What is Pentecost?

At Pentecost we celebrate the moment the 12 apostles received the gift of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus had promised them. It was this gift that helped the apostles to spread around the world the Good News about Jesus, to make new disciples and to build the Church.

What happened?

Pentecost falls 50 days after Easter. It takes its name from an old Jewish harvest festival, which falls 50 days after Passover – Pentecost means ’50 days’ in Greek.

Pentecost fell 10 days after Jesus ascended to heaven, and the 12 apostles found themselves all together that morning. All of a sudden, there was a sound like wild winds came from heaven and what seemed to be tongues of fire appeared among the apostles, and one tongue settled above each apostle. The apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit and started to speak different languages (or ‘tongues’).

In Jerusalem at that time were Jews of different tribes and places, who spoke different languages, who had gathered to celebrate the harvest festival. They were amazed to hear the apostles speak in their language, too.

The apostle Peter told them about Jesus and his Resurrection. On that day, 3,000 were baptised in the name of Christ and joined his Church.

(You can read this story in Acts 2:1-12)


It had been 10 days since Jesus had ascended to heaven and giving the apostles a huge job: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in name of the Father, Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.’
(Matthew 28:19-20).

Imagine how what it must have been like to be one of the 12, wondering how to make sense of this and start building the Church in Jesus’ name. On the day of Pentecost, the apostles received the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which Jesus had promised them and that they needed to live out Jesus’ command to them.

Can you think of another story in the Bible when people suddenly start talking in different languages? In Genesis we learn about the Tower of Babel, when God stopped people who were trying to build a tower that would reach the heavens by mixing up their language so they could not communicate.

In that story, language confused people who were getting too big for their boots. On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit gave new language as a gift to Jesus’ faithful disciples.

Pentecost reminds us that the spirit gives us all different gifts in life. Using those gifts, and by working together, we can all help to build Christ’s Church and build God’s Kingdom on earth.

In our church

The Church of England dedicates the 10 days between Ascension and Pentecost to prayers for Christian unity. The Church of England calls this ‘Thy Kingdom Come’.

Pentecost reminds us that though we speak different languages, come from different places and belong to different churches there is (in the words of a famous hymn we often sing in S Barnabas), only ‘one Church, one Faith, one Lord’

Things to do at home

Reading and thinking

S Paul, who became an apostle sometime after Pentecost, thought a lot about the gifts of the Spirit and what they mean. Read the beautiful passage in 1 Corinthians 12:4-13 that tells us what he thought.

What gifts and talents do you have? How can you use your talents to help to grow S Barnabas Church?

Making and doing

On your next walk in a park or the countryside, make a ‘nature kebab’ to remind you of the apostles.
First, find a longish stick.
Then skewer or tie onto it 12 different leaves, twigs, pinecones, daisies etc that you find.
Can you find 12 different things – one for each of the apostles?

The apostles: Peter, James, John, Andrew, Matthew, Bartholomew, Philip, Thomas, James, Simon, Thaddeus and Matthia


Look down, most gracious God, this day
Upon thy people as they pray;
And Christ the Lord upon us pour
The Spirit’s gift for evermore.
(From the 4th century hymn: Beata nobis gaudia)