In preaching through Acts 2 (Sermon Here), I wasn’t able to elaborate on why there were so many people in Jerusalem at Pentecost.  It’s important and fascinating, especially when we understand the books of Acts as the history of God pursuing the Gentiles to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

What is Pentecost in Judaism?

Pentecost is an annual harvest festival that occurs seven weeks after Passover (1).  The Greek word, Pentecost means fiftieth because it occurs on the fiftieth day after Passover. It is also known in the Old Testament as the Feast of Weeks, we can read about it in Leviticus.

You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering.  You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the LORD.  You shall bring from your dwelling places two loaves of bread to be waved, made of two tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour, and they shall be baked with leaven, as firstfruits to the LORD.  And you shall present with the bread seven lambs a year old without blemish, and one bull from the herd and two rams. They shall be a burnt offering to the LORD, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD.  And you shall offer one male goat for a sin offering, and two male lambs a year old as a sacrifice of peace offerings.  And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the LORD, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the LORD for the priest.  And you shall make a proclamation on the same day. You shall hold a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work. It is a statute forever in all your dwelling places throughout your generations. – Leviticus 23:15-21, ESV.

This festival included extensive sacrifice (Lev 23:15–21; Deut 16:9–10; 2 Chr 8:13). At Pentecost, Israelite farmers would start their journeys toward Jerusalem to present their firstfruit offerings. (2)

More can be read here: 

Nations Represented at Pentecost

Faithlife, LLC. “Logos Bible Software Atlas.” Logos Bible Software, Computer software. Bellingham, WA: Faithlife, LLC, July 15, 2022.

Why is Pentecost a Significant Backdrop for the Arrival of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2?

Throughout our series in Acts, we are seeing how God is reaching the world with the Gospel message through the Apostles.  In fact, He continues to do that through the church today.  In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit comes and fills the Jerusalem disciples at Pentecost as the religious world is coming to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices.   The disciples began to speak in tongues, these tongues were the native languages of the people who were coming to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices and celebrate the wheat harvest.

There would have been thousands of visitors to Jerusalem for the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost).  Because they were traveling to Jerusalem for this feast, we can assume they were interested in maintaining obedience to God and the Law. They were deeply interested in religious matters.  If they weren’t interested, they would have not made this trip and offered the sacrifices.  This helps us understand how God added 3,000 to the church through Peter’s sermon in Acts 2.   

The Law of Pentecost Meets the Grace of Pentecost in Acts 2.

I think it is important to highlight what God is doing here, remember God is the main character of the storyline in the Bible and the story of what is unfolding around us today.  God is doing something very spiritual here.  These “devout men” in Acts 2:5 were devoted to God practicing the Jewish faith.  At least 3,000 of them came to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices, but they went home changed and filled with the Holy Spirit because they encountered the Gospel message.  When the religious world was coming to Jerusalem to keep the Law, the Holy Spirit fell on Jerusalem to offer freedom from the Law.  These new believers undoubtedly went back home changed forever and taking the Gospel message they heard with them and sharing it with their friends and family.  This possibly laid the groundwork for the missionary journeys of Peter and Paul in Acts.

1.  Ronald D. Roberts, “Pentecost,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

2. Ronald D. Roberts, “Pentecost,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).