Weekly Meditation: 10th January 2016
Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
When the Holy Spirit descended on the Lord Jesus, something new began.
Worshippers of Almighty God already knew about his Spirit. It was the Spirit who had hovered over the waters before Creation began (Genesis 1:2) and the same Spirit who manifested God’s power in Creation. In Psalm 29, David presents a glimpse of God’s Spirit unleashed, thundering over the waters (v3), shaking the desert (v 8) and – like a hurricane – “twisting the oaks and stripping the forest bare” (v 8-9). The same Lord “sits enthroned over the flood … enthroned as King forever” (v10); and in the temple “all cry ‘Glory!’” (v 9).
There is intimacy here too, however. This is not a remote, unapproachable King. He is not like an earthly monarch who, sitting in splendour, would preserve a distance from his subjects in order to maintain protocol, to foster the aura of being something other than an ordinary human. God has no need to protect his status. He is above and beyond us, but for that very reason he can reach down to us. “He gives strength to his people … [he] blesses his people with peace.” (v11).
God has no need of worship, and he owes us nothing. Nevertheless he has always sought intimacy to an extraordinary degree with Mankind. When the ancient nation of Judah rebelled against the Lord and were facing exile in Babylon, God sought to comfort them with some of the most intensely emotional language ever written (Isaiah 43 :1-7). He reassured them that they belonged to him still – “I have summoned you by name; you are mine”. He promised to be with them even as they passed through flowing waters and blazing fire. He named himself as their God and Saviour, and called them precious, honoured and loved, created for his glory, “formed and made”. There is something amazing about Almighty God addressing his rebellious, sinful, faithless people in this way. We too can take these words for our own. There must have been many Christians, struggling with their faith and feeling alone and unwanted, who have happened upon this passage and heard God say, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine”.
However, it was not until the Christian era that the ultimate intimacy God intended to have with his people was revealed. That began when Jesus was baptised, and received God’s Spirit at the beginning of his ministry – the Holy Spirit to indwell him (Luke 3:21-22). And the infilling of the Holy Spirit for all Christ’s followers was hinted at by John the Baptist when he spoke of “One who will baptise you with the Holy Spirit” (v16). For Christian disciples this began at Pentecost, but the events at that time were not to be unique. New disciples continue to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit; in our reading from Acts, we meet some Samaritans who – encountering Peter and John – are endowed with the Holy Spirit. It is a matter-of-fact account, not attended by the rushing winds or tongues of flame that characterised Pentecost, but just as powerful. As Christians we all receive God’s Spirit to empower us in our walk of faith. It may happen in a spectacular way, perhaps with a conversion experience or other revelation of God’s love and strength; or it may happen quietly. Either way, we have received into ourselves God himself – the same God who is enthroned in splendour as in Psalm 29, the same God mighty to save whom we met in Isaiah 43, the same God who loved us enough to come himself – in Jesus – to be with us and to bring us to salvation.
By Susan Thorne