As Christians gather to worship this coming Sunday, they'll likely remember what we call "the first Pentecost," an event that happened fifty days after Jesus' resurrection. But strictly speaking, Pentecost, or what the ancient Jews called Shavuot was already a firmly established feast day on the Jewish religious calendar.
Shavuot celebrates the giving of the Ten Commandments by God to Moses. This accounts for why in Acts 2:1-42, the New Testament passage that recounts the Jerusalem events that Christians will remember this Sunday, there were Jews from throughout the Mediterranean basin, particularly the eastern Mediterranean region, present in Jerusalem at that time. Shavuot, also known as the Festival of Weeks, is mentioned, among other places in the Old Testament scriptures, in Deuteronomy 16:16, and also was a celebration of the harvest. It was one of the three great pilgrimage festivals on the Jewish calendar, referred to as the Shlosha Regalim, along with Pesach (Passover) and Sukkot (Booths or Tents), when pious Jews would travel to the temple in Jerusalem.
The events of the first Christian Pentecost, which we'll discuss in more detail in the next few installments, couldn't have happened at a more strategic moment for spreading the message about Jesus. Jesus' first followers--disciples--were all Jewish and believed Him to be the Messiah (Anointed One in English, Christos in Greek) for whom Jews had long waited. On the first Pentecost after Jesus' death, resurrection, and ascension, the disciples were empowered to tell Jews from throughout much of the known world about Jesus so that they, in turn, could carry that news back to with them to other Jews in their adopted homelands.
The term Pentecost comes from Greek, the language in which the New Testament was originally written and means fiftieth, as in fiftieth day.
More tomorrow, I hope.