From a sermon on Pentecost - the Venerable Bede
Behold how the Jewish feast of the Law is a foreshadowing of our feast today. When the children of Israel had been freed from slavery in Egypt by the offering of the paschal lamb, they journeyed through the desert toward the Promised Land, and they reached Mount Sinai. On the fiftieth day after the Passover, the Lord descended upon the mountain in fire, and with the sound of a trumpet and with thunder and lightning, He gave them the ten commandments of the Law. As a memorial of the giving of the Law, He decreed an annual feast on that day, an offering of the first-fruits, in the form of two loaves of bread, made from the first grain of the new harvest, which were to be brought to the altar. We already know that the Passover Lamb and the deliverance from Egypt foreshadow the death of Christ and our deliverance from sin, as it is written: “Christ our Passover Lamb is sacrificed for us” (1 Cor 5:7). He is the true Lamb Who has taken away the sins of the world (John 1:29), Who has redeemed us from the slavery of sin at the price of His blood, and by the example of His resurrection has shown us the hope of life and everlasting liberty. The Law was given on the fiftieth day after the slaying of the lamb, when the Lord descended upon the mountain in fire; likewise on the fiftieth day after the resurrection of our Redeemer, which is today, the grace of the Holy Spirit, descending in the outward appearance of fire, was given to the disciples as they were assembled in the upper room.
The height of the mountain, and the elevation of the upper room, both indicate the sublimity of the commands and of the gifts. At the sealing of the first covenant, the people remained at the base of the mountain, a handful of elders went partway up, and only Moses ascended to the summit. At the sealing of the second covenenant, the whole community of God’s people was gathered at the summit, in the upper room. For the observance of the Law was given to only one nation—“He hath not dealt so with any nation, neither have the heathen knowledge of His Law” (Psalm 147:20)—but the gifts of the Spirit to the Church are for the proclaiming of the Gospel to every living person on the face of the earth—“The LORD’s name is praised from the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same” Malachi 1:11.
On the Jewish feast of Pentecost, there were to be offered to the Lord every year in perpetuity two loaves of bread, the first-fruits of the new harvest. So at the descent of the Spirit the Gospel was preached with power, and on that day many heard and believed and were baptized, and from men of every nation under heaven about three thousand souls were added to the Church, the first fruits of the new covenant. So every year on the feast of Pentecost, the Church baptizes, and so offers to the Lord an offering of the first-fruits of the redeemed from the face of the earth, an offering of both Jews and gentiles, as tokened by the two loaves.
Observe how the Law was given to the people of Israel on the fiftieth day of their journey to the Land of Rest that was promised to them in Canaan. So likewise, the grace of the Spirit was given to the people of the new covenant on the fiftieth day, that we might perceive that our journey is directed toward that Heavenly Country that is our Eternal Rest, our place of deep and abiding satisfaction. In the law, the fiftieth year was ordered to be called the Year of Jubilee. During that year, all debts were to be cancelled, all slaves to be set free, the very beasts of burden to be eased from their yokes, and the year given over to celebrating the Divine praises. Therefore, by this number is rightly indicated the tranquillity of that greatest peace when, at the sound of the trumpet, the dead shall be raised imperishable, and we shall all be changed into glory. Then, when we are freed from every yoke of sin, and our debts, that is to say, our faults—have all been forgiven and cancelled, the entire company of the people of God will give themselves over to contemplating the Heavenly Vision, and the command of the Lord will be fulfilled: “Be still, and know that I am God.”
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