Those of you whose eyes have been glued to the liturgical calendar since I mentioned Ascension Day (and who wouldn’t?!) will know that today is Pentecost. You know — tongues of fire, the wonders of God declared in different languages, all that?
At its heart Pentecost is about Jesus’ kingship. Bill Dumbrell (The Faith of Israel, p 84) highlights the ‘ideal framework of kingship’ established in 1 and 2 Samuel. It has four criteria:
- divine selection — this is runs against the grain of human expectation (1 Sam 9 works pretty hard to present Saul as an oaf; David’s lack of conventional appeal is well known);
- prophetic anointing — confirming God’s selection;
- endowment by the Spirit — preparing the king for office; and
- public affirmation — Saul is victorious over the Ammorites (1 Sam 11); David triumphantly brings the ark to Jerusalem and distributes gifts — some bread, a date cake and a raisin cake (2 Sam 6).
If we look at the Gospels with an eye to these Old Testament criteria, we see three of them fulfilled within the story of Jesus’ earthly existence (according to the Synoptics) — e.g., his divine selection is ratified as he is ‘anointed’ in baptism and then led out by the Spirit to do battle with the Satan.
But the fourth awaits Pentecost, where the ascended king is publicly affirmed and distributes the benefits of his good rule.
Thus Pentecost is about how Jesus unites us to Himself, sharing His life and blessings with us. As Calvin puts it (Institutes 3.1.1):
[A]s long as Christ remains outside of us, and we are separated from him, all that he has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race remains useless and of no value for us. Therefore, to share with us what he has received from the Father, he had to become ours and to dwell within us […] Yet since we see that not all indiscriminately embrace that communion with Christ, which is offered through the gospel, reason itself teaches us to climb higher and to examine into the secret energy of the Spirit, by which we come to enjoy Christ and all his benefits.