When Jesus stepped down from glory, there is little doubt that there were going to be many challenging days in working with humanity even amongst his innermost circle. He had expectations and hopes for this lot (Luke 9:1-6); yet there were also days like the one in Mark 9, that left Jesus asking questions of his closest friends that to some could seem somewhat condescending. Unable to help a father with a demon possessed child, the disciples had to listen to the father recount their failure to Jesus. He turned and asked two questions:
“O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?”
Was Jesus frustrated with his disciples or was there something else? What if Jesus was aware of a deficiency in the present relationship with his followers that made the appropriation of his teaching difficult? What if he knew that his physical presence was in the way of a deeper experience? He would probably want to get out of the way.
Andrew Murray, a prolific writer and Anglican priest suggests, “Even Christ himself, as long as He was in the flesh, and until the dispensation of the Spirit took place, could not by His words effect in His disciples what He desired.” It sounds scandalous at the first reading. Yet, the weeks following Christ’s death seem to suggest the disciples did not understand at all what was happening even though Christ had explicitly told them his death and resurrection were going to take place.
In the days leading up to Jesus’ arrest, he challenged his disciples with the promise of the Helper. He says, “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you” (John 16:7). A pregnant statement is as creative and subversive as a well- aimed question…
No doubt this statement raised the following profound question for His followers:
In what world is it better to substitute a visible, enfleshed extraordinary friend for an “invisible,” unknown one?
Perhaps in a world, where Jesus says it’s to our advantage. In the flesh, Jesus was incapable of bringing to life his followers through mere teaching and his physical presence alone. The Spirit, however, is both necessary and sufficient to our life with God. Jesus knew this. This was always Jesus’ end play. If we stop short at his death and resurrection to celebrate forgiveness (which is totally awesome), we miss the gift of his glorification… Pentecost and its’ power (God’s love).
Appearing in the upper room after his resurrection, Jesus breathed on his disciples telling them to “Receive the Holy Spirit.” The indwelling Spirit is re-genesis… a person “fully alive, fully awake and fully human.” The apostle Paul suggests that with this infusion of life not just the Spirit but all the fullness of God becomes available to the spirit born follower of Christ (Ephesians 3:14-21).
Jesus then instructs His followers to wait for the Spirit. When He comes in Acts 2, the first followers of Jesus experience the goal of redemption… union with God. The words of Jesus infused by the Spirit of truth become the words of life, the living and indwelling presence and power of God. The result is all heaven breaks loose. Jesus’ frustrated hope comes to completion because in and through the Spirit Christ comes to take up residence within His followers. The Holy Spirit reveals Christ. He continues the work of Christ’s incarnation within us. “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
Do you know the Spirit? Have you ever wondered if you’ve been filled with the Spirit?
A.W. Tozer suggests that those who have been know it. If you don’t know it, don’t beat yourself up about it; this is where you begin. Do the things that Jesus did and follow what he says and grow into the life that Jesus’ promises. Jesus seemed to think the Spirit was worth the wait!