“We hear all these people speaking about God’s wonders in our own languages!” They were amazed and bewildered. They asked one another, “What does this mean?” -Acts 2:12
George Floyd, Minnesota, Pentecost. What do these three things have to do with each other? If you have been following the news recently, you know the connection between George Floyd and what is happening in Minnesota and other cities as I write this. But did you know this Sunday (May 31st, 2020) is also Pentecost Sunday? What does Pentecost, though, have to do with George Floyd and current events 2,000 plus years later from that historical event?
In this article, I want to submit to you that it has everything to do with recent developments. I also want to submit to you that the question asked by a bewildered crowd on the day of Pentecost is the same question we not only should be asking today but need to start seriously walking in as God’s people and the church of Jesus Christ because we are still missing it.
In Acts chapter two, we have the account of when the Holy Spirit came from heaven in accordance with the promise of Jesus. But what we often miss in that account is the fact that the crowd that gathered that day in response to recognizing something unusual was taking place was an incredibly diverse crowd from various countries, regions, backgrounds, and languages. Yet, that day, they heard the “wonders of God” being clearly communicated in their own native languages by the disciples of Jesus. These were the same disciples that before this event did not know those languages. What happened on Pentecost was a reversal of what happened at the Tower of Babel. Whereas languages were confused, and people scattered in Genesis chapter eleven, the opposite occurred at Pentecost. Everyone clearly understood and were brought together in unity despite diversity by the power of the Holy Spirit and the person of Jesus Christ.
But, they had a question that day that I think is still haunting us today and has not yet been wholly entered into even by the church of Jesus Christ in the United States. That question was, “what does this mean?” Peter would go on to address and answer that very question by boldly proclaiming the Gospel (which means Good News) of Jesus Christ (his death on the Cross for our sin and resurrection) and calling people to repentance (a change of heart and life). That reality resulted in a beautiful testimony of God’s power to unite diverse people and bring together in one family of selfless and sacrificial love for one another.
See, the coming of the Spirit and the Gospel of Jesus Christ means much more than knowing we will go to heaven when we die. It means Jesus has broken down every barrier that divides us. It means an end to racism, prejudice, and nationalism. It means the Cross has reconciled us to God AND one another no matter our differences. It means the confusion of Babel gives way to the clarity of the Cross. It means an end to discrimination. Pentecost means every barrier and wall that closes us off to one another is torn down. It means an end to hatred and hostility. It means true peace. It means we can walk in love towards one another. It means we all stand before God as sinners condemned, but brothers and sisters redeemed and forgiven by the blood of Jesus Christ. It means Good News of Great Joy for ALL people and ALL the world. It means a family for eternity made up of every tribe, tongue, language, people. It means a celebration of unity and beauty within diversity. It means God’s kingdom breaking forth and shattering the demonic structures of this world that oppress, enslave, and hold people captive.
The fire of Pentecost and wind of the Holy Spirit needs to fall fresh again and blow across this land to transcend partisan politics, liberal lies, conservative hypocrisy, white supremacy, and triumph over all that divides us. Deep cleansing and purifying are needed once more among the people of God and the church of Jesus Christ. A work of righteousness, justice, reconciliation, and healing is the need and cry of this generation. This takes a move of the Holy Spirit. An act of God. A call to repentance. Bold and unashamed proclamation of the Gospel. A reminder of the Cross. As the old hymn puts it, “What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”
Are we still, a couple of thousand years later, asking what Pentecost means? It is time to do more than ask about it. It’s time to walk in what it means: the very heart of our Father in whose image we all have been made and are called to reflect and represent to a dark, fallen, sinful, corrupted, and evil world that is deceived and blinded by the enemy of our souls and all that is good, true, holy, and just.
Read and meditate carefully on this last passage below. When was the last time you heard this preached? When was the last time you thought about the Cross and Pentecost not just in terms of relationship with God but also with one another? The Cross extends not only from earth to heaven (vertically) but side to side (horizontally). The Cross reconciles not just us to God individually, but one another collectively.
Here is what Ephesians 2:14-18 says: “Christ himself is our peace. He has made Jews and Gentiles into one group of people. He has destroyed the hatred that was like a wall between us. Through his body on the Cross, Christ set aside the law with all its commands and rules. He planned to create one new people out of Jews and Gentiles. He wanted to make peace between them. He planned to bring both Jews and Gentiles back to God as one body. He planned to do this through the Cross. On that Cross, Christ put to death their hatred toward one another. He came and preached peace to you who were far away. He also preached peace to those who were near. Through Christ, we both come to the Father by the power of one Holy Spirit.” -Ephesians 2:14-18 NIRV
I submit to you that we have missed this. We are not walking in this. We have not asked or discovered what this all means despite the benefit of 2,000 years since Pentecost and the Cross upon which Jesus died. Therefore, crowds are forming in protest and riots rather than unity and peace. Martin Luther King Jr, in fact, once said, “A riot is the language of the unheard.” Rage has its reasons, even if it does not make all its actions right. But we need to ask what it is that we are not hearing. We need to get to the root of the rage for healing to occur. We are not there yet. May God have mercy and forgive us.