[Genesis 11:1-9; Acts 2:1-21; John 14:23-31]
The Day of Pentecost: The Holy Spirit Points You to Jesus
Man desires to make a name for himself. We are defensive about faults, and we inflate the importance of accomplishments in our life – we embellish things we’ve said or done to make them a little bigger, a little better than they really were – or we inflate the importance of our vocation or what we do for a living – we feel a great need to make a name for ourselves.
We’re addicted to this. It’s part of our fallen nature. It’s me putting faith in myself meeting a self-made or imagined measure of righteousness. This need to make a name for myself can puff me up, can confuse my life-priorities, or can bring me very low and defeated.
We’re so desperate for a worthy name for ourselves that we even rename ordinary jobs with nobler titles, and we declare every workspace to be a place of heroes and inspiration. Desperate to make a name for ourselves.
Man, at the Tower of Babel, sought what seemed to be the most noble measure – “a tower with its top in the heavens” – but, in truth, man was seeking to make a name for himself – “let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered.”
“Let us make a name for ourselves.” Man seeks a name for himself so that faith can be in man and not in God. It is the condition of our fallen nature to trust in ourselves, not God.
This is a subtle thing that we don’t notice we’re doing unless God’s Word points it out to us and convicts our hearts. God, in His mercy, hinders the builders of the Tower of Babel from making such a great name for themselves because God knows what name they truly need – not their own name, His: “It shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved” [Acts 2:21]
Today is the Day of Pentecost. Christ had died. Christ had risen. Christ had ascended, and, today, from the Father’s right hand, He pours out the Holy Spirit upon His disciples. The Holy Spirit is given in power, with great signs and miracles, not to enable you to make a name for yourself, but to point you to the name of Jesus. “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name.”
The Holy Spirt is sent to bring to you that name upon which you must call for your salvation, the name of Jesus. The Holy Spirit points you to Jesus.
The Holy Spirit is not sent to wow you with miracles. Neither is the Holy Spirit sent to give you impressive spiritual abilities. God does promise in Joel, “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams,” and these miracles – and the miracles of healing and of speaking in tongues – were all witnessed in the time of the Apostles. Yet the purpose of all of these miraculous signs was to confirm the message the Apostles were preaching – the message about Jesus, what He did for salvation, and His commands.
The Apostle Paul said he would rather speak five words with understanding than ten thousand words in miraculous tongues [1 Corinthians 14:19]. On Pentecost, the Apostles spoke in a miraculous way – yet with the purpose that men of many languages could hear the message the Spirit was preaching.
And Jesus, beforehand, in our Gospel today [John 14:23-31], is telling His disciples why He will send them the Holy Spirit: to “bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
Jesus walked with and taught His disciples, yet, before they received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, they could not retain and understand it. Jesus tells them that those who love Him will keep His word, then He promises the Holy Spirit to make this keeping of His word possible – “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
The “all things” that the Holy Spirit teaches them is not anything new but is the same as when Christ said, “Go therefore, make disciples … teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” [Matthew 28:20].
The Holy Spirit was sent on Pentecost to teach all things that Jesus had taught, to bring all He has said to remembrance in His disciples. They then proclaimed all things Christ had taught. And then they recorded all things Christ had taught – they recorded it in the New Testament Scriptures, the Gospels and Epistles that we read today, which point you to Jesus.
The Holy Spirit was given on Pentecost in the miracle of the descending tongues of fire and the rushing wind. How is the Holy Spirit given to you today? The same way the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus – in Holy Baptism.
Holy Baptism is called “the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” [Titus 3:5] and being “born of water and the Spirit” [John 3:5]. Your Baptism was your Day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit descended upon you in the font, for that purpose of pointing you always to the name of Jesus.
The Holy Spirit continues to come to you through the God-breathed Scriptures [2 Timothy 3:16]. The Holy Spirit works faith in Christ in your heart as you hear that word – “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” [Romans 10:17].
Our Small Catechism explains the work of the Holy Spirit this way:
“I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel” – by the word of Christ – “has enlightened me with His gifts” – Word and Sacrament – “has sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian Church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers, and at the Last Day will raise up me and all the dead, and will give to me and to all believers in Christ everlasting life. This is most certainly true.”
The natural way of our sinful nature is to focus on self. When Pentecost, or the topic of the Holy Spirit in general, is focused on signs or miracles or healings – or inner spiritual feelings – or dreams – or speaking in tongues – when the focus is on the miraculous, the focus often becomes on ourselves. Making a name for myself by hoping that I might become very spiritual.
But the Holy Spirit is already working – through the Word of God – to point you always away from yourself and to Jesus. It is not a spiritual experience but the name of Jesus that you need: “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved” [Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13]. And “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” [Acts 4:12].
The men and women at the Tower of Babel said, “Let us make a name for ourselves.” Brothers and sisters, you do not need to make a great name for yourselves – not spiritually, and not in this world and life. And you need to tell your neighbors, and especially the young people in your life, that they don’t need to make a name for themselves either – for “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified – not by what is in themselves, but – by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” [Romans 3:10,23]. As we say in every Sunday morning service, “Our help is in the name of the Lord” [Psalm 124:8].
Repent of your sin. Repent of your self-focus. Call upon the name of the Lord. You are forgiven because Christ has died, the Righteous for the unrighteous. There is salvation in His name. And by the Holy Spirit of Pentecost, given to you in Holy Baptism, be also an instrument of the Holy Spirit and be one who directs others to that saving name of Jesus. Amen.