(Excerpted from gotquestions.org and Author’s study of the 7 Levitical Feasts)
Shavuot is a festival that happens fifty days after Passover in order to celebrate the event in which God gave the Torah to Moses. The event in which God gave His word to the Jewish people in the form of text.
Christians, on the other hand, celebrate Pentecost fifty days after what we consider to be our Passover: Easter [Resurrection] Sunday. Fifty days after the resurrection, the word of God was given again, except this time it was not given as written text, but as the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the believers.
As the Jewish people celebrate this feast year after year, they recount the awesome events that took place at the foot of Mt. Sinai. It is what defines them as a people. Therefore it was not by chance that God chose Shavuot, more commonly called Pentecost among Christians, for this miraculous event took place exactly seven weeks following Jesus’ last Passover. This was a time when Jerusalem would have been filled with Jews from all the surrounding lands who had come with great anticipation to “meet with the Lord”—the meaning of the “appointed times” listed in Leviticus 23.
Pentecost Sunday is celebrated to recognize the gift of the Holy Spirit, realizing that God’s very life, breath and energy live in believers. During this service, John 20:19-23 may be the core of the message about our risen Savior supernaturally appearing to the fear-laden disciples. Their fear gave way to joy when the Lord showed them His hands and side after His death on the cross and His resurrection, giving convincing proofs that He was alive.
Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the Father’s gift of the Holy Spirit, from whom they would receive power to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:3-8). After Jesus’ ascension to heaven, the men returned to Jerusalem and joined together in prayer in an upper room.
On the Day of Pentecost, just as promised, the sound of a violent wind filled the house and tongues of fire came to rest on each of them and all were filled with the Holy Spirit. They were given the power of communication, which Peter used to begin the ministry for which Jesus had prepared him. After the coming of the Holy Spirit, the disciples did not stay in the room basking in God’s glory but burst out to tell the world. This was the beginning of the church as we know it.
The celebration of Pentecost Sunday reminds us of the reality that we all have the unifying Spirit that was poured out upon the first-century church in Acts 2:1-4. It is a reminder that we are co-heirs with Christ, to suffer with Him that we may also be glorified with Him; that the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7); that we are all baptized by one Spirit into one body (1 Corinthians 12:13); and that the Spirit which raised Jesus from the dead lives inside believers (Romans 8:9-11). This gift of the Holy Spirit that was promised and given to all believers on the first Pentecost is promised for you and your children and for all who are far off whom the Lord our God will call (Acts 2:39).
Jewish Observance: The Feast of Weeks, also known as Shavuot (Hebrew for weeks), is the conclusion of the Passover season. Shavuot marks the beginning of the summer wheat harvest. God told the sons of Jacob that they were to count 7 weeks from Firstfruits and then, on ‘the day after’, this fourth feast was to be observed. This fourth feast must be observed on the 50th day which is also called Pentecost or ‘fiftieth’. On Shavuot, God’s children were to bring not just the firstfruits offering of barley, but also two loaves of finely baked bread made with fine flour and leaven.
Leviticus 23:15-21 “From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath and then present an offering of new grain to the Lord. From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to the Lord. Present with this bread seven male lambs, each a year old and without defect, one young bull and two rams. They will be a burnt offering to the Lord, together with their grain offerings and drink offerings—an offering made by fire, an aroma pleasing to the Lord. Then sacrifice one male goat for a sin offering and two lambs, each a year old, for a fellowship offering. The priest is to wave the two lambs before the Lord as a wave offering, together with the bread of the firstfruits. They are a sacred offering to the Lord for the priest. On that same day you are to proclaim a sacred assembly and do no regular work. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live.”
Israel was reborn on Shavuot, May 14, 1948.
Christian Application: Weeks, or Pentecost, points to the great harvest of souls and the gift of the Holy Spirit for both Jew and Gentile and is the Feast that has equal significance for both. The Church was established on this day when God poured out His Holy Spirit and 3,000 Jews responded to Peter’s great sermon and his first proclamation of the Gospel.
Acts 2:1-4 “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they (the Apostles) were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”