Pentecost this year is on Sunday 31 May – worldwide, including Jersey.
Those 50 days (see bold above) were days when the key followers of Jesus – all twelve of them – were full of rejoicing as they met with Jesus and were taught by him for six weeks. Nothing else mattered. They met only with each other. Wonderful.
Until Jesus left them and ascended into heaven. Then they continued, for a further week, to meet solely with each other, knowing that he expected them to proclaim him publicly, but waiting for his promised life within.
Fifty days without saying publicly that they were followers of this man, even though he had died for them – and had risen from the grave.
That’s understandable really. These men weren’t at all brave. A few hours before Jesus was executed they had all said to him that they would go with him to death. But when push came to shove they had run. When the Roman soldiers were forcing Jesus to carry his stake to the place of a skull they were nowhere to be seen and Simon, a stranger from Cyrene, was conscripted instead. Leopards don’t change their spots. Not in a lifetime, let alone 50 days.
“Pent” means 50. The five different athletic events in a pentathlon are signalled in its “pent”. Also the 5-sided Pentagon building damaged 9/11.
So Pentecost was usually a jubilee. Like the Golden Weddings notified in the Jersey Evening Post. A time for rejoicing.
But Pentecost in AD 33 was not a Christian jubilee. It was a Jewish celebration of the completion of the Feast of Weeks – 7 weeks of 7 days – from Passover Day. Every year, 50 days after the Passover celebration that recalled the nation’s liberation, led by Moses out of Egypt around 1350 BC, Passover was similar to “Harvest Festival” in Jersey.
The Israeli equivalent of the Jersey Archive Centre is super because it has preserved copies of the books written by Moses at the time, interestingly called the Pentateuch because there were 5 of them. In one (Leviticus) later Greek translators use the word pentekoste for the Jubilee Year celebrations in Israel. Every 50 years, in Israel 3,300 years ago, not only were all slaves freed but all debts were forgiven and all land that had been mortgaged or sold became the freehold again of the original family that had owned it. What jubilee elation! What jubilation!
Reverting to AD 33, would these fearful disciples be jubilant on that Pentecost day? Would they “come out”, “go public”? Would they do that in the city centre of Jerusalem? Would they – amongst the men of authority who had handed Jesus over to the Romans to die, stating that he was a rebel King, a threat to Caesar? And amongst the Roman soldiers and centurions striding with absolute physical power – power to execute – everywhere in the city?
Not if they are unchanged from 50 days earlier. No way.
What, then did happen? Listen to one named Peter who, 50 days earlier with curses and oaths denied he knew Jesus: - “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know – this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.”
Where on earth did they get such courage? The life of Jesus within.
Are you sure? Yes, because, like Jesus, they were now, after 50 days, ready to die for him – as he was for them.