Each May brings with it graduation season. Clad in cap and gown, students of all stripes convene, surrounded by family and friends, for the culmination of their studies. And how have we chosen to celebrate this consummation of educational achievement? With a commencement ceremony—a recognition that though one chapter is closing, a new chapter is beginning.
Pentecost stands in the Church Calendar much like a commencement ceremony stands in a student’s life. It culminates the seasons of Advent through Easter. It’s an exclamation point on the Church’s reflection on Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection. And also, it stands as the grand “therefore” leading into a season of Ordinary Time as the Church of Jesus Christ continues about the work she was commissioned to do: make disciples of every nation to the glory of God.
The roughly six months between Pentecost and Advent are called Ordinary Time—this is in contrast to the previous six months which were a time focused on the extraordinary events of Jesus’ birth, ministry, death and resurrection. However, we would be terribly remiss if we concluded that Ordinary Time is somehow less important than the extraordinary seasons that surround it. Pentecost simply will not allow such a mundane view of the ordinary.
The Christian Church has historically seen the events of Pentecost, recorded in Acts 2, as the birth of the Church. Luke records the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the people of God to embolden and empower them for the mission they had been called to. At Pentecost, we see the baton of Jesus’ extraordinary ministry passed on to His disciples who would continue His work. And this ministry was a ministry marked by power.
"We would be terribly remiss if we concluded that Ordinary Time is somehow less important than the extraordinary seasons that surround it."
The New Testament is full of references to Jesus’ power, seen perhaps most clearly in Luke’s Gospel. He records great multitudes of people pressing in on Jesus, “and all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all” (Luke 6:19). In his account of Jesus healing the paralytic, Luke recounts that “the power of the Lord was with [Jesus] to heal” (Luke 5:17). Later, in the scene where Jesus is touched by the woman with the issue of blood, Jesus says, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me” (Luke 8:46).
When we read power in the New Testament, whether in some of the passages referenced above or otherwise, it might be tempting to think of it as some mystical, impersonal force. But before we begin to interpret Scripture through the lens of Star Wars and see this power as a biblical equivalent to “The Force,” we must realize that the power that accompanied Jesus’ ministry is synonymous with the work of the Holy Spirit.
In Acts 10, as Peter is ministering at the house of Cornelius, he says that Jesus of Nazareth had been anointed by God with “the Holy Spirit and with power” (Acts 10:38). The last recorded words of Jesus in the book of Luke show a direct parallel between the coming of the promised Holy Spirit and the resultant power, “And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). This power represents a Person, the Holy Spirit, God.
It’s often easy to equate the extraordinary miracles that Jesus worked during His ministry on earth with His own divine nature as Son of God. We think, “Well, of course He was bold to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God—He is God.” Or we think, “Of course He could make the lame to walk and the blind to see—He is God.” But the reality is, Scripture gives every indication that the powerful working of miracles by Jesus was not necessarily a result of His own divine nature, but rather of ministry done in the power of the Holy Spirit.
This is the same Holy Spirit that empowered the apostles to work extraordinary miracles—just like Jesus—and the same Holy Spirit that belongs to every woman and every man who puts their faith in Jesus. This is the same Holy Spirit that Peter is speaking of when he writes, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3). It’s the same Holy Spirit that Paul speaks of when he prays that his brothers and sisters in Ephesus would know “what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe” (Eph. 1:19) and “that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being” (Eph. 3:16).
And so, at Pentecost, we celebrate that the Father has sent the Holy Spirit to us (John 14:26). We celebrate that in the Holy Spirit we’ve been given the power to be witnesses to Christ’s gospel “in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). We celebrate that the same Spirit who raised Christ from the dead now dwells within us (Rom. 8:11).
The Lord is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (Eph. 3:20). Let us move confidently forward into all that the Lord has called us, empowered by and full of the Holy Spirit, expecting the extraordinary power of God to invade the ordinary.