By Ken Gurley
Comments: I remember standing in the Upper Room on a trip to the Holy Land. While many other places have become nothing short of shrines in Israel, there is a pristine sameness about the Upper Room. The shrines, replete with their icons and incense left me feeling saddened. When I stepped into the Upper Room, however, I remember what I thought that day, “this room has special meaning to Pentecostals.”
We don’t really know the day of Christ’s birth. Some would argue even the day of the week upon which Jesus was crucified. Yet, we know that Pentecost fell on that 50th day from Passover on what we call today, Pentecost Sunday.
The following sermon is Pentecostal in theme, doctrine, and style. It represents the combination — in my mind at least – of three different thoughts that dominated my thoughts during the early summer of 2001. I pray that this metaphor for the church will linger with you as it has with me.
Who can see the wind? Neither I nor you,
But when the leaves are trembling
The wind is passing through.
Who can see the wind?
Neither you nor I,
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.
— by Christina Rossetti
No one saw the wind that swept through the upper room on Pentecost Sunday. The effects though are still with us 2,000 years later.
John the Baptist prophesied what happened on Pentecost Sunday. Hear the words of the “greatest man ever born of woman.”
Matthew 3: 11- 12
I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
Other translations render “his floor” as “his threshing floor” (NKJV, NW, NAS).
Here’s a unique picture of the church: Christ’s Threshing Floor
The Three Works of His Threshing Floor
- Pentecost Sunday Is The Church’s Birthday.
She’s old, yet she is as young as a spring-born colt first getting to its feet. She’s respected and respectable, yet there’s wildfire lurking in her. She’s well known, yet she is unknown. Who is she? She is the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
No, I’m not talking about some garden-variety congregation in the yellow pages. Neither am I speaking of some stale denomination with a yellowed history. I speak today of the one and only church—the one who hails back to the day she was born in Jerusalem. Today, we celebrate that church and we wish her a happy birthday!
She’s roughly 1,971 years old today, yet she’s as young as ever. She’s earned the reputation of a survivor, but she’s more than that. She has that hot, molten magma within. She’s a volcano incognito. She endures fires of adversity, while starting fires of revival. She’s prominent but she gets lost behind man-made facades. She’s the church who was born on Pentecost Sunday.
- The Feast of Pentecost
What is Pentecost Sunday? What is Pentecost?
The word “Pentecost” is only used three times in the entire Bible. Paul used it twice and Luke once. Yet, its lack of use doesn’t take away from its importance.
It went by a host of other names including the “feast of harvest,” or the “feast of weeks,” and so on. Over time, the name Pentecost stuck and no wonder. The word itself is unremarkable, finding its roots in the Greek word, pentecostes, meaning the fiftieth day after Passover.
The Jews had three pilgrimage feasts. Each was associated with a harvest. The Feast of Passover occurred at the same time as the barley harvest. The Feast of Tabernacles took place at the harvest of olives and grapes. The Feast of Pentecost was linked with the wheat harvest. On each of these three feasts, Jewish males had to come to Jerusalem.
Fifty days after the Jews celebrated the Passover, they celebrated again. This time — it was the Feast of Pentecost.
- Three Significant Things about Pentecost
- The Number “Fifty”
This number has a special place in every Jewish heart. In the Old Testament, after a period of seven sevens, or forty-nine years, the fiftieth year belonged to the Lord: the year of Jubilee.
Sadly enough, there is no record that the Jubilee laws of the Old Testament were ever obeyed. Consequently, Pentecost became the Jews’ annual Jubilee — a time of deliverance, freedom from bondage, and rest.
Isn’t it odd that on this very day — the Day of Pentecost — the Lord poured out His Spirit upon the church? The baptism of the Holy Ghost became the rest and the refreshing prophesied by Isaiah.
For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear.
- The Giving of the Law
The Jews believed that God gave the Law to Moses on the Day of Pentecost. When the Jews journeyed to Zion at Pentecost, they celebrated Moses’ pilgrimage to Sinai.
Again, the uniqueness to the Jews’ belief and the church’s reality strikes us. For Ezekiel prophesied what would happen when the Holy Spirit would be poured out:
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
- The Fulfillment of John the Baptist’s Promise
John the Baptist said that he baptized with water, but that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire. The fulfillment of this promise occurred on the Day of Pentecost. “When the day of Pentecost was fully come,” the closest followers of Jesus were filled with the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:1).
