mothers’ day and pentecost

May 13, 2008


coptic pentecost icon

Here are my notes for my talk last Sunday (Mothers’ Day/Pentecost)

Some parts may be a bit random, but I’ll post it all for the heck of it:

I’d like to look at two things that on the surface might seem a bit unconnected, but actually have some interesting connections that reflect what Danny’s talking about relating to the kingdom of God.

Today, as everyone knows, is Mother’s Day, but it’s also Pentecost. I’m going to talk about some connections between the two.


Pentecost is a Jewish festival that falls on the fiftieth day of Passover. In biblical times, Jews from all over the Roman Empire gathered in Jerusalem for the festivities of Pentecost. On the Pentecost after Jesus’ resurrection—ten days after Jesus had ascended into heaven—the apostles and other believers were gathered together in one place, when they were suddenly empowered by the Holy Spirit to preach the gospel. They went out into the crowds and attracted attention by preaching in the native languages of all the people present. This created quite a stir. Peter seized the opportunity to address the crowd, preached Jesus’ death and resurrection, and won several thousand converts.

These events are recorded in Acts 2:1-41.

Accordingly, Pentecost is celebrated by Christians as the birthday of the Church by the power of the Holy Spirit. Since the Jewish Pentecost is the fiftieth day of Passover, the Christian Pentecost is the fiftieth day of Easter.

Pentecost is not the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit made His first appearance in Genesis 1:2! Rather, Pentecost is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on human flesh to give birth to the Church.


Pentecost signals the end of the Christian year. The season after Pentecost is the focus on the Great Comission.

I’d like to tie the coming of the Holy Spirit in Pentecost with Mother’s Day. It might be a stretch, but there are some powerful metaphors of the birth of the church on Pentecost, the Holy Spirit coming over Mary, and Mary being present at Pentecost in the upper room. I think the closeness of his mother to these major events shows how he sanctified the mother-child relationship, and that it is one of the purest human relationships we can have. Not only that, but it opens up a window into the kingdom of God. When Jesus mother and siblings wanted to see him, he said that whoever does his commands is his mother, sister, and brother. That wasn’t a dismissal of his family relationships. Instead, it was an elevation of every other relationship within the kingdom of God. Namely, that all of us who believe are part of his holy family.

1. The Spirit is creative: Genesis 1:22 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. Hebrew rachaph A primitive root; to brood; by implication, to be relaxed — flutter, move, shake

2. The Spirit came over Mary to bring Jesus into the world.

3. The Spirit gave birth to the Church on Pentecost.

4. Mary was probably present there.

Acts 1:14They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

Acts 2:1When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

5. Jesus had an amazing relationship with his mother.

6. Often, Protestants try to minimize Mary based on their understanding of Catholic teaching about Mary. This results, however, in seeing her as just an ordinary Christian, and not someone who can teach us much about God.

7. Luke 8-19-21. 19Now Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. 20Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.”

21He replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”

This passage is often seen as a downplaying of Jesus’ relationship with his mother. However, I think it could be taken differently. Jesus is not saying that his relationship with his mother and family doesn’t matter. If we fast-forward to Jesus on the cross, giving his best friend, the “beloved” disciple the responsibility of caring for his mother,

(John 19:25) Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” 27and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.), surely he did have a close relationship with her. He did not simply hope that the community would care for her, he, as a responsible firstborn son, saw it as necessary that his mother be looked after in a normal human way. He did all of this while paying for the sins of the world. Surely it is important.

Paul elaborates on this concept of caring for your family. (1 Tim. 5:8If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.) He says that whoever does not care for the members of his family is worse than an unbeliever! Surely family has an important place in the kingdom of God.

Well, what about when Jesus says he came to turn family member against family member ( Matthew 10: 34“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35For I have come to turn
” ‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her motherinlaw—
36a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’

37“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it). He seems to be emphasizing the fact that our loyalty is to him above any relationship, and if any human relationship, even a family relationship gets in the way of our relationship with him, our allegiance is to Christ. He’s not saying that family doesn’t matter, in fact, the best picture of that is the family caring for each other and dwelling in unity. (Psalm reference).

9. So back to Jesus’ mother… Sure, God could have chosen any other woman to be the mother of Jesus, but he didn’t. Think about it this way. God chose Abraham out of all the idol worshippers of Ur of the Chaldees. But, nobody would deny that God had a special relationship with Abraham. He’s even called God’s friend (23And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,”and he was called God’s friend.).

10. We may never know the reason why God chose Mary, but we can see that God saw her as special and blessed. As we look to honor our mothers this Mother’s Day, let’s remember a few things:

a. Jesus’ relationship with Mary was extremely special and shows total care of his mother.

b. Jesus’ talking about his family doesn’t downplay the importance of his own family. It actually elevates the relationships of everyone in the kingdom of God to a family relationship. It’s an invitation for the world to be part of God’s family.

c. As we celebrate Pentecost today, it’s extremely fitting that it’s also Mother’s Day. We’re celebrating the birth of the church through the coming of the Holy Spirit. We’re also celebrating the beautiful relationship of our Mothers, and especially seeing Jesus’ relationship with his mother as a door for us to all enter into a deeper relationship with him. One of the best examples of total devotion to Jesus was his mother. Jesus invites all of us into his family to have a relationship with him like he has with his mother. As followers of Christ, let’s celebrate the gift of our families, remembering that our families should point us to the kingdom of God.


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