Summary: The disciples waited for the Spirit. When the Spirit did come it stayed. Empowered by the Spirit the church transformed the world.
Jesus gave his followers challenging tasks. He told them to love one another as he loved them—this is the great command. Jesus also told his followers to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is the great commission.
The question before us is how we can accomplish these goals. By the cross of Jesus Christ we receive the forgiveness of sins, eternal life and a restored relationship with God. We need more than that in order to fulfill the Lord’s commands. God sends his Holy Spirit to enable us to allow God’s love to flow through us, and to share what God has done with those around us.
Luke’s account of what happened on the day of Pentecost when the Spirit descended on the disciples and the church was born, demonstrates to us what Christians receive with the gift of the Spirit.
A MIGHTY WIND
Luke writes that while the disciples were all gathered together in one place, the Holy Spirit descended upon them like the rush of a mighty wind.
Of the three persons of the Trinity we know the least about the Holy Spirit. This is as it should be. The Spirit is not called to draw attention to himself, but to highlight God’s grace and love in the person of Jesus. The Spirit is like oxygen. We don’t think much about oxygen because we can’t sense it—unless there is a breeze, but we can’t live without it. The Spirit is vital for our lives as Christians, but he usually does his work in the background so we are often not aware of his presence or movement.
The Spirit gives us life. In Genesis God blew into the nostrils of Adam and gave him life. The Spirit blows into our lives and enables us to realize and respond to God’s love and grace. The new, eternal life that we have is a gift of the Spirit.
The Spirit also empowers us. Like the wind powers a sailboat, so the Spirit powers us as we set our sails in relation to the movement of the Spirit. Paul writes that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. It is the Holy Spirit that makes this true in our lives. Paul also writes that God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we ask or think. This too is because of the movement of the Spirit in our lives and in our world.
A FLAME OF FIRE
Not only did the Spirit descend upon the disciples like a mighty wind, but flames of fire appeared among the disciples. The flames are symbols of what the Spirit is doing in the lives of the disciples.
Fire is a symbol for God; a sign of God’s presence. When God spoke to Moses, he did so from a burning bush. When God was leading Israel out of Egypt into the Promised Land, God did so by a pillar of fire. Often Christian congregations have a candle burning 24/7 in the sanctuary to remind those gathered that God is present.
The Holy Spirit is God’s presence in our lives. The unique thing about Pentecost is that the Spirit descended and then stayed on the disciples. Previously, the Spirit would dwell within people momentarily. Paul writes that we are in Christ and that Christ is in us. This is the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.