Is it true that the feast of Pentecost, the celebration of the descent of the Spirit upon the followers of Jesus, was a Jewish pilgrimage festival?
Pentecost is only mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, written by the author of Luke’s Gospel. John’s Gospel speaks of Jesus breathing the Spirit upon his followers on Easter Sunday. Luke in Acts is the only one who unpacks the Easter events of Jesus’ passion, death, resurrection, ascension, and the sending forth of the Spirit in a period of fifty days.
The Jews had three pilgrimage feasts—Passover, celebrating the Exodus from Egypt; Shavuot, or festival of Weeks, celebrating the giving of the law on Mount Sinai; and Sukkot, the harvest festival of Booths, commemorating the forty years of wandering in the desert. Shavuot celebrated the central covenant event in Jewish life—the giving of the law to Moses on Mount Sinai. The mighty wind, the shaking of the house in which the followers were gathered, along with the tongues of fire all reflect elements surrounding the giving of the law to Moses in the Book of Exodus. Luke was imaging this very backdrop and scenario in this significant event of the community being gifted with the Spirit. As the Torah was the way to God for Jews, so Jesus’ Spirit was the guide, power, and path to God for his followers.
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