Column entry, From Eastertide to Pentecost: God’s “Yes!” Breaking Forth, by John Hatch

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Column title: Crossed My Mind: Thoughts on Culture and Communication

Column entry: From Eastertide to Pentecost: God’s “Yes!” Breaking Forth

By John Hatch, Ph.D.
Eastern University (retired)
CCSN Senior Fellow

Column Description: As Christians, we are called to have the mind of Christ. This goes against the grain of our social and cultural conditioning. We seek personal or political advancement; Christ seeks the lost and the least. We grasp for cultural ascendency; Christ descends to the cross of love. This column is dedicated to thinking about culture and communication under the sign of the cross.


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May 2023

From Eastertide to Pentecost: God’s “Yes!” Breaking Forth

I love May. Trees leaf out, lawns green up, buds burst into colorful bloom, and fragrances fill the air. Pollen scatters all around, and distant plants cross-fertilize. Birdcalls fill our ears. Following the April’s anticipation and warmup, May lets loose in song, a symphony, an “Ode to Joy.” It is a resounding “yes” to life.

Isn’t it fitting, then, that over these same two months, during the liturgical period called Eastertide, Christians celebrate life-beyond-death and love-beyond-bounds in word and song.  The seven weeks from Easter to Pentecost are devoted to retracing the movement of Christ’s Spirit-Body bursting the bonds of death, burgeoning within his disciples, and then baptizing them with a fullness that overflowed ethnic bounds.

Unfortunately, many post-Reformation churches have lost the rhythm of this continuous, organic movement from Resurrection Day to “50th Day” (Pentecost). I was raised in congregations where Easter was one celebratory Sunday, and Pentecost was barely on the radar. Maybe that’s why I especially appreciate partaking in a whole season of Eastertide.

So, in this column devoted to “thinking about culture and communication under the sign of the cross,” why not take the opportunity to reflect on the connection between the resurrection of Christ and the launch of his multi-cultural Church? Let’s consider these events and their significance for Christians’ collective life in the world.

To begin with, I am struck by parallels in the biblical accounts of Easter and Pentecost:

According to Matthew, the resurrection occurred with the rumbling of “a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.”[i]

According to Luke’s account in Acts, the Church was launched with “A sound like the blowing of a violent wind [that] came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”[ii]

Notice what these accounts feature in common. First, the event arrives with an awesome roar of power—a rumbling earthquake at the resurrection, a rushing wind at Pentecost. Second, there is a descent of heaven’s emissary in the semblance of blazing energy—an angel of God who looks like lightning, the Spirit of God like flames of fire. Third, these heavenly authorities come to rest upon earthly creatures: the lightning-angel sits on the opened stone door, the Spirit-flame comes to rest on each disciple.

These dramatic events embody God’s resounding “Yes” to the hope of new, vibrant, undying life for all. Jesus said he would be raised from the dead; He rose on the third day to the roar of an earthquake. Christ promised the Spirit’s coming to the disciples in power; it came with a rush of wind, sounding God’s praises through the voices of the disciples in the tongues of the nations. As St. Paul writes, “no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ;” to confirm this, God “put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”[iii]

This work of the Spirit fulfills the grand biblical narrative, revolving around the Abrahamic covenant. When Abram and Sarai were nearing the end of their lives without child, God promised them new life in the form of a son. They were but a tiny nomadic band, yet God promised to make them as numerous as the stars. Having sworn to make Abram a great nation, and through him bless all nations, God went on to call him “Father of Many Nations.”

In the fullness of time, each promise was fulfilled. Isaac was born. The descendants of Israel multiplied in Egypt. Israel became a full-fledged nation through the Exodus. Jewish Prophets foretold a coming Messiah to rule Israel and all nations in justice and peace. In time, Christ came to redeem and reconcile all peoples. After his ascension, the Spirit came, proclaiming the good news to all through Christ’s followers, in every known language. All nations were to inherit Abraham’s blessing.

