In the church calendar today is Pentecost Sunday. In the Christian faith we remember the events of the first Pentecost after the death and resurrection of Jesus, recorded in Acts chapter 2. When God sent his promised Holy Spirit on all the believers gathered together.
You’d think that as it was Pentecost that we would be focusing on that passage in Acts 2 today. Well we spent a week longer looking at the book of James that I thought we would, but also this year to help us understand who the Holy Spirit is we are working our way through a three week series looking at the Holy Spirit in the scriptures. I’ve called the series ‘The promised Holy Spirit… in the Old Testament… in Christ…and in the church.’ It is a quick overview, a whistle stop tour, touching down at significant places and then moving on again. It’s a bit different to what we normally do because it is pretty much straight bible teaching. My hope and prayer is that we will gain a clearer and greater understanding of the Holy Spirit and that we may experience the Spirit’s real presence and enabling in our lives, individually and as a Church.
And to some extent all we are looking at in this series is focused on the events in Acts chapter 2. Last week we looked at the Holy Spirit in the Hebrew scriptures through the lens of the promise of the Holy Spirit made in Joel chapter 2:28-29 which Peter quoted on Pentecost. That Peter said was fulfilled at Pentecost with the coming of the Holy Spirit. We saw that the Spirit wasn’t something new, but rather had been the means by which God had been moving behind the scenes from woe to go, all the way through the scriptures. As the Holy Spirit is God the Spirit was there at the beginning in creation, in Genesis 1:2 it says the spirit was brooding over the formless waters. We often use the metaphor of the breath of God to talk of the spirit and you get this wonderful picture of that breathe waiting for God to speak and that breath moving, bring things into being. We saw that the Spirit was poured out on specific people for specific tasks; from the artisans and engineers who made the tabernacles to leaders and prophets; people who could help Israel to be God’s people. But the new thing that Joel 2 looked forward to was a time when God would pour out his spirit on all flesh. All who believed in Jesus Christ, as we saw last week regardless of gender, age and socio economic status: On your sons and daughters, on old and young, even on your male and female servants. God’s Spirit is for all, not just a special few; God wants to dwell in and with each of us by his Spirit. The Promise of the Holy Spirit is for all of us.
We looked at the Holy Spirit in the Hebrew Scriptures but what about the Holy Spirit and Jesus? Where is the Holy Spirit in the gospels? And What does it means for us? I want to look at these questions by saying three things. Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit that was his experience. Jesus ministry was enabled and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would be sent on his followers to enable them to be his witnesses and continue his ministry and mission. The best way for us to look at those things is by looking at Luke’s gospel, Luke remember also wrote the book of Acts, it is the sequel to the gospel, both were written so that Theophilius and we might know the truth of what we have come to believe about Jesus.
When you look at the start of Luke’s gospel it has the feel of a continuation of the Hebrew scriptures, the spirit is very busy at work behind the scenes: John the Baptist is said to be filled by the Holy Spirit even before he is born, when his mother Elizabeth meets Mary it says that the baby leapt in her womb. The Holy Spirit is the one we are told has caused Mary to become pregnant. Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaims Mary blessed amongst all women, and that her baby is the long awaited messiah. Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father, is said to be filled with the Holy Spirit and prophecies when John is born. When Jesus is presented in the temple in accordance with the Jewish customs, he is met by Simeon whom we are told ‘the Holy Spirit was ”. Anna is a prophet who speaks about Jesus as well. John the Baptist starts his ministry we are told when the word of God came to him. We see that the Spirit is preparing the way for Jesus ministry and revealing to us who Jesus is. Then at Jesus baptism the Holy Spirit’s activity seems to be and remained focused in Jesus.
In Luke’s account of the baptism of Jesus, which we had read to us today , we are told that Jesus is filled with the Holy Spirit. In fact the focus is on Jesus being filled with the Spirit and the voice from heaven acknowledging who Jesus is rather than his baptism. While we are used to seeing the dove as a symbol of the Holy Spirit this is the first and only time in scripture there is the connection. The dove in Jewish thinking was a bringer of good news, which is so relevant to Jesus who is the bringer of Good News.
Now we need to do some Christology here. Christology is the part of theology that focuses on understanding who Jesus is. In this passage we are told that Jesus is the Son of God…”you are my son in whom I am well pleased” the voice from Heaven says. We are presented with the uniqueness of who Jesus is… Jesus as we are told in John’s prologue is the word made flesh, is God incarnate. It is easy to get caught up in thinking of the divine nature of Jesus, that we can forget that Jesus is in every way totally human as well. We can think that Jesus does his miracles and proclaims the God news because he is some sort of superhuman, but that is not the case. In fact right after the baptism in Luke’s gospel to draw us to the humanness of Jesus we have the recording of Jesus Whakapapa, his genealogy, through Joseph line back o David, Abraham and right back to Adam. Jesus while being the son of God is also totally human, Jesus like all people needs the presence and power of the Holy Spirit to achieve the mission that God has for him.
