Calendars are full of festivals of different religions or faiths. One such festival surrounding the Christian faith is called the Festival of Pentecost. This year this falls on Sunday, the 31 May when Christians of all traditions observe the day with deep reverence and solemnity and commemorate the coming down of the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of God upon the first disciples of Jesus Christ. The word ‘Pentecost’ comes from the New Testament Greek word ‘Pentecostes’ meaning ‘fiftieth’. This was on the fiftieth day after the Jewish Passover feast that the Holy Spirit came down upon the disciples and empowered them to preach the gospel to a hostile world with boldness and courage. In the Old Testament on this day which was ordained for the Hebrews to commemorate dual events of the giving of the Mosaic Law (Taurath) by God for the newly redeemed Hebrew people themselves, and the final day of the feast of the Weeks or of the Harvest Festival. It was the memorial to the promulgation of theocracy of the newly liberated people of Israel on Mount Sinai and the day of thanksgiving for their harvest. However, the old festivals of the Israelites foreshadowed the new Christian festival of “the harvest of human souls” transformed by the holy power of God’s Spirit for the entirely new kind of life in and through Jesus Christ.
The Hebrew word for the English ‘Spirit’ is ‘Ruach’, and the Greek is ‘Pneuma’. Interestingly enough, in both Hebrew and Greek languages the word ‘Ruach’ and ‘Pneuma’ also mean ‘Wind or breath’ implying the life-giving breath of Eternal and Holy God. In Christian teaching the Holy Spirit is not an impersonal force or power. But he is a divine person. The theme of the role and work of the Holy Spirit of God runs throughout the Bible testifying to all the works of God, renewal of lives and bringing hope in a situation of hopelessness and despair of man. On this day people from their dispersion in different parts of the world came to Jerusalem to celebrate those festivals. But the first disciples of Jesus Christ, who were also Jews, had an entirely new and unique experience on that day. The Holy Spirit came upon them and they became entirely transformed with a spiritual experience as narrated in second chapter of the New Testament book of the Acts of the Apostles. Noteworthy it is that this was but in fulfillment of God’s prophetic promise made through his prophet name Joel during the 9th century B C (Joel 2:28-32). Even nearly 4 hundred years before Joel Moses prophesied for the Spirit of God to be for all the people (Numbers 11:29). The promise of Almighty God, God the Holy Spirit was meant for all godly people. But that did not materialize in the Old Testament time. But it is supposed to for the followers of Jesus Christ.Pentecost is of great significance in the lives of the individual Christians and in the life of the Church as a whole. While the Church owes it is beginning to this event, both are to be led by the Holy Spirit for meaningful existence. All the Gospels and their teachings purport to be climaxed in the Pentecost event. That is why John the Baptist the harbinger of Christ clearly spoke of Christ to baptize people in the Spirit while he himself baptised people in water. The Holy Spirit was poured down upon the apostles of Christ just as he had promised them on the eve of his ascension to heaven on the 40th day following his resurrection. The power of the Spirit empowered and completely transformed their lives. They were able to preach the good news of salvation in Christ to both the Jews and the gentiles with courage. And their preaching was accompanied by great miraculous works. The Spirit came upon the Jews, then on the half-Jews, i.e. the Samaritans, and also on the non-Jews from different nations in course of time. Each and every work that he did is a testimony to the Spirit’s work. By the Spirit he was installed into his Messianic position. By the power of the Spirit he was led to be tempted by the devil, and he also resisted the devil by this power. The Spirit also equipped his apostles for their mission and work of bringing the good news to this sin-sick world. All our sins against man are also sins against our Creator. Sins are committed against the poor, weak, the innocent, women, children, so on and so forth. Sins are committed by the powerful people, people in authority and might, and even people who are so-called educated while they are not enlightened. Often they create environment where life cannot be lived with human dignity. The Holy Spirit guides us towards the wellbeing of our total personality: body, mind and soul. It is this Spirit of God that imparts and new and divine and glorious life for the oppressors and the oppressed, the life which is worthy of “the crown of creation”, a truly human life.
The Bible, as a whole, depicts the works of the Holy Spirit as opposed to those of the fleshly or carnal mind. We see this clearly mentioned in the Epistle to the Galatians. Two millennia ago Paul wrote to them: “The works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissention, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing and the like”, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…”( Galatians 5:19, 22). The Holy Spirit will come to dwell in our hearts and empowers us when we acknowledge our weakness in our fighting against the desires of the flesh and the adversaries of this world. The Holy Spirit guides us towards the welfare of our total personality: body, mind and soul. He can affect a total spiritual revolution in us transforming the character and attitude to life and to all creation.
All people have the urgent need to repent or do a ‘tauba’ for their failures, for sins, and then also to trust in the leading of the Holy Spirit so that they can overcome the devil or the leading of the evil spirits. There is always the constant need of renewal of our minds, thoughts and our whole beings because Satan is always operative with his devilish designs. We need to receive spiritual illumination for understanding the Word and Will of God and the inspiration from the Holy Spirit for us to be vehicles of God’s grace for others. The human race is going through too many problems: too many man-made conflicts as well as natural disasters. The dilemma and the problems that the world is in is a spiritual one. So its solution has to be the spiritual. This is true for every human person, who is under the snare of sin without any distinction of difference whatsoever.
Let our prayers today be that the transcendental gift of the Holy Spirit continues to totally renew our lives that we may all live in a culture of justice and peace, renewal and healing that this our world is groaning for. We pray for all humanity especially in view of the unprecedented global plague of Corona virus. Let this angel of death be brushed aside from the brows of mankind. Let life reign supreme over death!
The writer is a Christian Theology teacher