This Sunday is Pentecost or Whitsunday. Yet for many of us it is an enigma. Within Judaism it was the Greek name ascribed to the Feast of Weeks, celebrating the giving of the law at Mt Sinai. In Christianity it is the festival that comes seven weeks (fifty days) after Easter (ten days after ‘Ascension Thursday’), and celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit on Jesus Christ’s first followers – about 120. (Acts 2:1-31) It celebrates the birthday of the church.
Why don’t we give Pentecost greater attention than we do? Is it because the Holy Spirit and his work are obscure? Is it simply because we don’t know what to make of him? In this all too brief ‘Word’ let’s look at something Jesus promised about the Spirit.
During the Passover meal Jesus told his disciples that he was going away but that he would not be leaving them alone. He pointed out that his going would mean the coming of the Comforter, the Advocate. So, we read in John 15:26-27:
“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning”.
In the previous chapter (John 14:26), Jesus had made specific promises to his disciples – in particular that the Holy Spirit would enable them to have accurate memory and right understanding of all that he had taught and done. Now in these verses, Jesus was reassuring them of the work of the Spirit of truth in their lives. He developed this by setting out more clearly the functional relationship within the Trinity.
The Spirit’s work is to implement the will and the purpose of both God the Father and God the Son. So Jesus explained God’s larger plan. The Father, having sent his eternal Son, the Word of God, into the world, would now give him the position of highest honor in heaven; he would be enthroned in glory. The Spirit of God would now be sent to replace Jesus Christ in the lives of his people.
Here Jesus makes one of the clearest statements about the true nature of God: he is one, existing in three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Son does the will of the Father and the Spirit does the will of both the Father and the Son.
The Spirit who came to Christ’s disciples now comes to bring us encouragement, comfort and boldness in the place of Jesus Christ. As the ministry of Christ as Comforter was important to the first disciples, so too was the ministry of the Holy Spirit as their Comforter. In the same way, as the work of Christ is essential for us, so too is the work of the Spirit – teaching us God’s Word and prompting us to walk through life with Jesus Christ as our Lord.
Prayer: Almighty God, who taught the hearts of your faithful people by sending them the light of your Holy Spirit: so enable us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things and always to rejoice in his holy comfort; through the merits of Christ Jesus our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (1662 BCP, Whit Sunday – adapted)