Three times a year Jerusalem filled with people as they came to celebrate the three main festivals. These were Passover/Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, and the Feast of Shelters (fall feast). God had commanded that His people meet at the Temple to celebrate these festivals.
Deuteronomy 16: 16 “Each year every man in Israel must celebrate these three festivals: the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Harvest, and the Festival of Shelters. On each of these occasions, all men must appear before the Lord your God at the place he chooses, but they must not appear before the Lord without a gift for him. 17 All must give as they are able, according to the blessings given to them by the Lord your God.
At Pentecost Jerusalem was Filled with Pilgrims
By the time of Jesus Jews had spread across the Roman Empire. The goal of observant Jews was to be able to celebrate one of the pilgrim feasts, Passover, Pentecost, or Feast of Shelters in Jerusalem. Realistically, if a Jew lived many miles away from Jerusalem, this wasn’t easy. They may only be able to celebrate a festival in Jerusalem once in a lifetime. It was expensive and time consuming to travel which limited the possibilities.
The Feast of Weeks or Pentecost was a well-attended Festival. Passover/Unleavened Bread was early in the spring and travel could be more difficult. By the time of Pentecost, the weather was better, and traveling was easier. This meant that at the time of the giving of the Holy Spirit, many Jews from all parts of the Roman Empire came. They would have swelled the population of Jerusalem several times over.
Acts 2: 7 They were completely amazed. “How can this be?” they exclaimed. “These people are all from Galilee, 8 and yet we hear them speaking in our own native languages! 9 Here we are—Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia, 10 Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the areas of Libya around Cyrene, visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans, and Arabs. And we all hear these people speaking in our own languages about the wonderful things God has done!” 12 They stood there amazed and perplexed. “What can this mean?” they asked each other.
The Jerusalem Visitors Would Take the Good News of Jesus with Them
The Jewish pilgrims would have spoken many languages. The Holy Spirit enabled uneducated disciples from the backwater area of Galilee to speak the languages of the Jewish pilgrims. This way they would understand what God had done through Jesus. They would take this new knowledge with them as they returned to their homes. Not only would they be able to tell their Jewish community about Jesus, but since these people lived in Gentile areas, they would also be able to share Jesus with their Gentile neighbors.
The two loaves of the Pentecost offering represent the Jews and Gentiles. They were coming together in a new beginning of the church of Jesus on earth. To hear how Jerusalem filled with people and how that affected the church, listen here: