Pentecost (πεντηκοστή) literally means the fiftieth. In the Jewish tradition, it is the fiftieth day after Passover to celebrate the harvest. In the Christian tradition, it is the fiftieth day or the seventh Sunday after Easter; the event that the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles.
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they 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 all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost [Holy Spirit], and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.Acts 2:1-4
It is one of the most critical events as far as the Christian church history is concerned. After Easter, for forty days, the Apostles spent time with Jesus resurrected and eventually witnessed His Ascension, which was on the fortieth day.
For those days, Jesus said to them as follows.
For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence… But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost [Holy Spirit] is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judæa, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.Acts 1:5,8
Indeed, after ten days, on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon them. The fundamental transformation took place for them, in them, and through them.
In the case of Paul (Saul of Tarsus), he had to experience the total breakdown. He got blinded for three days, which wrecked his self-righteousness. Once he restored his sight, even his spiritual eyesight was open. He called himself Paul and became ready for his missionary work. That was the way the Holy Spirit worked for Paul, in Paul, and through Paul.
Other Apostles also went through such a fundamental transformation.
In the case of Peter, he already had witnessed various miracles when he was with Jesus. He believed Jesus as the Messiah, and even he was willing to die for him.
And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Cæsarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am? And they answered, John the Baptist: but some say, Elias; and others, One of the prophets. And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ.Mark 8:27-29
Peter said unto him [Jesus], Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples.Matthew 26:35
Peter believed Jesus was the Christ. And Jesus told Peter that he should be the rock, foundation of the church and the keys of the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus knew, however, Peter needed the transformation. Unlike Paul, Peter did not have to covert himself; nevertheless, like Paul, he had to experience his complete breakdown.
Without it, Peter could never do his mission. How much his will and faith must be secure; how much he loved Jesus, Peter would never accomplish his mission by himself. It would be for him, in him, and through him, but never by him.
He [Jesus] saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar–jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.Matthew 16:15-19
Peter thought he could die for Jesus, which ironically showed he was not ready. He loved Jesus selfishly. We all know how Peter denied Jesus out of fear and his self-love.
Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.Matthew 26:74-75
He was so weak and loved himself too much, and then, hated himself too much, seeing his weakness. That is why, even after the Resurrection, Jesus asked Peter three times if Peter loved Jesus.
So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest [agape] thou me more than these?
He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love [philia] thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.
He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest [agape] thou me?
He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love [philia] thee.
He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest [philia] thou me?
Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest [philia] thou me?
And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love [philia] thee.
Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.John 21:15-17
Why did Jesus have to ask Peter three times? Is it because Peter denied Jesus three times? Perhaps it could be one of the reasons together with the act of Jesus in the Bible is always expressed three times symbolically.
Another reason is the way Peter loved Jesus was still the love of philia (brotherly love) and would never be the love of agape (selfless, God’s love). When Jesus asked Peter three times, in the first and second time, it was the love of agape. Peter’s answer, however, was always the love of philia for all three times.
Knowing such difference, this conversation between Jesus and Peter looked sad. Depsite all the things happened to Peter, there was still a limitation. It is, indeed, our limitation. Not only Peter, but we all could never reach the love of agape. It is God’s love. It is the love of how He died to take away the sins of the world.
For all three times, Peter consistently answered with the love of philia. Perhaps Peter himself knew how weak he was just like all of us are so weak as Peter. Nevertheless, he was the rock, the foundation of the church, and the key of the kingdom of heaven.
Why? It was the Holy Spirit that worked for Peter, in Peter, and through Peter. Pentecost is the birthday of the church started from weak and yet strong Peter who knew his limitation, being far from the love of agape.
Image by Peter H