Summary: The Spirit is the living Christ at work in our lives. There are three symbols of the Spirit in these texts that reveal the work of the living Christ in us.
In the text we read that Jesus promised the Spirit would come after Him. The outpouring of the Spirit happened on what is known as the Day of Pentecost, some 50 days after the resurrection, which we observe this Sunday. Sadly, this day often goes unnoticed in many churches. To be sure there is plenty of bad theology out there regarding the Holy Spirit and the whole subject can be confusing, but the knee jerk reaction not to talk about it is just as bad if not worse. We need to understand what the Bible actually says about it. As simply as I can put it, the Spirit is the living Christ at work in our lives. There are three symbols of the Spirit in these texts that reveal the work of the living Christ in us.
First we read that the Spirit is like water.
We should not overlook that Jesus stood up and said these words on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles. Given the terrible drought that we are experiencing across the South, we might consider holding a Feast of Tabernacles ourselves.
You see, it was tradition during this feast that they would put up booths or tents as a reminder of their journey through the wilderness during the exodus and how God was faithful to deliver them from Egypt. As part of that observance they would gather palm branches and make a leaf canopy over the altar. Every day of the feast the priest would gather water from the pool of Siloam and carry it to the altar in procession with trumpets blowing then pour the water in a bowl next to the altar and pour wine in an another bowl on the other side. Thanksgiving prayers were offered for the water God gave Moses when he struck the rock and for the rain that has sustained them since. They also prayed for rain for the next year and a fruitful harvest. This was the biggest feast of the Jewish year and this was the culmination of that feast on the last day when people are praying for rain that Jesus stands up and says, “If anyone is thirsty let him come to me and drink, whoever believes in Me.”
In dry desert communities water is life. Likewise, the Spirit gives life and sustains us through the desert places in our lives. For those worshippers at the feast they knew all to well the struggles of survival, finding water, drawing it several times a day to keep your family and livestock alive, like the Samaritan woman at the well. They reacted much like she did at first when she He heard the offer of this “living water.” A lot of Christians think grace must be too good to be true, because hey keep trying to do something to earn God’s love and forgiveness. It seems like the cross just wasn’t enough. They need to feel as though they’ve earned it. Jesus is offering living water to quench our spiritual thrists, yet so many feel compelled to attach strings to this offer that Jesus never did.
Specifically, it is “living water” that gives life. There are places like the ocean or the Dead Sea that cannot sustain us because they are full of “dead water.” Meaning, fresh water flows into them, but it does not flow out.
“Dead water” is synonymous with “dead churches” and “dead Christians.” That sounds like an oxymoron, an impossibility. How can churches and Christians be dead? They are dead because they do not have the living water of the Spirit flowing in and out of their lives. We cannot soak up the grace of God continually and not share it with others. At the wedding at Cana and on the hillside feeding the multitudes the wine, the bread, and the fish did not run out as long as it was being given away. Jesus said that “streams of living water flow from within Him.” It is an inexhaustible supply of grace. If we want to experience the life-giving Spirit of the Christ, we have to give our lives away to the thirsty among us, sharing God’s love and grace with others. If we don’t, our well will run dry, our waters will stagnate, and we will wither.
In Acts 2 we find that the Spirit is like wind.
When the day had come for the promise of the Spirit to be realized, the disciples and other followers of Jesus were in Jerusalem gathered together in one place when, “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting,” Acts 2:2.
It’s really hard to try to explain the Holy Spirit to someone. How does all this work? What does it mean? Those can be hard questions to answer sometime, but the Spirit is like the wind. We don’t see the wind, but we see what the wind blows. We can tell where it’s coming from and feel where it’s going. When Jesus was trying to explain spiritual things to Nicodemus, a highly educated man, He said, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit,” John 3:8.