Pentecost May 24, 2015
224, 226(1-6), 225, 226(7-9)
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Thou holy Light, Guide Divine,
Oh, cause the Word of Life to shine!
Teach us to know our God aright
And call Him Father with delight.
From every error keep us free;
Let none but Christ our Master be
That we in living faith abide,
In Him, our Lord, with all our might confide. Hallelujah!"
Dear fellow Christians:
I’m not sure that children say it today, but we sure used to say it. In fact, I rather vividly recall the not-so-subtle dread of those four ominous words: “You’re gonna get it!” The dread, of course, was intentional. That’s not only why we said what we did, it was the whole point.
As children we would say that to siblings and friends whenever they did something they weren’t supposed to do. Then, just in case what they did was not yet known to those who would apply the appropriate object lesson to the offender’s backside, we would announce the guarantee of discovery with the equally dreaded: “‘cause I’m gonna tell.”
In looking back there were some rather strange forces at work in the morbid pleasure we took in getting a sibling or friend in trouble. Was it just the desire that justice prevail? Probably not. It was almost certainly a great deal more sinister than that. The darker motive was probably the perverse glee in seeing someone else “get it.”
I’m not sure children today say those sorts of things because I’m not sure it carries the same weight or threat. It seems like a solid majority of kids today never get it; that is, they are never really disciplined for doing something wrong. Like most things in our culture, a growing number of those charged with discipline are seeking the path of least resistance. The results are as evident and they are predictable.
Today we are going to apply those same words, “You’re gonna get it” to a little different scenario—one that held not threat and dread, but optimism and anticipation. It is also to that “You’re gonna get it!” that we need to add our own, “Because I’m gonna tell.”
The text that will form the basis of our meditation this morning is found in John’s Gospel, the 16th Chapter:
[Jesus said], “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you. A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father.”
These are the very words of our Savior God. How meaningless, how pointless our lives would certainly be without these live-giving words. In the confidence that our God will certainly work powerfully through these words among us this morning, so we pray, “Sanctify us by your truth, O Lord. Your word is truth.” Amen.
There are lots of special occasions this time of year. Weddings, graduations, anniversaries, birthday celebrations—you name it. With so many “gift giving opportunities” we routinely find ourselves searching for the perfect present that will bring ongoing meaning and joy to the recipient, preferably without bankrupting the giver. What we are all looking for is that elusive “gift that keeps on giving.”
On a much higher, miraculous level, Pentecost is like that. It is that rare gift that not only excites at reception, it continues to bless the recipient every single day thereafter.
We note first, with a certain degree of sadness, that Pentecost certainly has its detractors. In fact, the worst offenders are often those who claim to place the greatest emphasis on this event. Interestingly enough, those who profess to be all about Pentecost are, in reality, usually all about the lesser aspects of this day. In other words, they emphasize the outward demonstrations or manifestations of the Holy Spirit, often to the exclusion of the far greater gift. Speaking in tongues comes to mind.
To draw a parallel to the everyday world, that would be something like adoring the wrapping paper and box, while tossing the present itself into the wastebasket. So also with Pentecost, the greatest gift on this day was the outpouring of spiritual wisdom and understanding. The “wrapping paper” (that which accompanied and identified the giving of the greater gift) was the miraculous speaking in foreign languages or “tongues” that was also evident on Pentecost. As far as you and I ought to be concerned, we want the gift, not the wrapping paper.
The great gift of Pentecost marked the outpouring of the Holy Spirit—a byproduct of which was the dramatically enhanced understanding of spiritual truths. It is hard for Christians today to comprehend the great gift that the Church was given on this day because most of us today take it for granted. After all, most here have enjoyed such insight and understanding for as long as you can remember. Most couldn’t remember back to a time when you didn’t “get it.”
Think of it in terms of the gift of sight. How often do you wake from your nightly slumber, open your eyes, and gasp with amazement at your own ability to see the world all around you? Pretty much never. Why? Because you’ve always been able to see. Imagine how different it was for those who, though born blind, were one day given the gift of sight by Jesus. Imagine the wonder at the colors, shadows, and lighting. Imagine the awe as you beheld clouds for the first time, or the stars, or a magnificent panoramic vista spread out before you.
