JERUSALEM, Israel -- Tomorrow the streets of Jerusalem will be nearly empty, but the plaza in front of the Kotel (Western Wall) will be full. Early in the morning, thousands of Jews from all over the world will come to pray.
The reason: the city, the nation, and Jews around the world are celebrating the Feast of Shavuot, when Jewish tradition teaches that God gave the Torah (law) to Moses on Mount Sinai.
Shavuot in English means weeks, and it represents the counting of seven weeks from the previous feast, Passover (Pesach). The seven weeks up to the feast day represents the 50 days after Passover, and that's where the name Pentecost (50) comes from.
During this holiday, Christians around the world will be celebrating what they see as the New Testament fulfillment of the Feast of Shavuot: Pentecost. They will remember what Luke recorded in Acts 2, an event that changed the world.
"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 and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:1-4)
The power of that day is still moving the earth. It's been seven years since the 100th anniversary of the Azuza Street Revival in Los Angeles, a 21st century reminder that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit has gone round the world, touched every nation on earth, and filled hundreds of millions of Christians with the power of the Spirit.
According to Luke in Acts 2:5, "there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under Heaven." One reason Jews "from every nation under Heaven" came to Jerusalem was because Shavuot is one of the three pilgrimage feasts when Jews were commanded to come up to Jerusalem.
What they saw that day astounded them.
"When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed, they asked: 'Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism Cretans and Arabs-we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!' Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, 'What does this mean?" Peter went onto explain the meaning.
"Then Peter stood up with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: 'Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'"
Shavuot is also known as the Feast of First Fruits. That Pentecost, 3,000 souls were added to the church -- the first fruits of a worldwide awakening.
Two thousand years later, that Church has spread around the world and shows signs of a growing crescendo leading to that day "when the glory of the Lord will cover the earth like the waters cover the sea."
**Originally posted June 2, 2006.