By Laura Ann Phillips
In a Confirmation class some years ago, during a teaching on Jesus’ temptations in the desert, the question arose: why didn’t Jesus leap from the Temple parapet?
Before the answer could be given, someone offered: “Because He didn’t know what His super-powers were yet.”
But, He had the Holy Spirit, someone else ventured; that should have helped.
While I hope the correct, Biblical answer remains with them to this day, I still think of the truth that lay within those innocent responses.
It was the Holy Spirit who drove Jesus into the desert after His baptism, and gave Him the strength to stave off the devil’s attacks.
The words “spirit” and “wind” both translate as “ruach” in Hebrew, said Rabbi Matthew V Soffer in the online article, “Ceding Control – And Seizing It”.
While ruach refers to the wind that stirs the leaves of trees, he said, it can also mean: “the spiritual wind that gusts within the human soul,” whose presence strengthens us to face the “events that are beyond our control and sometimes utterly devastating.”
So, perhaps it is no accident that the Holy Spirit is present from the start of the Easter season to its close at Pentecost.
The work of the Spirit is giving life, as we see in Genesis 1:2 and in the Book of Revelation:
“Come… let all who are thirsty come, all who want it may have the water of life, and have it free.” (Rev 22:17)
When Jesus enters the upper room through the closed doors, “John records no abuse or dismay, only the granting of the peace and joy that had been promised,” writes Bible scholar, Raymond Brown, in his book, “The Gospels and Epistles of John – A Concise Commentary”.
In truth, Jesus’ first words were, “Peace be with you.” (Jn 20:20,21). He then repeats the greeting, and breathes upon the astonished apostles, “as God had breathed (same Greek word) on Adam when infusing in him the spirit of life,” notes Brown.
By breathing on them, “Jesus now commissions his disciples formally and bestows the consecration of which he had spoken.”
“For John,” Brown continues, “the gift of the Spirit, which of its nature is invisible, flows from the glorification of Jesus, his return to his Father.”
“Receive the Holy Spirit,” Jesus says. “For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.” (Jn 20:23)
“Jesus is re-creating them with the Holy Spirit,” explains Brown.
Forgiven. Then, re-created.
To give them the strength they would need in the near future as followers of the risen Christ. To help them witness and suffer heroically.
And Jesus repeats this Easter message at His ascension in anticipation of another “breathing-over” – the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
“But, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and then you will be My witnesses not only in Jerusalem, but throughout Judea and Samaria and indeed, to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
“The Gospels and Epistles of John – A Concise Commentary” by Raymond Brown.
“Ceding Control – And Seizing It” by Rabbi Matthew V Soffer and MJL Admin.