Again, something revealing is found here. In our text, John linked the promised outpouring with the wheat harvest. We remember that the Feast of Pentecost occurred at the same time.
For that time and always, John the Baptist gives us an enduring metaphor of the church. The church is nothing less than Christ’s threshing floor.
- Analogy of the Threshing Floor
- The Church Is Christ’s Threshing Floor.
What is a threshing floor? In Bible days, the threshing floor was a high, rocky place chosen in near proximity to the fields. Here, the exacting, exhausting work of separating the individual kernels of grain from their stalks and husks had to be accomplished.
Jesus Christ had little in the way of possessions.
He owned no home. He borrowed others’ homes.
He owned no donkeys. He borrowed one of those.
He owned no tombs. He borrowed one of those.
So, our text becomes all the more striking.
Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
Notice the possessiveness: “whose fan;” “his hand:” “his floor;” and “his wheat.” We know that Christ purchased the church. This, He purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28). John describes the church that Jesus bought and paid for as being His threshing floor.
It’s not so strange. Solomon’s Temple was built upon Oman’s threshing floor. Is it so odd then for another Son of David to liken His church upon a threshing floor?
And who hasn’t read the book of Ruth? This Moabite refugee gleaned in the fields of her nearest kinsman Boaz. At midnight on the threshing floor, Boaz committed to be her kinsman redeemer (Ruth 3:12-13). If the future great-grandmother of King David could eek out a proposal on the threshing floor, then, perhaps the church too is a place where futures are secured.
- The Work of the Field versus the Work of the Threshing Floor
Every child of God has two different places of employment — the field and the threshing floor.
Jesus taught that the world is the field (Matthew 13:38). He also told us that the primary work in the field is sowing the seed. Everyone has a job to do in the field. In our world, we sow, we water, and we reap. We witness, we testify, we pray, we invite, we help, we teach, we spread God’s good news! We teach people the power of faith in God. We tell people how they can respond to the gospel through dying to sins in repentance, having those same sins washed away in baptism, and being filled with new life by His Spirit. That’s our work in the field.
Our work in the field is to “whosever will” (Revelation 22:17). It is the indiscriminate, broad, and free Good News to all who will hear. Yet, the work of the threshing floor is more exact.
III. The Three Works of Christ’s Threshing Floor
- The Work of the Word
When the sheaves of grain were brought in from the field, they would be laid across the hard stone of the threshing floor. Working in unison, teams of oxen would stamp across the stalks of grain. At times, they would pull sledges for additional weight. The grain was literally caught between a rock and a hard place. This pressure served to loosen the kernel of grain from its stalk and the husk that enshrouded it. On the threshing floor, the seed was separated from its chaff, the future was separated from its past.
That’s what happens with the preached Word of God. As Christ’s yokefellows begin to tread across the hearts and minds of people, pressure begins to build. The walls close in. Choices must be made. Hearers begin to feel that they must let go of their past or be crushed. That’s the power of the preached Word! It places people into a position where they must change or grow harder!
When the Word of God is preached, a shaking and a loosening takes place. Old husks of preconceived notions, traditions, and routines are burst and swept aside. Old stalks of past regrets, hurtful memories, and shortcomings are stripped from you.
Someone once asked Saint Patrick which was best: to pray at home or worship at church. He responded, “The latter of course. Because without it we will soon stop doing the former.”
He’s right you know. We should pray and read our Bible in private. But, unless we gather together, we cannot do the one thing that really marks a disciple of Christ: we cannot love one another. We can’t find relief from the old shells of unforgiving spirits, hurt feelings, and wounded pride. We must gather together and hear God’s Word preached! At church, hurtful things of the past are loosened from us.
A father knelt with his son to hear his prayers. The three-year-old boy began in all seriousness: “Our Father who art in heaven, how do you know my name?”
Another four-year-old gave his rendition of the Lord’s Prayer: “And forgive us our trash baskets as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets.”
We ought to put a sign up on every church: “Trash baskets emptied here!” What kind of stuff do we have in our lives that need to be emptied from us? That’s what the preached Word does —it starts the emptying and loosening process. Oh, it may take some time! But, it will happen. The things that hold you; the husks that encircle you; the crust that coats you will be loosened by the work of the Word.
There’s two more works to be done. Allow me to skip to the third work in the process, then, I’ll come back to the second.
