Pentecost Sunday will be dramatically different in Jerusalem this year. Thousands of Christians are in the Holy City to celebrate the holiday while multitudes of Jews are also in Jerusalem to celebrate Shavuot, also called the Feast of Weeks.
The Christian pilgrimage to Jerusalem is the result of planning by Empowered21, an evangelical movement coordinating international Christian leaders to address issues around the world. The organization is hosting a large event, called a Global Congress, in the Jerusalem Pais Area. The area, which holds more than 11,000 people, is currently filling up daily for the five days of the meeting, which ends May 25. Organizers said the event is drawing people from 70 nations to celebrate Pentecost and events over the past week included 130 speakers, a South Korean delegation participating and a performance from a Dane group.
One of the purposes of the service is to pass the torch of the movement to young people, according to Empowered21 President and Global Co-Chair William M. Wilson. The movement, which is based in Pentecostal beliefs of Spirit empowerment, hopes that youth will be spurred to do more for Jesus Christ.
“Our prayer is that this service will be a catalyst, igniting the hearts and minds of young people from around the globe with the fire of God’s love and power,” Wilson said. He said this moment is of the highest significance.
Jews in Jerusalem are enthusiastic about the Pentecost Sunday celebration, even though they are celebrating another holiday and the Pentecost has differences from the Jewish holiday. The enthusiasm about Pentecost from Jews is in part, according to Israeli media, because the Christians in the Holy City are pro-Israel.
Jewish families are celebrating the Feast of Weeks, which focuses on when God gave the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai. This is an annual event for those in Jerusalem. There is some concern over dual celebrations at the Tomb of David because of space and security concerns, but so far, the two festivals have continued simultaneously without any problems.
The two festivals do not fall in the same week by accident. Pentecost is celebrated 50 days after Easter, which Christians recognize as the day of Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus was killed during Passover, according to Scripture. The Bible states Jesus spent 40 days after his resurrection preaching and teaching His followers before He ascended into Heaven. He proclaimed “a Great Comforter” was coming to help his followers. Ten days later, as the story goes in Acts 2, the apostles and disciples gathered in the upper room and the Spirit came down and gave all of them the ability to speak in foreign languages they had never spoken and also understand all of the languages, even though they had never heard them before. Pentecost is typically called the “birthday of the church” because it signifies the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that every believer receives at salvation.
Shavuot, for the Jews, is celebrated 50 days after the second night of Passover. Its history is rooted in the story in Exodus 34 in which God gave Moses new tablets of covenants for the children of Israel. Moses received the laws on Mount Sinai and, according to scripture, his face was shining after meeting with Jehovah. It states in Exodus 34:5 that the Lord “descended in the cloud,” so the idea of a spirit descending to impart a gift is a common theme in both the Jewish and Christian holidays. Also, some believe the reason that Jesus’ disciples gathered was to celebrate the Feast of Weeks.
While the Shavuot celebrations will not be dramatically different for Jerusalem, the Christian celebration of Pentecost Sunday is adding a lot of activity this year. Most there welcome the celebrations with those working with Empowered21 hoping this is the beginning of changes for the world.
By Melody Dareing
Public Broadcasting System
The Jerusalem Post
National Deseret News
Photo by Francisco Martins – Flicker License