READ | SERMON NOTES
Summary l We are familiar with the Pentecost when the Holy Spirit, like a rushing wind and with tongues of fire, came upon the disciples. In contrast, John 20 (Johannine Pentecost) gets much less attention, even though it is of no less significance. When taken together, the passages paint a fuller picture of the work and power of the Holy Spirit.
Has the Spirit been given in John 20?
John 7:39 reveals that the Holy Spirit will be given when Jesus is glorified (meaning ascended, exalted and enthroned). Jesus had to go to the Father, and from the Father, he would send the Holy Spirit. In John 20, Jesus was resurrected but had not yet ascended. Hence, the promised Holy Spirit had not yet come. The disciples were instructed to stay in the city till they were clothed with power from on high. (Luke 24:49) The gift of the Holy Spirit came upon them at Pentecost.
When Jesus said ‘receive the Holy Spirit’ in John 20, it need not be understood as the moment it was said. It was a prophetic promise which would be fulfilled at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit equipped the disciples to go forth and make disciples of all nations. The disciples preached the power of the gospel to forgive sins. Those who received the gospel were forgiven of their sins. Those who rejected the message retained their sins.
The Work of the Holy Spirit
In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit was involved through creation and re-creation. The Spirit was involved in the anointment of leaders, granted prophetic revelation and empowered persons for service and ministry. Here, the Holy Spirit related to the Christ who is to come.
When Jesus was on earth, the Spirit related to His ministry then. The Holy Spirit came upon Jesus like a dove when He was baptised; and also led Jesus into the wilderness where He was tempted and overcame the temptations.
At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit here relates to the Christ risen, ascended and reigning in glory. There is a newness in God’s reign. The kingdom of God has come in full. At Pentecost, the church was born because the people of God now carry that power; the fullness of the gospel to bring about the forgiveness of sins, redemption and eternal life. That is the significance of Pentecost.
Two lessons from John 20
The Loving Surprise of our Saviour
The fearful disciples were hiding behind locked doors, when Jesus came and lovingly surprised them, saying ‘Peace be with you’. In John 20, the disciples needed peace. In Acts 2, they needed power. Jesus lovingly surprises us with the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit.
The Reviving Life of the Spirit
Jesus breathed the life of the Spirit on the disciples. They were in fear and caught in spiritual death; and needed revival and restoration. The Holy Spirit (parakletos) gives life in two ways:
First, the Holy Spirit breathes life as a counselor, comforter and helper, enabling us to cope with life in any situation when life is too much for us. Today, we can cry out to the Holy Spirit, to make us strong and courageous, to help us make good choices and to do things that are pleasing to God.
Second, the Holy Spirit breathes life by giving us the truth. The Holy Spirit reveals, guides and reminds us of the truth. The breath of God’s Spirit convicts us of sin and brings us from death to life. At Pentecost, the Spirit united and there was a reversal of the Tower of Babel. Peter spoke in the power of the Holy Spirit. The people were cut to their hearts and there was a tremendous revival. We need the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth. Where there is Jesus Christ, there is his Holy Spirit. Where there is the Holy Spirit, there is true life. The Holy Spirit is both a gentle breath and a rousing wind. We need both the peace and the power of God. The Holy Spirit gives us life when we need it the most.
Just D.O. It
Desire. Just desire and acknowledge our need for the Holy Spirit. The human spirit fails unless the Holy Spirit fills. The Holy Spirit influences us, depending on our willingness to allow the Spirit to have control. The Spirit convicts hearts to salvation, empowers us and reveals the truth of who we are and how much we need God. Only the Holy Spirit can make our intimacy with God a reality.
Obey. When the Spirit prompts, be it gently or in loud shouts, we need to obey. We can quench the power of Holy Spirit when we refuse to obey; and grief the Holy Spirit when we are steeped in sin and refuse to repent. In obeying, we keep in step with the Spirit! We walk by and are led by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit often speaks through God’s word. The fruit of the Spirit is developed through a daily walking with, a frequent obeying and humbly relying on the Holy Spirit. There is victory upon victory, day by day, each step of the way. The question is not whether you have the Holy Spirit, but whether the Holy Spirit has you. The Holy Spirit brings Jesus Christ to us in every situation and everyday of our lives. The heart of the matter is the Holy Spirit’s willingness to empower us and our willingness to say I need and desire the Holy Spirit this Pentecost Sunday.
PONDER | REFLECTION QUESTIONS
- Read John 20:19-23. Take time to share how the disciples would have felt behind locked doors and how the appearance of Jesus would have encouraged them.
- What is the relationship between John 20:19-23 and Acts 2:1-4? Was the Spirit given in John 20? If not, what’s the purpose of Jesus breathing the Spirit upon the disciples?
- What is the role of the Spirit in the Old Testament?
- How have you been surprised by the Holy Spirit? How have these occasions encouraged you?
- What are the 3 key roles of the Holy Spirit highlighted in the book of John? How have you experienced the Spirit playing that role in your spiritual journey?
- Why is it important to be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18-19)?
- Does the Spirit have you? What’s holding you back from obeying the Spirit?
- Pray for each other to be filled with the Holy Spirit.