We also had read to us today the first record in Luke’s gospel of Jesus public ministry. Jesus goes to his home town Nazareth and goes to the synagogue and is handed the scriptures to read. It’s like with suli’ete this morning He is doing the bible reading. He reads from the book of Isaiah a promise from the Old Testament about the messiah. It acts as a mission statement for Jesus ministry… It starts ‘the Spirit is upon me, the Spirit has anointed me’ Jesus is aware that God has poured out his Holy Spirit on him to achieve God’s purpose. He is there to preach Good News to the poor. Recovery of sight to the blind, release to the captives set the oppressed free, proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’ After he has read the scriptures Luke tells us he sits down, which is the way in Hebrew thought people would get ready to teach. Even in some church these days’ people stand up to hear the reading of the gospel. And he says ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’.
Jesus ministry of bring God’s love and mercy, reconciliation forgiveness and wholeness, recovery of sight both physically and spiritually, cancellation of debt and freedom is able to happen because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in Jesus. When Jesus heals it is by the power of the Holy Spirit, when Jesus proclaims good news and it brings transformation and change it is by the power and moving of the Holy Spirit, we see the times when Jesus seems to know what people are thinking, that is what Paul calls words of knowledge in his list of the gifts of the Spirit. It is God’s spirit that enables Jesus to fulfil his ministry.
With the third passage we had read to us, we skip to the end of the gospel after Jesus death and resurrection and it brings us back to focusing on Pentecost and Acts 2 because it is the passage in Luke’s gospel where the risen Jesus Christ tells his disciples to wait for the promised Holy Spirit to come upon them. It is not just an Old Testament promise it is a promise from Jesus as well. Jesus now opens their mind to understand all that had to happen to him. That he had to come and to suffer and be raised from death on the third day. This is the means by which you and I are put right with God, the means by which you and I and all nations can know repentance and forgiveness of sin. The ultimate fulfilment of the mission Jesus had been anointed by the Holy Spirit to carry out. But also Jesus tells his disciples that this forgiveness and repentance will be preached to all nations beginning in Jerusalem. He tells his disciples that they are witnesses to these things and they are to stay in Jerusalem until they are clothed with power from on high.
Because of Jesus own experience with the Holy Spirt he is aware that the disciples will need the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives to witness to him, to carry on Jesus ministry of seeing repentance and forgiveness preached to every nation. To live out Jesus teaching and love people with the love of Christ. Because we have been put right with God and our sins are forgiven we are able to be filled by that spirit. This promise is repeated in John’s gospel, where they is an extensive teaching by Jesus on the Holy Spirit, what Jesus calls the paraclete, the advocate, will come and do for us… Lead us into all truth… bring to mind the things that Jesus said… fill us with the peace of God which the world cannot take away because it did not give. It was a sign of being welcomed into God’s family. Almost like you’d have a quick rundown of what has gone before at the beginning of a sequel in the movies or a new TV episode, Luke starts the book of acts with this promise from Jesus as well, that when the disciples received the Holy Spirit they would be Jesus witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the World. Matthew’s gospel focuses on the way Jesus would be present with us by the Holy Spirit. In the longer ending to Mark’s gospel the focus is not so much on the presence of the Holy Spirit but the signs that will accompany the disciples because of the Spirit’s presence.
How does this all connect with us here today? Three quick things…
Firstly it is easy to think that Jesus was able to live and minister to other people simply because of who he was, and yes Jesus is unique, but Jesus was a human being and needed the spirits presence and power to do what God had called him to do. Equally we to need the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit to do what Jesus has called us to do.; To witness to Jesus to be involved in that ministry of repentance and forgiveness to all nations. Through our word and as we’ll see next week as we look at the Pentecost church through how we live and how we love each other and show that love to the world around us. We need the Holy Spirit, and we cannot live the Christian life without it. It's not an optional extra, It's not just for the super spiritual, the people who've just gone Over the top, we need the spirit of God to be with us, fill us and move through us.
Secondly, Jesus relationship with his father wasn’t simply based on the Presence of the Holy Spirit, Jesus was a person of prayer devoted to the scriptures. In the account of his baptism we see the spirit came upon him as he prayed. As we look at the epistles we see that this being filled with the Holy Spirit in our lives is not a one off experience but rather we become more aware of the spirit’s presence and power as we walk with the spirit, as we develop our own spiritual disciplines of prayer and word. In getting to know Jesus.
Lastly, I don’t know about you but when I meet pain and suffering and brokenness in peoples live I actually feel totally and utterly powerless. When I come to people to share my faith with them, I feel totally inadequate... Yes I will help in practical ways and I will pray, but we need to be reminded that the Holy Spirit is with us and has enabled and empowered us to witness to Jesus grace and bring Jesus grace into those situations… It is the Holy Spirit's presence with us that works in and through us... It's not by power or by might but by my Spirit says the Lord… by Jesus presence in us by the Holy Spirit.