Understanding Shavuot and Pentecost

What exactly is Shavuot? As Christians, we are more familiar with the term Pentecost. Let’s explore this festival’s Jewish and Christian roots for a deeper understanding of its meaning.

Jewish Shavuot…

Tori Avey explains in her words: “Shavuot (Feast of Weeks) commemorates the revelation of the Torah on Mt. Sinai to the Jewish people, and occurs on the 50th day after the 49 days of counting the Omer. Shavuot is one of the three biblically based pilgrimage holidays known as the shalosh regalim. It is associated with the grain harvest in the Torah.” (Read more at Toriavey.com)

Chabad.org also has some interesting festival background: “Shavuot 2020 (a two-day holiday, celebrated from sunset on May 28 until nightfall on May 30) coincides with the date that G‑d gave the Torah to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai more than 3,300 years ago. It comes after 49 days of eager counting, as we prepared ourselves for this special day.”

“It is celebrated by lighting candlesstaying up all night to learn Torahhearing the reading of the Ten Commandmentsfeasting on dairy foods and more. Learn more about Shavuot” at Chabad.org

Christian Pentecost…

When did Shavuot turn into Pentecost (its Greek name)? It began on the forty-ninth day or seven weeks after Jesus ascended into heaven. Christ spoke of His sending the Holy Spirit several times to the disciples.

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever;  that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.”

John 14:16-17 NKJV

Tell me more

Jesus also explained the Holy Spirit’s role in their lives, and why it was necessary for the Spirit to come.

“But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.”

John 16:7-11 NKJV

That day arrived

Acts 2 tells about this supernatural event. The disciples, along with Mary and a few others, had convened in the Upper Room, praying and waiting on the promised Helper. On that Pentecost day, the Holy Spirit descended like flames of fire resting above each person’s head.

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.”

Acts 2:1-4 NKJV

Peter preached…

Many Jews from different countries happened to be in Jerusalem at that time to celebrate Shavuot, and they heard these men, full of the Holy Spirit, speak in each one’s native language about the mighty deeds of God. The Jews laughed, claiming the disciples must be drunk, but Peter rose up and preached to them all, quoting from the prophet Joel:

“Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel:

‘And it shall be in the last days,’ God says,
‘That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind;
And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
And your young men shall see visions,
And your old men shall dream dreams;
Even on My bondslaves, both men and women,
I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit
And they shall prophesy.
‘And I will grant wonders in the sky above
And signs on the earth below,
Blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke. ‘The sun will be turned into darkness
And the moon into blood,
Before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come.
‘And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

Acts 2:14b-21 NKJV

Jesus also explained the difference between John the Baptist’s water baptism and the fire baptism of the Holy Spirit:

Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

Acts 1:4-5 NKJV

Water versus Fire…

At salvation, Christians are baptized with water, which represents the washing away of sin and being filled with the Holy Spirit. But Pentecost is a baptism of fire from Jesus Himself through the Holy Spirit, usually with the evidence of speaking in other tongues. What is the purpose of this second baptism?

“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.”

John 16:13-15 NKJV

“…but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

Acts 1:8 NKJV

May we all experience the wonderful power of Pentecost in our lives.

Dear Father, thank you for sending us the Comforter, our Helper, to live inside our spirits. As you did in the day of your disciples, send us fire from heaven and baptize us in Your power and anointing. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.

Pentecost Sunday

Pentecost Sunday by Karen Jurgens

On the fiftieth day after Jesus’s resurrection, the Holy Spirit descended on those gathered in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, as Messiah promised. Here’s the story from the Scriptures: