Paul’s Pentecost Priority
By Sam Nadler
Fifty days after the Sabbath following Passover comes the feast of Shavuot or Pentecost, which means “fifty.” Pentecost is an early harvest feast, one of the three feasts that all Jewish men were required to come up to Jerusalem to celebrate. In Acts 20, we find an interesting passage regarding Pentecost: “For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus so that he would not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hurrying to be in Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost” (Acts 20:16). What’s the hurry, Paul? And why Jerusalem? Why not stop at Ephesus where so much of your ministry was accomplished? (See Acts 19).
If Paul had stopped in Ephesus, it is likely that he would have been delayed by many old friends desiring to see him which would have delayed his journey. Yet, when Paul came to Caesarea, he was warned that in Jerusalem he would be arrested and placed in bonds (Acts 21:10-12). In light of such an urgent warning, why did Paul still make getting to Jerusalem by Pentecost such a priority? What’s in Jerusalem at Pentecost? Many, many Jewish people!
A Dynamic Opportunity!
Three times a year, all Jews everywhere were to come to Jerusalem and to the Temple for worship: at the Feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles (Deut. 16:16). Though more came to the Temple at Passover, there were more out-of-town Jews able to come to Jerusalem at Pentecost (see Josephus’ Antiquities 14, 13, 4 & 17, 10, 2). This was mainly because the more favorable weather later in the year made the roads passable and thus Jerusalem more accessible.
This is why we read in Acts 2:7-10 of the crowds coming from so many different nations to Jerusalem at Pentecost. Messiah had promised His disciples that His Spirit would empower them to be His witnesses so they could reach the world with the Good News (Acts 1:8). At that Pentecost, the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit, was given to the Body of believers in Yeshua. The many countries represented by individuals who received the pouring forth of the Spirit pictured God reaching out to the whole world!
The Abrahamic Covenant Fulfilled
In Genesis 12:3, God told Abraham, “In you will all of the families of the earth be blessed.” The Abrahamic Covenant has its ultimate fulfillment in the Good News of Yeshua, and the Gentiles who were being saved were evidence of this. So, Paul was bringing a gift from the Gentiles in Corinth and Macedonia to the Jewish people in Jerusalem (1 Cor. 16:3-4; 2 Cor. 8:1-15; Rom. 15:25-27). Paul knew that since his Jewish brethren from all over the world would be coming to Jerusalem for Pentecost, the timing of this gift would be a wonderful testimony of the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant! So even with the warnings, Paul was determined to be in Jerusalem on this Pentecost. Through the grace of God, Gentiles were showing love to Jewish people and showing them that all the families of the earth were indeed being blessed!
Feast & Fellowship
Following the regular offerings for the Feast of Pentecost (see Lev. 23:15-21, Numbers 28), the people brought their own freewill offerings as the Lord had prospered them. They would then share this with all the various people who had travelled from all over the world and rejoice together in the Lord (Deut. 16:12-15). This demonstration of love and fellowship would customarily last almost a week as the people reached out to one another. What a great opportunity for the Jewish believers and especially for Paul to reach out with the Good News as the Spirit of God gave them an open door. At this time, Paul could continue to win souls and make strategic contacts into new areas for the Good News!
The Pentecost Priority
This was Paul’s priority: to make the most of every opportunity for the sake of The Good News. Hence he would write, “Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time” (Col. 4:5). Paul’s Pentecost Priority reminds us of our ultimate purpose in life while on this side of heaven: to share Good News with those around us. On our summer vacations, holidays, or business trips, are we seeking a ‘Pentecost moment’ to share with a ‘whomsoever’ the Lord may bring our way? Whether it’s a Feast Day (whatever holiday it may be), a family event, work time, or leisure, let’s be like Paul and take every opportunity to share the love of God and reach out with the message of Messiah to all with ears to hear, even to the Jew first!