Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased. -Mark 1:10-11
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. -Acts 2:1-3
Over the past couple of weeks, I have been reflecting more than usual on “Pentecost”, which is when Christians celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit. I wanted to take some time to put some of my recent insights in writing for what it may be worth to those who read this. It’s been interesting to compare the similarities in the descent of the Spirit of God on Jesus at his baptism as he began his earthly ministry; and the descent of the Spirit of God on the people of God as the early church was birthed and began it’s earthly mission.
First, in both cases, there is language used that involves “intensity.” In Jesus’ case, heaven was seen being “torn open.” The imagery reminds me of what happens at the birth of a child when entering this world. There is a sense of “violence” which is the very word used in Acts 2 when the sound that is heard is described.
Another way perhaps to think of this is that there was an observable “disruption” that took place when the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus and then later the early church. When the Holy Spirit comes he “disrupts” our lives and things change! You can’t have the Holy Spirit without there being transformation, change, and our lives being “disrupted” by God. An encounter with God will change the trajectory of your life!
Secondly however, there is also a kind of gentleness that clearly comes through both of these passages. In Jesus’ case, it explicitly says the Spirit descended on him “like a dove.” There is a quietness, ordinariness, innocence, purity and gentleness contained in that imagery. With the first disciples, there were tongues of fire, but note that it “came to rest” on them in a gentle way that didn’t destroy them.
In other words, the Holy Spirit may have come “suddenly” “dramatically” “disruptively” and even “violently”; but also “gently” “tenderly” and “sensitively.” Combining these two realities together we could say that when the Holy Spirit comes, he comes in a disruptive, life-transforming way, but also in a gentle and tender way upon his people.
Third, in both cases there is a burst of outward divine pleasure and activity. In Jesus’ case God the Father can’t help but beam with delight and declare his pleasure in his Son. In the case of the disciples, the presence of God clearly fills the place where they were externally. When the Spirit came upon Jesus, there was a physical form (like a dove), and when the Spirit came on the early believers, “tongues of fire” took form and rested on them. When the Spirit came upon Jesus, the voice of God was heard, and when the Spirit of God came on the disciples, a “sound like a blowing of a violent wind from heaven” was heard. In both situations there is a “tangible” sense of God’s presence and noticeable activity from heaven outwardly. In other words, when the Holy Spirit comes he makes real to us the reality of God. Jesus is the word made flesh; the Holy Spirit is the divine made noticeable to us.
However, there is also a clear internal reality in both cases too. When the Spirit comes upon Jesus, he is filled internally with the Spirit, as are the disciples in the upper room. In both cases the result was an inner fiery passion for the glory of God. Jesus would go on to speak with a fire for the things of God and the disciples would go on to boldly declare the wonders of God. When the Holy Spirit comes he fills his people with a holy fire for the glory of God that we can’t help but share with the world! The Holy Spirit infuses boldness and enables us to declare the Good News to all people.
So, to conclude, we cannot dismiss the very real and observable activity of God that he ushers into our lives. When the Spirit comes, he comes with power and gentleness. When the Spirit comes, he fills us with a sense of the Divine Presence of God inwardly and externally. When the Spirit comes, it is heaven interacting with earth. When the Spirit comes, there is a passion and fire that rests on and fills God’s people to declare his glory to all people. When the Spirit comes, he disrupts our lives and transforms our lives. When the Spirit comes, he fills us with the reality of God and sends us out to take that reality to others.
I encourage you to forget (or frame differently) any “charismatic” verse “non-charismatic” debate. (It’s actually often only in certain circles and not in every country that this is even a distinction or issue). John, the forerunner of Jesus, made clear that Jesus would baptize his people with the Holy Spirit, which was the greater fulfillment than his water-baptizing of people (Mark 1:8). The word “baptize” speaks of being immersed and submerged in water. This is what the Holy Spirit does in our lives spiritually. He immerses us in the reality of God. He enables us to die to self to live fully to the glory of God as water-baptism also represents and is a commitment towards. The Holy Spirit is the one who makes that external commitment an inward reality in our lives.
Rather than being afraid, embarrassed, confused or ashamed of the Holy Spirit, we ought to celebrate his coming and embrace his activity in fullness in and through our lives. Yes, he is a “disruptive” presence in our lives, but he is also “gentle” in his dealings with us.
Come Holy Spirit and immerse us in the reality of the presence of God! Fill us to overflowing with the praise of God and enable us to declare with courage and confidence, the glory of God to others!