It was with something akin to the subtlety of fireworks that the Day of Pentecost arrived, some 50 days after Jesus had been raised from the dead. Fire and wind and a loud noise marked the descent of the Holy Spirit. Jesus poured him out on the 120 gathered in the upper room just as he had promised. And the miracles didn’t cease with his arrival either. No, the apostles were endowed with the ability to witness to Christ in languages they had never learned.
That surprised not only their hearers but themselves. It was the tower of Babel in reverse, if you will. They spoke to the crowds that gathered outside the house that day about the great things God had done in raising Jesus from the dead and seating him at his right hand – and they spoke in the numerous tongues present among the pilgrims in Jerusalem. When some in the crowd tried to explain away this mighty miracle of the Spirit by saying it only happened because the disciples were indulging in quite another kind of spirits, namely, alcohol, Peter took the platform and began to preach.
Jesus had said that the Spirit, when he comes, will convict the world of sin. There was no doubt that day that the Spirit was present in Peter’s preaching as he charged them with complicity in Christ’s suffering and death. Yet he showed how by the Father’s eternal plan the death of Christ was overturned and he was raised and exalted to the Father’s right hand, as the one who pours out the Spirit. By the time he was through the crowds were in a panic. The Spirit’s witness had convicted them indeed. Our second lesson recorded it like this: “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?'”
Peter’s answer is one of the most comforting words of all Scripture. He doesn’t give them a list of penances they need to perform before God will forgive them and give them life. Listen: “Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38-39) That’s it. Turn, he says, toward the Lord and receive what he wants to give you in the water: forgiveness and the Holy Spirit. He lets them know that this gift isn’t just for some of them, but for all. “Let everyone of you be baptized” he says. “The promise is for you and for your children” he says. No less than 3,000 took him up on the invitation on this day. They ended up in the water, where their sins were washed away and the Spirit of God was given to them.
So even though on Pentecost morning the Spirit arrived with the fireworks, by the afternoon he was entering people’s lives in a far less spectacular way, but what indeed became the ordinary way: through Holy Baptism. Only one hundred and twenty got the pyrotechnic display; but 3,000 received the exact same Spirit with the splash of the water and the power of the Word.
This means that the day you were baptized was your personal Pentecost. It was the day that the your life was turned around. It was the day that the forgiveness which Christ won on his cross for the whole world was given and sealed to you as your very own. It was the day that the Holy Spirit himself was poured into your life by the Risen and Ascended Lord.
Text adapted from Sermons from Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church (this text no longer available)
Image from Faith Interface (no longer available)