When I was growing up, our church celebrated Pentecost: quietly as I recall.
As an adult I’ve come to the conclusion the first Christian Pentecost was far from a quiet event. After Pentecost, the previously frightened disciples of Jesus boldly came out of hiding: beginning their ministries.
What is Pentecost?
1. Pentecost and the Jewish feast Shavuot.
According to Wikipedia, “Since Shavuot occurs 50 days after Passover, Hellenistic Jews (Greek Jews) gave it the name Pentecost.” Pentecost comes from “pentekostē,” which is Greek for fiftieth day.
What is Shavuot?
Shavuot has various translated names in modern Bibles. In Leviticus 23: 15-22 it’s called the “Feast of Weeks”, celebrating the first fruits of the wheat harvest. Exodus 23:16 refers to it as the “Feast of Harvests”.
It celebrates the giving of the law to Moses on Mount Sinai 50 days after the Egyptian Exodus.
The Book of Ruth occurs during the harvest time, including Shavuot. Ruth was King David’s great-grandmother. Today Shavuot also commemorates King David’s birth. You can find more on this and King David here.
2. Pentecost Sunday occurs 50 days after Easter Sunday.
The New Testament was written originally in Greek.
So, it’s no surprise the early Christians, many of whom were Christian or Messianic Jews, would use the term Pentecost. Pentecost Sunday occurs 50 days after Easter Sunday, or Resurrection Sunday.
And if the early Christians followed the Jewish calendar in celebrating Easter, the days may have been the same.
3. Pentecost Sunday commemorates the gift of The Holy Spirit.
Acts 2 tells us how The Holy Spirit came upon the believers as a mighty wind and as tongues of fire. You can read it in Acts 2:1-13.
Starting in verse 14, Peter’s first sermon is recorded. After receiving The Holy Spirit, he boldly preached. Acts 2:41 reports that after his sermon, about 3000 people became Christians.
4. Pentecost Dates
Because the date of Pentecost is based upon the date of Easter, it’s not always the same in the Eastern Orthodox and western churches.
Why? Because most Eastern Orthodox churches follow the Julian calendar, while most western churches follow the Gregorian calendar.
Interestingly, sometimes the two actually agree! So in 2010, 2011, 2014, and 2017 Easter and Pentecost fall on the same days.
5. More Pentecost Facts
Pentecost Sunday is also Whitsunday. This comes from the English “White Sunday,” from the white garments worn in baptism on this day.
Many churches have red as the Pentecostal Color, symbolizing the red tongues of fire.
The Sunday following Pentecost is often called Trinity Sunday. The church colors often change to green after Pentecost Sunday until Lent.
“Pentecost.” The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2008. Encyclopedia.com. 23 May. 2010
Chana Weisberg. Nitzevet, Mother Of King David: A Bold Voice Of Silence.The Jewish Press. Published May 31, 2006.
Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar. Wikipedia.
Paschal cycle. Wikipedia.
Gregorian calendar. Wikipedia.
Julian calendar. Wikipedia.
Hellenistic Judaism. Wikipedia.Pentecost: Some Facts. The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.