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The Fiftieth Day

Jesus came back from death, and proved to his followers (five hundred of them at one point), to his chosen missioners and to his half-brother James that he was indeed alive.[1] Jesus spent forty days with his missioners. During a meal with them, Jesus gave them the following instructions:

Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard speak about. For John baptized into water, but in a few days you will be baptized into the Holy Spirit.[2]

Shortly after this Jesus went up into heaven.

During the week or so that his missioners waited for the gift, they had voted to replace Judas, who killed himself after betraying Jesus, with Matthias, who became the new twelfth missioner. The rest of the time they prayed with Jesus' mother and brothers, among others.

Then came the day of Pentecost (Shavuot), which celebrates the giving of the Torah and the presentation of the first fruits of the harvest.

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them.[3]

The newly-inspired missioners left the house and proclaimed the wonders of God to the crowd of celebrants from other lands. Each visitor heard the message of God in their own language and were amazed, since it was evident that the missioners were from Galilee, the boondocks of Jewry at that time.

To explain all this, and to counter the mocking assertion that the missioners had one too many, Peter spoke up. No, these guys are not drunk: It's only nine in the morning![4] Peter then explained that who everyone is seeing and hearing is what was talked about by one of their prophets, Joel:

And afterward,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
I will show wonders in the heavens
and on the earth,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.
And everyone who calls
on the name of the LORD will be saved.[5]

Peter proclaimed that Jesus of Nazareth, accredited by God through signs and wonders and acts of power, whom they tortured to death but who rose from death and now sits at God's right hand in fulfilment of the prophets. Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.[6]

This struck into the heart of the crowd. What shall we do?, they asked. Peter replied, Turn your minds and hearts, each one of you, and then be baptized into the name of Jesus Messiah as a mark of the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is for you and for your children and for those far away [in space and in the future]: For all to whom Yahweh our God will call.[7]

Three thousand people heeded the call and joined the missioners as the first members of the body of Christ. And so the Ecclesia, the Church, came about. And ever since, the fiftieth day after Easter is celebrated as its birthday.


[1] 1 Corinthians 15.5-7
[2] Acts 1.4-5 [NIV]
[3] Acts 2.1-4 [NIV]
[4] Acts 2.15 [NIV]
[5] Joel 2.28-32a; Acts 2.17-21 [NIV]
[6] Acts 2.36 [NIV]
[7] Acts 2.38-39 [personal]

Written by Andy West on 23 May 2010. Updated 29 August 2010.