in Sermons

27. May 2012
Holy Pentecost (Whitsunday)
Acts 2:1-13

Today is the festival of the Holy Spirit, celebrating the gift of the Word,  when He established the church, and revealed to Himself to the world for courage, boldness, and joy. Pentecost has two preachers—Moses & Holy Spirit: 1) Moses. Mt. Sinai. Dismay and Terror. People begged Moses to stop speaking with God. They could not bear it. Moses is their go-between. Thunder & Lightning. Mountain smoking. God gave law for state and law for moral (10 Commands). This same Law holds today and still results in dismay, despair, eternal death. We need it for we are hardheaded, crude, insolent. We need the rod, fire, sword, gallows.

Pentecost—HOLY SPIRIT CHURCH. This is a kingdom of joy, courage, and certainty. It is a totally different message and voice. It does not cause fear as Sinai. It does not kill. it gives joy and boldness. It gave the disciples not terror but courage. Every disciple, filled with the Spirit, boldly takes on the world. They are no longer timid, weak—hearts with joy, eager to speak.

There are two preachers and two words. The proclamation of Moses terrified a whole nation. The proclamation of the Spirit emboldens Peter. Peter who was scared of Caiphas’ servant and denied the Lord. Peter who huddled terrified for fear of the Jews. Now Peter preaches against high priests and whole council of Jerusalem, and even speaks against Roman emperor. And all the Apostles do the same, like Peter.

There are two messages: the law of God and the gracious favor of God. Pentecost brings about a huge change. They have no fear, neither in heaven nor hell. There is a miraclous, divine transformation. They are courageous, bold, defiant, speaking against secular and spiritual alike. So also the whole host of apostles and disciples, 120 brave soldiers of the cross.

All the Apostles and disciples, filled with the Holy Spirit, began to preach. Not only that, they began speaking Greek to Greeks, Latin to Romans, Persian to Persians, Egyptian to Egyptians. Now the Gospel is given to all the earth in their native tongue.

The miracle is bigger than that. The content! Listen! New and wondrous message! Easter, Jesus of Nazareth, crucified as criminal, villain, traitor? mocked, spit upon, scorned, cursed, and killed? Who is He? The Lord of heaven and earth! The Son of God! WOW! Jesus of Nazareth, dragged out of the city seven weeks earlier, legally condemned, publicly executed, is now proclaimed Lord and God who rules the whole world.

This is the foundation of the church: poor and ignorant fisherman and offensive preaching of crucified Jesus. A horrible injustice was perpetrated against him. Those who crucified Him are enemies are enemies of God. Wrath and fury upon sinners. No previous precedent.

Imagine: defend person accused and condemned to death, left to rot in the grave seven weeks, and then condemn the whole government, spiritual and political, declare the man innocent, damn the judge rulers, and everyone else. the betrayers, criminals are not innocent before God and world, but are traitors against God, denied the Lord and God and crucified HIm! Daring and audacity!

“The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses” (Acts 3:13-15).

All the disciples preached with the strength of a great army, later spreading this offensive and foolish preaching to the world. The crucified Jesus of Nazareth is the Lord of heaven and of earth.

Why didn’t chief priest, Pontius Pilate kill them right then? The New Testament and Kingdom of God, while seeming to have little power, has in fact almighty power that no one can resist.

The message: Proclaim Jesus of Nazareth, condemned and executed, is the LORD, of whom the prophets foretold. Whoever wishes to be rid of sins and to have eternal life, let him repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Insignificant, unimportant message and incompetent messengers.

So Christianity begins with nothing but powerless foolishness: For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:22-24).

What is the source of this great power and might? The Word and the Holy Spirit. Witness Peter and all the rest. Look at the words and tongues they were given, as if they had been with Jesus a lifetime. Simple fishermen used by God to prove and reveal great wisdom. God preserved them and the church to this day, despite the seeming foolishness and ignorance of proclaiming the lowly, despised Jesus of Nazareth as God and Lord. Tongues of fire and native tongues confirmed God’s power on Pentecost.

Pentecost should always be on our mind. It is of no less importance to you, dear Christian, than Christmas or Easter. We should always thank God that through the Apostles and the work of the Holy Spirit, we have know this sermon. We know what Peter preached. Holy Spirit preserved. Beautiful festival and comforting, joyful sermon preserved and given. Neither devil nor opponent can destroy it.

Why full of joy? Because by God’s grace it has been given to us, so that we too may know the distinction between the two preachers and the two messages. We must distinguish between the message of the Law and the message of grace, the Lord Christ’s proper message. So the old Jewish Pentecost, given by the Law, is overcome by the new Pentecost, when the Gospel is revealed by the Holy Spirit.

So we can now distinguish between sorrow and joy, death and life. Mt. Sinai is full of sorrow, terror, despair and death. Now, in Jesus Christ, we have a joyful and precious message which fills our heart with joy and courage.

This work of drawing you away from the message of the Law unto the New Testament begins today. HOLY SPIRIT carries out His office and work as paraclete (comforter) and Spirit of truth. He filled the apostles and disciples with a sure and certain comfort, joyful courage, bold attitude, and total confidence.

Witness: Stephen. We need the same. We need the Spirit to create in us this sort of faith to speak boldly and confidently in a world hostile to Jesus. We need the message of the Spirit to remain content and disregard their slander. We need a courageous heart, to disregard the slander, persevere in the midst of offense, to continue this proclamation of Christ crucified.

Make no mistake, the world hates this message. It is not a nice, sweet message, easy to proclaim. Nor does the public accept it. It offends both high and mighty, thus we need the Spirit. It accuses all as traitors and murderers. It also forgives in the death of the sinless one, without anyone deserving it one lick. Therein true joy is found, as freedom in forgiveness is given as a gift.  Thanks be to God.

In Name of the Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church
Dyer, Indiana

Based on Luther’s sermon preached at the parish church in 1534.