The Wick Is Smoldering, The Flame Will Come…..A Reflection on Easter and Pentecost

                  As I was preparing my sermon for Easter Sunday on the boldness of the followers of Christ that came from their witnessing the empty tomb and resurrected Christ, I came across this reminder, an interesting note regarding Christ’s disciples and the Holy Spirit:   John 20 tells us:  “On the evening of that first day of the week, (that Sunday evening, after Christ’s Resurrection) when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.  Then again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”  And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

                 It seems that at least some of the disciples received the permanent anointing of the Holy Spirit directly from Jesus himself on Easter! Like trimming a smoldering wick, I believe Jesus was preparing the setting for the bursting forth of the birth of the church on Pentecost 50 days later…. I believe that Easter Day encounter began the enablement of their rapid remembering and understanding of all that Jesus had told them, equipping them to interpret the Scriptures, and preparing them for these next 50 days when Jesus would appear to more and more people.  A smoldering combustion began spreading, like an incipient wildfire, as yet undiscovered, in the underbrush… preparing the way for the broader, public display of the Holy Spirit’s flaming manifestation 50 days later at Pentecost where Peter boldly proclaimed the Gospel and 3000 people from all over the known world were converted and returned to their homes to share the story of their personal encounter with the Gospel.  (Acts 2).  The anointing by the Holy Spirit appears to have come in waves….preparing them for each task and opportunity.  The Pentecost wave of the Holy Spirit’s anointing appeared as a special manifestation of tongues of fire, calling dramatic attention to these first-hand, firmly and powerfully equipped witnesses and leading to the bold proclamation of the Word before this gathered mass of Jewish religious devotees at the Temple that spread the fire of the Holy Spirit across the known world!   Easter was for making believers.  Pentecost was for the mission of the church. 

                 From Evangelical Truth, a book by John Stott:  “From beginning to end, from our initiation into Christ until his return, the Holy Spirit has a unique and indispensable role to fulfill. Evangelical Christians remain divided in some matters, especially in our precise understanding of the ‘baptism’ of the Spirit and the ‘gifts’ of the Spirit. But we all recognize that the new birth is a birth of the Spirit; that Christian assurance is due to the inner witness of the Spirit; that holiness is the fruit of the Spirit; that the church is the fellowship of the Spirit; that the Christian mission owes its impetus to the Spirit; and that the Christian hope is kindled by the gift of the Spirit, who is the first installment of our final inheritance.”  (p. 109)

                 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

                “We believe in the Holy Spirit who proceeds from and is one in being with the Father and the Son. He convinces the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment. He leads men through faithful response to the gospel into the fellowship of the Church. He comforts, sustains and empowers the faithful and guides them into all truth.” (Article III- The Holy Spirit, The Confession of Faith, The United Methodist Book of Discipline, Paragraph 103.)

                Much is revealed in Scripture about the work of the Holy Spirit in various stages of one’s spiritual life.  It is the Holy Spirit, working through the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ, who brings an unbeliever to faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) by conviction (John 16:8-11).  After conversion, the believer is enabled to aspire to righteous living by cooperation with the work of the Holy Spirit for sanctification, conforming one to the image of Christ (II Corinthians 3:18, Titus 3:5, John 3:3-7, 2 Thessalonians 2:13).  The Holy Spirit dwells within the believer (2 Corinthians 3:16) and strengthens the believer with might in the “inner man” (Ephesians 2:16).   Spirit brings one into unity with other believers (1 Corinthians 6:17), intercedes on our behalf (Romans 8:26), guides us into truth (John 16:13), shows the love of Christ to and through believers (Romans 5:5),  teaches us (1 John 2:27, John 14:17,26), assures us of salvation (Romans 8:16, 1 John 3:24), frees us from sin and death (Romans 8:2), comforts us (Acts 9:31), inspires worship (John 4:24), appoints and empowers for witnessing (Acts 1:8), and gives gifts and develops fruit (Galatians 5:22).

                The community of believers, Christ’s church, was formed by the work of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:19-22) and Spirit inspires our worship (Philippians 3:3).  The Holy Spirit directs missionary activities (Acts 8:29, 16:6,7,10, Acts 13:2,4), selects ministers (Acts 20:28), anoints preachers (1 Corinthians 2:4), guides decisions (Acts 15:28), and equips with power for the communicating of the gospel (Acts 2:1-4). The Holy Spirit is present in corporate worship, in small group gatherings, and in families and friendships, leading us into a deeper understanding of the mysteries of faith. (John 16:13, Matthew 18:20)

When we listen to and respond in faith to the Holy Spirit, we will be engaged in the world – in neighborhoods, cities, nations, and throughout the world. (Acts 1:8) 

                Through the Holy Spirit’s work individually and corporately, human hearts are inspired and illumined to know and do the will of God in the world.  (2 Timothy 3:16-17, John 14:26) Through knowledge of God’s will, we learn to exercise responsible stewardship over all aspects of life. 

                Christ’s Holy Spirit preveniently woos us away from the world’s sinful appeal and toward God, convicting us and comforting us, pointing the way to Jesus’ atoning work, the acceptance of which justifies us and frees us from the penalty of sin.  The Holy Spirit’s transforming work sanctifies us, freeing us from the power of sin as we continue following Christ and will usher us into eternity where we will be glorified and free from the presence of sin.