- The Work of the Wind
The work of the field was done largely during the day. It was in the evening hours, however, that the threshing floor saw its greatest activity. For as the sun sank, the western winds began to blow off the Mediterranean Sea. The winds swept over the highlands and across the threshing floors where the trampled grain lay.
This wind would drive away the chaff.
The grain would fall back to the floor.
The destiny of the chaff was a bonfire.
The destiny of the grain was the barn.
Only the wind can accomplish this dual task.
When Pentecost came to the Upper Room, the disciples heard a sound like a rushing, mighty wind. Then, they saw flickering flames falling from heaven (Acts 2:1-4). The outpouring of God’s Spirit was marked with a fiery wind.
As the preacher preaches, God’s wind begins to blow. Remember Ezekiel the prophet who was dropped into a valley of dry bones? As he preached, bones noisily began to reassemble. He preached some more and the winds began to blow. He preached some more and that which was dead came to life!
John the Baptist described the breeze to be cleansing! A weatherman in Los Angeles was once asked if the prevailing winds would clear the haze from the city. He replied that they would not. “It would,” he said, “take a wind from elsewhere.”
That’s what the Holy Ghost is. It is the wind from elsewhere that removes all manner of problems from our lives. While we can’t see the wind, we can see the effects of it passing through.
When Egypt was covered with locusts, God allowed the west wind to blow. The locusts were drowned in the sea. Oh, let that same wind blow again today! Let it blow through the church here! Let the cleansing breeze of His Spirit rid us of all the things that torment us.
We need the wind to work today! We need God’s Spirit to blow!
- The Work of Worship
Tirelessly through the day the oxen have marched. The Word has gone forth. Sometimes, preachers feel like they go in circles, treading over the same patch again and again. But, evening comes and the wind blows. Now, the work of the word and the work of the wind must be joined by another work – the work of worship.
Workers on the threshing floors of old used winnowing forks or fans to toss the heaps of crushed grain high into the blowing breeze. Because of its weight and surface area the grain dropped back to the threshing floor. The chaff had a different fate — it would be carried downwind into a blazing fire. Again and again, the grain was heaved into the air until the chaff disappeared.
Isn’t that what worship is all about? We don’t wait to isolate all the good things in our midst, and then offer these to Him. We realize that perfection lies close to imperfection, wheat lies close to tares, grain lies close to chaff. We take everything and offer it to Him. The wind will perfect our praise.
For seven to ten days, the disciples had gathered in the Upper Room. In this high place above the city of Jerusalem, work was done. Perhaps, they reminded themselves of the promises of God. Maybe they preached one to another and found that Simon Peter seemed to have a gift — if he could just get over the guilt he felt.
All the while, the crowds started to gather for the feast of Pentecost. In the Upper Room, possibly they began to remember what the Lord had done: Calvary, an empty tomb, bringing a disparate group such as themselves together — in one place, and in one mind, and in one accord.
Then, on that Sunday morning, they heard it—
Acts 2: 1-4
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.
The husks of guilt and pride fell from Simon Peter. In the swirling, fiery breeze all the trash was emptied from the room. Lives were changed and transformed.
A clue as to what was happening in the Upper Room prior to this Peter’s sermon can be found a few verses later. When the crowds in Jerusalem came in contact with these Upper Room disciples, the Bible says they were proclaiming the mighty works of God but in different languages (Acts 2:11).
Sounds like worship to me! Pentecost and worship go hand in hand, Fire falls. Winds blow. Change comes.
I can’t see the wind — but I can see what the wind does. The Psalmist said wickedness is driven away like chaff in the wind (Psalm 1:4). Isaiah said that unfaithfulness will dissipate and opposition will roll away before a whirlwind — and all of it will happen suddenly! (Isaiah 5:4, 29:5).
Here’s a promise: The Word loosens the chaff, the Worship lifts the chaff, and His Wind carries the chaff into the fire. What goes into the fire is not coming out again!
Oh, preachers! Keep ministering from the Word. Don’t get discouraged. Oh, saints! Keep worshipping. Don’t stop! Keep lofting and lifting! Oh, God! Keep blowing with your Spirit.
And Pentecost will come today.
This article “The Three Works of His Threshing Floor” was excerpted from the book Preaching for a New Millennium written by Ken Gurley. It may be used for study & research purposes only.