Now
what?

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

Of all the questions the disciples must have had, the one on their minds between the Ascension and Pentecost resonates best: I saw the crucifixion, I saw the risen Lord, I saw Him ascend into heaven, now what?

Pentecost was an annual event in Israel. It is the Greek rendering of the Hebrew word for the Festival of Weeks commemorating God’s giving of the Ten Commandments forty-nine days after the Exodus. It is also called the Festival of Reaping and Day of the First Fruits.

What beautiful imagery to answer the question of: What is next?

God chose this day to send forth the Holy Spirit to infuse us with His new and living Spirit. The Jews were commanded to count the days and weeks after the Exodus as an expression of their anticipation and desire for the giving of the Torah. We are no longer beholden to Torah Law as a teacher – pointing to all our wrong acts and thoughts, and prescribing a remedy, but are made strong, powerful, and free in the Spirit by our profession of faith and belief in Jesus. We have a different kind of longing, anticipation, and desire. The Spirit prompts us to declare our faith and then infuses us with His gifts changing us radically so that we only desire to live in Christ and live in His glorious kingdom.

What was next was that through the infusion of the Holy Spirit the entire world is offered this opportunity for freedom. No longer beholden, one would be free if they chose to follow the prompting of the Spirit. One could hear of Jesus through those Apostles, the sent, who have already been made strong, powerful, and free by the Spirit. They could not only hear, but join in and be made co-heirs in Jesus sharing fully in the Spirit’s gifts.

God chose this day because it was the day of reaping. Passover marked the end of the season of the grain harvest with the reaping of wheat in the Land of Israel. In ancient times, the grain harvest lasted seven weeks and was a season of gladness. It began with the harvesting of the barley during Passover and ended with the harvesting of the wheat at Passover.

The Spirit is given so every season will be a season of harvest. Jesus told us: “So ask the Lord who gives this harvest to send workers to harvest his crops.”

Two thousand years later the Spirit prompts us to go and reap and bring in the many. What now? Rejoice, live in Jesus, proclaim Him, and gather His harvest. The Holy Spirit is in us and with us for exactly this work.

Rejoice, and share
rejoicing!

Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The LORD has removed the judgment against you he has turned away your enemies; the King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear.

Today we read a message of hope and rejoicing from the Prophet Zephaniah.

This message is found near the end of the third chapter of this very short book of prophecy. More than two-thirds of Zephaniah’s prophesy deals with judgment and can be considered, more than any other prophecy, as one of devastation, death, and Divine judgment. The Day of Judgment is pictured as a time of darkness, anguish, distress, destruction, plunder, and threat to all life, human and animal alike.

Israel had turned from God to false gods, fake gods of wood and stone. Israel’s leadership was unjust and abusive. Zephaniah’s prophecy occurred just before the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C.

Today’s world is much like Zephaniah’s. Political leadership in our country and throughout the world is unjust and abusive. Most of the people in our country and across the world have turned from God or have turned to false gods who promise that through some set of works and deeds a person might be saved. Our world is filled with terror. In the not to distant future we will likely know someone, who knows someone, who knows someone affected by terrorism. We are only a few degrees of separation away.

Here we sit amidst all this turmoil and tendency to fear. We ourselves fear for our families, children, grandchildren, friends, and coworkers. In less than two weeks we will gather with them to celebrate Christ’s coming among us. Today we are reminded to rejoice! To rejoice!!!

If we, like ancient Israel, only lived for today, like politicians and believers in false gods, then we have reason to fear. We, rather, live forever. We have been delivered, not by works and deeds, but by faith in the One who has saved us. As Zephaniah foretold: The LORD has removed the judgment against you he has turned away your enemies; the King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear. Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged! The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior. We need not be afraid for even if terror comes to our door, we have already been delivered to eternal joy.

We have reason to rejoice. More than that, we have reason to share our joy with the world. We must offer a share of our rejoicing to all people of good will. Those who follow false idols will be saved by our gift of joyful faith and perhaps even a politician or two might reject evil and also rejoice.