trials, and temptations. We can face all these with boldness and confidence, because this Pentecost we once again hear the Christmas and Easter message that God took on human flesh to suffer and die for us on the cross and He rose again, defeating death for us.
The Holy Spirit grants you to hear this in your own language, a language that you understand, so that you will believe and receive eternal life. Hearing the Gospel message of the Old Testament in Hebrew or the New Testament in Greek would be as useful to you as the instructions of a foreman to a worker at the tower of Babel. Thus, the Holy Spirit causes the message of the Gospel to be spoken to you in English, uniting you with the whole Church in heaven and on earth who have heard the Gospel in their own language.
The Holy Spirit continues the work He started on Pentecost. He continues to work through the message of the Gospel, creating faith which is nothing short of a miracle. Indeed, calling a sinner to faith is a greater miracle than making dry bones live, and this the Holy Spirit continues to do.
The Holy Spirit continues to work through Baptism, which has washed us clean from all sin. He continues to strengthen our faith through the miraculous meal of Christ’s body and blood. He continues to grant us to hear the Gospel in a language we can understand, so that we will be bold unto death and receive the crown of eternal life. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.