Remember, blind men aren’t dead, they just lack the ability to comprehend fully the magnificence of God’s creation through the gift of sight. How their worlds were changed the instant Jesus restored their sight and they experienced the gift of sight for the first time!
Compare that to Pentecost. Surely the disciples who were gathered in that room on the day of Pentecost were believers. They had come to know Jesus as their Savior and were, therefore, heirs of heaven even prior to the events of Pentecost. Yet there were also large and profound elements of the Christian faith that most or all seemed unable to fully grasp. There were big gaping holes in their understanding or comprehension. We know, for example, that they seemed unable to accept the idea of a kingdom of the heart, rather than a kingdom on earth. There were also deficiencies in their courage and enthusiasm. Time after time they showed themselves to be timid, fearful, and uncertain.
Then came that great outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and suddenly everything was forever different. Suddenly the apostles were no longer hiding in the upper room for fear of the Jews, they were boldly proclaiming their faith on the street corners and in the market place. Suddenly, they were no longer confused and saddened by the death of their Lord, it was the greatest source of comfort and encouragement in their lives. Suddenly, they no longer thought in terms of a kingdom on earth, they spent themselves struggling to expand that kingdom into the hearts of human beings around the world.
It is then no wonder Jesus demonstrated such excitement concerning this great gift while He walked the earth. It was no wonder that He held up the giving of this gift as one of the greatest arguments for rejoicing at His ascension. You will recall how He said, “Nevertheless 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 depart, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7). Jesus then continued in the text: “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” [v.12]
The excitement of Jesus at this gift ought to teach us something. Pentecost truly is the gift that keeps on giving. Once brought to faith, every single child of God becomes another source from which the waters of life flow—that is, every Christian becomes Christ’s spokesman and possesses the power to bring the message of forgiveness and life to those still living in spiritual blindness. Once given, the gift of Pentecost belongs to the Church for all ages, and it just keeps on giving.
But there is even more. This was Jesus’ version of “You’re going to get it!” but how different Jesus’ version is from what that phrase usually forebodes. The problem the disciples had was that they didn’t really get it prior to Pentecost. Were they believers? Of course. But there was so much that they still missed or lacked. What was even more frustrating or troubling is the fact that what they lacked they were simply unable to “get” in spite of the fact that they lived with and learned directly from the Savior Himself for a full three years. That’s exactly why Jesus said what He did in our text: “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.”
That is also exactly why Jesus was so excited, not only by the prospect of returning to His Father’s side in Heaven at His ascension, but also by the fact that His departure meant that the Holy Spirit could and would be poured out on his beloved New Testament Church. The result would be an immeasurably enhanced understanding and insight into divine truth. It meant His men would finally “get it.”
That is also why you and I ought to be excited still today about Pentecost. The fact that we understand divine truth means that we have also shared in the benefits of this day and continue to reap the benefits every single day we walk this earth. It means that the Holy Spirit has also been poured out into us. That which is foolishness to the world is not foolishness to us. That which the world dismisses as childish or backward or naïve we treasure as the height of divine wisdom and truth. What the world regards as a backwards path to nowhere, you and I—by virtue of the gift given to the Church on this day—rightly treasure as the path to Heaven.
While the world struggles to justify itself and to earn its own passage to God, you and I have been given the faith and wisdom to know that we are saved by faith alone in Jesus Christ. While we had no power whatsoever to make up for even one of our sins by “doing good,” God has forgiven all because of the good Jesus did as our Substitute.
Clearly then this is a holiday—and a gift—that we take for granted, but shouldn’t. May that same Holy Spirit that was poured out into the Church in full measure at Pentecost gift each of us with the wisdom and sobriety to treasure this day as we ought.
You’re gonna get it? We got it, and by the grace of God we’re going to tell. So help us God. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.