Summary: Jesus promised that his disciples would receive Power when the Holy Spirit came upon them.
The Promise of Pentecost
Acts 1: 1 – 8
The forty days between the resurrection of Jesus and his ascension to the right hand of the Father must have been strange days indeed. They began with the disciples behind locked doors in an upper room in Jerusalem, hiding, we may assume, for fear of their lives—wondering if the same men who had taken Jesus would come for them. Then the risen Jesus himself comes to them, but for all that he is the same teacher and Lord that they have known for the last several years, he is also different. Now he moves through locked doors and seems to appear and disappear at will. Now, he is with them not as the constant companion and teacher they have known, but rather, sporadically, coming and going, leaving them to wonder what the next day may bring.
But as those 40 days draw to their close, Jesus begins to point his followers to some of the things that he had taught them in the time before his crucifixion. Particularly, he points them to the promises made, possibly in the very same room where they had been hiding; promises of a helper; promises of an advocate; promises of the Holy Spirit who would come upon them, empowering them to do the work of God.
On one occasion, this was the subject of discussion as they sat at table together. Jesus said,
“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1: 4 – 5)
Then later, the disciples asked what might have seemed to them like a significant theological question.
“Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”(Acts 1: 6)
But when Jesus replies, he tells them that such things are not really any of their concern. Rather, he wants them to focus on something else.
“It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses… (Acts 1: 7 – 8)
And, although these words are spoken at the time of the ascension, this is the promise of Pentecost.
“…You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you…”
It was Jesus’ promise to his disciples as he turned his face toward the Father’s right hand, and it is his promise to his people even today.
The thing is, we may not quite grasp what those words would have meant to his followers when they were first spoken all those years ago. You see, we’ve come to think of the Holy Spirit like a static force—a foundation which is always there between the building and the bedrock; always supporting, always lending its strength to the structure; but doing so in a manner so invisible to the eye, that we rarely ever stop to think about it. I mean, most of us are probably aware that if this building didn’t have a strong foundation, you probably wouldn’t want to be sitting in it (especially the way the wind blows around here), but when was the last time you actually thought about it.
Jesus, though, didn’t think of the Spirit in terms of static force. In John 7, Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit as a river of living (moving) water—a dynamic force, always working, always in motion. Like the wind. As he said himself in John 3:
The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going... (John 3: 8)
and more still,
“So it is [not only with the Spirit, but also] with everyone born of the Spirit.”
This was demonstrated time and again in the Old Testament.
In the days when the Midianites oppressed the people of Israel, the angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite. Nearby a young man was busy threshing wheat in a winepress to prevent the oppressors from seeing it and taking it away. Now I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about this, but in those days, the process of threshing involved throwing the wheat into the air so that the wind could drive away the chaff and only the grain would remain. That’s why threshing floors were generally built out in the open in places where the wind was likely to blow so that the process would actually work. Now picture a wine press, kind of a big barrel that’s designed for a completely different task; and hunkered down in this press where the wind would never really blow is this young man trying to separate the wheat from the chaff. I picture him trying to hide, but every now and then, there’s this little poof of seed that shoots up out of the barrel and then falls back down in. What a sight!