What is Pentecost? It isn’t as well-known as Christmas or even Easter, but it’s an incredibly important event. Simply put, it’s the birthday of the Christian Church.
As described in Acts 2:1–13, after Jesus’s death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, the 11 remaining disciples gathered themselves in prayer in an upper room.
Suddenly there came a mighty, rushing wind followed by the appearance of tongues of fire, which appeared over the heads of the disciples. The disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in tongues.
The event represents the fulfillment of Christ’s promise to baptize the apostles with the Holy Spirit. God empowered the disciples with the Spirit to preach the Good News throughout the world. This marks the beginning of the growth of the Church.
One of the most pivotal moments in Christian history, Pentecost allowed Christ’s following to spread rapidly across Rome, Armenia, Persia, Ethiopia, and India in just a few centuries. On the Church calendar, it signals the end of the Easter season, reminding us to carry the power of the resurrection out into the world.
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And although churches still celebrate it over 2,000 years later, there’s a lot most Christians don’t know about Pentecost. Here are five amazing facts about the event:
1. It’s a Moveable Feast
There is no definite date for the celebration of Pentecost; it’s observed 50 days after Easter Sunday. Pentecost comes from the Greek word Πεντηκοστή (pentecoste), meaning “fiftieth.” The Septuagint (an early Greek version of the Hebrew Bible) referenced the Feast of Pentecost twice in the Book of Tobit and in 2 Maccabees. It also took place 10 days after Jesus’s ascension into heaven.
2. It Falls on a Jewish Holiday
During Pentecost, the Jews were gathered to celebrate Shavuot, or the Feast of Weeks. It’s a festival signifying the end of the grain harvest.
Deuteronomy 16:9–11 says:
“You shall count seven weeks; begin to count the seven weeks from the time you first put the sickle to the standing grain. Then you shall keep the feast of weeks to the Lord your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the Lord your God blesses you; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God.”Deuteronomy 16:9–11
3. The Disciples Were Understood in Multiple Languages
When the disciples went out to speak to the crowds, each person heard them speak in their own native language. In fact, many of the Jewish pilgrims celebrating Shavuot in Jerusalem thought the disciples were drunk when they spoke to the crowds!
4. It Marks the Birth of the Christian Church
Christians recognize Pentecost, rather than Jesus’s birth or death, as the true birthday of the Church. It’s what moved the apostles to go out to the world and spread the word of God, establishing Christianity on earth.
5. We Can Still Feel the Spirit Today
With Pentecost, Christians commemorate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the early followers of Jesus. In the words of Pope Benedict XVI:
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“Jesus, risen and ascended into heaven, sent his Spirit to the Church so that every Christian might participate in his own divine life and become his valid witness in the world. The Holy Spirit, breaking into history . . . opens hearts to hope.”Pope Benedict XVI
The Holy Spirit comes to us today, just as it did to the disciples. Share your amazing Pentecost story in the comments below!