Jesus promised His disciples they would soon receive special divine power to carry out the mission of preaching the gospel to all nations. How does God's Spirit work in the lives of Christians?
[Darris McNeely] How many times have we given up on a project or a goal that we set our hand to do? Too many that we would want to admit. The calling of God to preach the gospel is one job we do not want to quit on. Christ did not quit neither did the disciples that He called. We cannot afford to quit either. Jesus told His disciples, "Behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you, but tarry in the City of Jerusalem, until you are endued with power from on high." For 40 days, Jesus taught the disciples the things of the kingdom of God. He miraculously appeared to them through the walls of rooms where doors were shut. He prodded them to get on their feet and to get out and preach the gospel. He chided them for their doubt and unbelief at His resurrection and His mission for them. From Moses to all the prophets, Jesus took time to explain how the scriptures taught things concerning His life on earth, His death, and His resurrection.
He opened the scriptures to depths of understanding they had never imagined. Scripture came alive. This concentrated focused teaching would be what they would preach as they took the gospel to the world. The next leap in God's plan was about to occur. That next step was about power, receiving the Holy Spirit to continue what was begun with the words, "Follow Me." What Jesus was asking them to do was humanly impossible. Jesus and the Father understood this. Part of the reason for the Word becoming flesh as Jesus of Nazareth was to open the path for the Spirit to come to those who by faith come to God for grace and forgiveness. The Spirit of God, the essence of the being of the God family is the empowering agent of the church Jesus founded. Jesus had said He would send the comforter, the Holy Spirit, the spirit of truth, the presence of He and the Father. "If you love Me, keep my commands, and I will pray the Father and He will give you another helper, that He may abide with you forever. The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him, but you know him for he dwells with you and will be with you. I will not leave you, orphans. I will come to you." "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make Our home with him."
John the Baptist's ministry had been a baptism with water and a call to repentance. What was now possible because of the death and the resurrection of the son of God was the baptism to receive the Holy Spirit as an indwelling presence of Jesus and the Father. Their very essence, their nature. Humans could partake of the divine nature and have this power in them connecting them to the family of God. Jesus had earlier told them to receive the Spirit, that occasion foretold what would occur when they would experience the outpouring of the power to all. Jesus led the disciples out of Jerusalem across the Kidron Valley and up to the village of Bethany, a place which held fond memories for Him. Bethany was the home of Mary and Martha and Lazarus, in whose home He had spent time during His visits to Jerusalem. Sensing the significance of the moment they asked Him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom of Israel?" The question betrayed a lack of perception among the disciples about the purpose of God and the mission that was ahead of them. The fullness of the kingdom was not yet. They hoped it would be restored. For more than three years, they had seen what the kingdom of God would mean to people's lives.
Jesus performed many miracles to help ease people's suffering, their hunger, and their fears. The blind received sight. The crippled were made whole and walked. The dead raised to life. Thousands were fed both physical and spiritual food. Jesus brought the message of the kingdom of God to the remnant of Israel and it was a light and a salve to eyes blinded by darkness. It was a message of hope and encouragement to hearts beaten down by generations of sin. His message was truly a light that shone in the darkness. The disciples wanted the fullness of the kingdom restored to Israel, but it was not the time. "It is not for you," he said, "to know the times or the seasons which the Father has put in His authority." The disciples had a mission to do. You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.
They were to take the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God to the world. Jesus never intended His words to remain among the Jews or the small group of believers. It was a message for all people and nations. It was a message for the world. And it was to go at the hands of the church by the vehicle of the spoken word, through preaching and telling the story of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. It was the story of how the realm of God had broken into the secular world of mankind. God had come in the flesh in the body of Jesus of Nazareth and nothing would ever be the same. A new reality had been inaugurated. Jesus blessed them and began to be lifted then into the sky, enveloped by a cloud and disappeared from their sight.
They continued looking for a glimpse of what they did not know, but they must have lingered for a few minutes. They must have been startled then by the question from two men, two angels who stood beside them in white clothing. "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? The same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven." It was a question with a point. Time to get on with the job. Time to prepare and begin looking ahead to the mission. Jesus has departed from this mountain and when He is seen again, it will be descending on this same mountain. This next appearance would be in the power and the glory as King of kings and Lord of lords. The time in between would be the time for preparing the people to inherit that kingdom and to reign with Him on the earth.
So, the disciples turned from Bethany crossed the Kidron Valley back to Jerusalem and settled into the upper room, which had been home base for all those weeks. All of them were together, along with the women and Mary, the Lord's mother. Joining them now were Jesus' brothers. His brothers had been absent during his ministry. Now, after seeing proof of His resurrection, they were joined with the disciples and they continued in prayer and discussion and probably many deep late-night talks as they waited. Did they expect Him to appear again through the walls of the room? Did they think they would see Him along the road where they walked? It seems they now understood they were into a new phase.
As they talked, it became evident they had to select a replacement for Judas, the one who had betrayed Christ. Their number had to be 12 not 11. There had been 12 sons of Jacob. There had been 12 tribes of Israel. Did these disciples finally understand that they would be forming a new spiritual Israel? Peter then led the group in selecting two men, Joseph and Matthias. And over them, they cast lots and appealed to their Lord who knew the hearts of all to choose between these two and it fell on Matthias who then became one of the apostles. They were now a company of disciples who had been called and chosen and faithful. And a long period of training had brought them to a point where they were resolved to carry on with the work begun by Jesus during His time with them. They were ready to take the gospel to the world.
Do we have what it takes to finish what we start? Do we have strength to faithfully carry out any job put before us? I think we have all of those moments when we are tired, when we're burned out, when we might be tempted to give up. People disappoint us. Life becomes something we just see as a daily test of survival. We may be one of those who say, "I'm a survivor." We weren't born with wealth. Favor didn't fall generously upon us. Mistakes, ours, and others catches up to us. But we show up. We show up at life every day and we give it our best.
What Christ promised us is power, power of the Holy Spirit. That Spirit is the essence of the being of the Father and of Christ. It is their mind, their nature. It's how they dwell with believers. Receiving the Spirit is the down payment on the hope of eternal life. God gives the Spirit to those who repent, are baptized and have hands laid upon. We must also obey and give ourselves totally to Him in faith. Having, using, and being led by the Spirit is the reality of the new life we have in Christ. Without the Spirit, we're not Christ and we're missing something. The Holy Spirit is what was promised. The giving of the Holy Spirit would be the next step on the path to Pentecost.