We all have to experience loss.
It is a part of life. The older we get, the more loss of friends and loved ones becomes an unwelcome theme of life. Since December of this past year, I have lost a very good friend who I used to work with in church, a classmate who I used to run around with in high school and college, and now a guy at church who I knew as a golfer, a good man, a devoted follower of Christ.
We all have to experience loss.
We also experience the emotions associated with loss: grief, fear, maybe even depression.
The loss of friends and loved ones is important, significant, and life-altering. But let’s imagine the loss the Disciples felt when Jesus told them He was going away. He predicted it, it happened and there they were; faced with grief, fear…leaderless.
In Acts 2:14, Jesus said “If I do not go away, the Helper [Holy Spirit] shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.”
What would the Disciples have preferred? I would imagine they would have preferred their leader, their friend, their loved one to remain on this earth, but that was not the plan that God intended. Pastor Billy Graham* summarized God’s plan with the five past events of the Gospels: “the Incarnation, the Atonement, the Resurrection, the Ascension, and Pentecost. A sixth component is still future: the Second Coming of Jesus.”
Imagine the anguish the Disciples felt. They had no idea what Jesus meant when He said “the Helper” is coming. They just knew that the Man who had inspired them to lead lives devoted to God, the man who inspired them to live according to His model, the man who challenged the religious norms of the day and inspired them to challenge those norms was gone.
Add to the feeling of anguish the emotion of fear—the very real fear of retribution. Look what happened to their leader. Was that in store for them?
Maybe the future was foretold in the Jewish past.
The Jewish people have many feasts, one of them is Passover. Most Christians know that the Passover celebrates the time when the Israelites were freed from a long period of slavery in Egypt. The Jews killed an unblemished lamb and placed the lamb’s blood over the door of each Israelite house. That signified a deliverance from God’s judgement. On Jesus’s last Passover feast, He offered Himself for the salvation of men. He shed his own blood so we could all be free from God’s judgement. He put Himself in our place and atoned for our sins.
The Disciples celebrated Passover with Jesus, hearing His hints about His sacrifice, probably hoping that His predictions of His impending death were wrong.
But His predictions weren’t wrong.
The Jewish people also celebrate the feast of Pentecost, fifty days from Passover. For devout Jews, this feast meant the beginning of the harvest, the “first fruits.” The Christian Pentecost, which occurred forty days from the resurrection and ten days after the ascent of Jesus into Heaven, can also be seen as the beginning of the harvest, the beginning of God’s harvest in the world, to be completed when Jesus comes again.
Can you imagine that feeling the Disciples felt when the Holy Spirit descended on the one-hundred and twenty in the upper room.
Jesus was with them again in the form of the Holy Spirit, just as He promised.
Graham asks two questions about these events. Why did Jesus have to go? We know that answer. So the Holy Spirit could come. Why did the Holy Spirit have to come?
I believe the Spirit had to come because Christians need help with the harvest. We can’t do the work alone, under our own power. We don’t know what to do; we need the knowledge that is imparted from the Holy Spirit. We don’t have enough strength to get through the good times and bad and continue on with our work; the Holy Spirit gives us that strength. When times get hard and we need comfort, the Holy Spirit sends reassuring messages our way to help us with the difficult times so we can recover and continue on with our work.
Graham basically says the Holy Spirit came because there is much work to do “in the world, in the Church and in the individual Christian.”
The next series of posts will explore that work in all three areas, but for the time being let’s focus on the feeling those one-hundred twenty felt when the wind rushed through the room, the fire descended and the speaking in tongues occurred.
Let’s add another feeling to the Disciples that day.
I am sure that relief was experienced, but let’s add another emotion.
How about elation!
*from his book The Holy Spirit