Pentecost is the Sunday in the church year that we observe the coming of the Holy Spirit to us, Jesus’ disciples. In the story below, the Holy Spirit makes its dramatic entrance on the holiday of Pentecost. This was a big Jewish festival, which celebrated the giving of the Law of Moses. If you were able, you would travel to Jerusalem to celebrate this religious festival. Jesus’ disciples were in Jerusalem, because Jesus instructed them to remain there until the Holy Spirit arrived. Let’s look at the details of this fascinating story.
- This passage starts out by saying that they were “all” gathered in one place. If you count the number of languages spoken in verses 9-11, they total more than the 12 apostles. So, I believe that Luke is telling us that the entire group of Jesus’ followers was gathered there in one place in Jerusalem, not only the 12 apostles.
- The Holy Spirit enters dramatically, with wind and fire. I don’t think it was actual fire, though, because Luke uses the phrase “as of fire”. He is using a metaphor to describe something indescribable. Something powerful, holy, and heavenly. It must have been a wild and wonderful experience! (vv. 2-3)
- A remarkable thing occurs next. The Spirit grants to each believer the ability to sing praises to God in languages they had not been taught. (v. 4)
- Between the rushing wind, and the divided tongues of fire (or whatever that was), attention is drawn and a crowd gathers. These devout Jews are from “every [then-known] nation under heaven”. Remember, they were in Jerusalem to celebrate the festival. They heard these country bumpkins (Galileans) speaking praises to God in their very own languages. (vv. 5-11)
- Some were amazed, and wondered what it all meant. Others believed that these people were drunk on new wine. There is someone in every crowd, isn’t there? (vv. 12-13)
- Then, Peter raises his voice, and explains this event to the crowd. He says that these are people are not drunk; you are witnessing the fulfillment of scripture. He quotes Joel 2:28-32. (vv. 14-21)
- The story continues through verse 47, but this is not included in this passage. It is too long to be read on a Sunday morning. Consider reading the rest of chapter 2, to hear all of Peter’s remarkable speech.
This event marks the entrance of the Holy Spirit into the lives of Jesus’ followers. This Spirit gave Peter the courage to speak before this large crowd—a crowd of over 3,000. This was the same Peter who denied Jesus out of fear, just a few weeks earlier. The Holy Spirit is also within us, giving us the courage and the words to proclaim the greatness of God. We, myself included, do a great job in squelching the Holy Spirit’s urgings. Join me in allowing the Spirit to run free, giving us boldness and wisdom to do the Lord’s work!
A HUMOROUS THOUGHT
Quite often, my sense of humor appears in places it where it does not belong. Here is a good example of that. In verse 13, some people accused the believers of being drunk on new wine. Peter’s response to this accusation always makes me chuckle. He doesn’t say “They are not drunk, because they are Good Christians.” No. He says they aren’t drunk because it’s too early! I like Peter’s response.
In my Bible, the title for Romans 8 is given as “Life in the Spirit”. In this part of his letter to the church in Rome, Paul is explaining the meaning of our new life as Christians; how we live our lives, being guided by the Spirit. In Paul’s writings, especially in this chapter, he uses the idea of “then and now”. “Then” means before Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. “Now” means now that we believe in Jesus’ gift of dying on the cross for our sins. One of my favorite verses is Romans 8:1—“There is therefore NOW no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Emphasis of “now” is mine.) In other words, now that we belong to Jesus, we are not condemned—we are forgiven.
- In this part of Paul’s discussion on life in the Spirit, he is talking about the “in-between time”. Jesus lived with us, taught us, and died on the cross for us. He will come again. In the time in-between, we have the Holy Spirit to guide us. We wait impatiently, groaning like a woman in labor, anxiously awaiting Jesus’ return. This is our hope; the hope of our Lord returning and physically reigning here on earth. (vv. 22-25)
- These next words are a beautiful explanation of how the Holy Spirit works. The Spirit works within us and for us, to express our innermost needs to God the Father. Paul says it best, but that is my explanation. (vv. 26-27)
We should never worry about whether or not our prayers are “good enough” to pray to God. The Holy Spirit knows our hearts. The Holy Spirit goes beyond our sometimes inadequate words, and intercedes for us to God. The Holy Spirit “has our back”.
JOHN 15:26-27, 16:4b-15
Today’s Gospel passage concludes a four week study of Jesus’s final discourse, given in the upper room just prior to his betrayal. In this part of his instruction, he explains some details about the coming Holy Spirit.
- In our first verse, Jesus is talking about when the “Advocate” comes. He’s talking about the Holy Spirit. The word “advocate” is used in our translation, the NRSV. In other translations, various words are used, such as comforter, counselor, helper, etc. Which is it??? The Gospel of John was written in Greek. The Greek word used is παρακλητος or parakletos. The English word for this is “paraclete”, which is basically the same word. But we don’t use this word in our everyday language. Modern day translators have used a variety of words to convey the meaning of “paraclete”. I like to suggest that we use all of them. The verses would then read “When the counselor-comforter-helper-advocate comes…” But the main point is that this Advocate will testify to us on Jesus’ behalf. He will explain what Jesus would have taught us in our particular situation. (v. 26)
- We are reminded that since Jesus is leaving, we are to continue his work. (v. 27)
- Jesus breaks the news to the apostles that he is going away. It appears that they are still unaware of what is about to happen to Jesus. He says that he needs to go away, in order for the Advocate to come. This makes sense, if you think of it. It would be confusing to have both Jesus and the Holy Spirit here at the same time. (vv. 4b-7)
- Jesus says that the Advocate “will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgement”. This and the next verses are a little confusing. Part of that confusion comes from the fact that they are expressed in negative terms. (vv. 8-10) To help understand what Jesus is saying, let’s look at them as positive expressions. So, the Advocate will teach us about sin, righteousness, and judgement.
- Jesus conquered the power of sin.
- Since Jesus came from the Father, he reveals true righteousness.
- Since Jesus is Lord, he has conquered the rulers of this world.
- “But wait! There’s more!” This is what Jesus is saying. He has more to tell them. But he felt they could not handle more. He will leave that to the Holy Spirit. (vv. 12-13)
- Now, Jesus creates a direct link from the Father, through Him, to the Holy Spirit. Everything that the Holy Spirit tells us comes from Jesus, which comes from the Father. This is reinforced by what Jesus said in verse 13—“… he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears” [from Jesus and the Father].
The Holy Spirit picks up where Jesus left off. The Advocate is with us, to guide us through our daily walk. The Spirit continues to lead us through the many twists and turns of life.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Life has changed tremendously since Jesus’ day until the present time. Jesus did not make his position known on today’s hot-button issues such as abortion, immigration, and homosexuality. This is the work of the Holy Spirit, to guide us through life on these issues. The problem is that good Christians line up on both sides of these issues. They cannot both be right—the Holy Spirit cannot be guiding both groups. So, which is right? In the last words of verse 15, Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit will “… take what is mine and declare it to you.” Perhaps this, then, should be the test. On these issues, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we look to the words and actions of Jesus for guidance. Jesus’ teachings looked past the Law of Moses to the true intent of the Father. Does our stance on these matters find their basis in Moses or Jesus?