This thread of divine promise and fulfillment runs through Derwin Gray’s important new book, How to Heal Our Racial Divide: What the Bible Says, and the First Christians Knew, about Racial Reconciliation. In Part 1, Gray works through Scripture chronologically, showing that “God has always promised a multicolored, multiethnic family to Abraham, and that family was given to him in Jesus Christ.” As a result, “racial reconciliation in Christ is not peripheral to the gospel, an optional ‘nice to have’ or fad issue, but central to Christ’s mission and God’s plan.”[iv]

If we look to Paul’s epistles, we find that reconciliation across ethnic lines is integral to his account of the gospel. Christ’s death on the cross nullifies our reasons for enmity, and Christ’s life in the Spirit unites us: “For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”[v]

In a scholarly study of the Holy Spirit’s activity in Luke and Acts, Aaron Kuecker shows that it typically coincides with ethnic boundary-crossing or bridge-building. The Spirit repeatedly affirms ethnicity while also calling believers to transcend these identities in gospel community, learning to express “in-group love and out-group love simultaneously.”[vi] Pentecost inaugurates this project: Kuecker argues that the reason for the language miracle in Jerusalem was not so Jewish pilgrims from surrounding nations could understand the disciples’ utterances (since they would have known one or both of the region’s lingua francas[vii]); rather, utterance was given in the languages of their home countries to demonstrate that the Spirit was birthing a new community incorporating the full diversity of ethno-linguistic identities. In short, God was saying “Yes” to membership for all peoples in Christ’s family and kingdom, just as the Father had said “Yes” to Jesus the Messiah in raising him from the dead.

So, what are the implications of Eastertide and Pentecost for us and our cultural engagement?

In this age of polarized identities and ideologies, the Spirit of Christ—whom Jesus dubbed the Advocate[viii]—calls us out of our cultural captivity to the power of “No.” The way of the Accuser (the Satan in Hebrew)[ix] lies in tearing others down to lift oneself up. Under the corrosive influence of this spirit, love for the in-group becomes exclusion of outsiders; moral commitments are reduced to negations; and good character is corrupted into mere hatred of those deemed evil by comparison. “Pro-life” comes to mean little more than anti-abortion. The pursuit of racial justice devolves into a graceless anti-racism. Scripture’s vision of racial harmony is reduced to color-blindness.

But as a recent blog article by Julia Hejduk argues, “You can’t have a telos of NO.”[x] If being against something/someone is what defines us, our identity and purpose will prove hollow. Eastertide’s children are defined quite differently: by Christlike love for others, including outsiders and enemies. The people of Pentecost are filled and impelled by the Holy Spirit, the Advocate—the One who is for us in all our diversity and continually says yes to our God-given worth and redemption in Christ.

In view of this divine embrace of our colors and cultures, Derwin Gray challenges us to replace color-blindness with “color-blessed” discipleship. This mindset recognizes that “Christ gives us the Good News so we can be good family members, blessing one another and pursuing justice on behalf of one another.”[xi] Instead of avoiding expression of ethnic/racial differences, we should proactively bring these distinctives to the table for mutual benefit. As Gray puts it: “In Christ . . . Your cultural and ethnic differences make me better, and my cultural and ethnic differences make you better. Diversity is God’s university of growth. Just as an orchestra has an array of musical instruments that create beautiful music when played in harmony, so does God’s multiethnic family. Our ethnic and cultural differences are instruments of grace that play the sound of love for the world to hear.”[xii]

Now, that sounds like a fitting symphony for May! — and a much-needed soundtrack all year.

* The views of any CCSN columnists are their own, and do not necessarily represent the views of the CCSN. We invite and embrace a wide range of views and critiques on important communication and cultural issues from a Christian perspective. The CCSN is a community of Jesus followers who study communication. We do not support or promote a particular social, political, or denominational agenda. 


[i] Matthew 28:2, NIV.

[ii] Acts 2:2-4, NIV.

[iii] 2 Corinthians 1:20a, 22b, NIV.

[iv] Derwin L. Gray, How to Heal Our Racial Divide: What the Bible Says, and the First Christians Knew, about Racial Reconciliation (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2022), 9.

[v] I Corinthians 12:13, NIV.

[vi] Aaron J. Kuecker, The Spirit and the ‘Other’: Social Identity, Ethnicity and Intergroup Reconciliation in Luke-Acts. (New York: T & T Clark, 2011), 52, 49.

[vii] Aramaic or Greek.

[viii] John 14:16-17, 26 (NIV).

[ix] See Job 1:6-11, Revelation 12:10.

[x] Julia D. Hejduk, “You Can’t Have a Telos of NO,” Christian Scholars Review, April 19, 2023,

[xi] Gray, How to Heal Our Racial Divide, 133.

[xii] Gray, How to Heal Our Racial Divide, 161.

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