John’s Gospel reading for Pentecost gives us a picture of Jesus preparing His followers for the challenges that life ahead will bring.
The scene is the Last Supper, after Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet. Judas has already left to betray Him, so Jesus is left with eleven of ‘the Twelve’. And with those others whom John calls “the disciples”, the wider group of Jesus’ followers, men and women.
Although Jesus has prepared His apostles and disciples, He has taught them and encouraged them, He has noted their dedication and their talent, He knows He will not be with them as they go out into the world.
But He promises to send someone who will help them interpret what He has been teaching them, in any situation that they may find themselves.
Jesus is returning to the Father, but He will send the Spirit of truth to guide His followers.
At Pentecost, the Spirit descended upon all the disciples, just as Jesus had promised. In the vivid scene from Acts, Peter uses Joel’s prophesy to make sense of what he had seen: men and women, suddenly inspired to communicate with people of all nations, to tell the world about God’s mighty intervention in the destiny of human beings, through Jesus Christ.
“Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy”, God had promised through Joel. Prophesy is not the foretelling of the future, it’s the interpretation of God’s word in the present, for the present.
It is a sad fact that in the world today people still resist the Spirit. Why?
Well, the Spirit is not always a comfortable companion. He comes to jolt us out of our complacency, to challenge the world, to search our hearts. Most of all, He comes to point us once more to Jesus, to glorify Him and remind us of His teaching.
The Spirit still moves in the Church today as the Gospel is interpreted for a third millennium. We are faced with many new situations, undreamed of in first century Palestine: they certainly had plagues at that time so the pandemic, in some respects, might be familiar but our ‘modern’ world has thrown up other situations, economic, social and ethical.
There are dilemmas today for which there is no easy answer to be found in our study of scripture. We all know of arguments in which the bible is cited by both sides, with equal conviction. We need to continually ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our worship, in Church meetings and in our daily lives. We need to cast aside our prejudices and presuppositions and listen to the Spirit of truth, who reminds us of the teachings of Jesus and encourages us to apply them.
The Spirit will show us how those commandments of Jesus can be applied: love God with all your heart and love your neighbour as yourself.
The Holy Spirit is always there for us; always available to encourage us and strengthen us. The Holy Spirit is a gift from God Himself and we are all worthy in God’s eyes to receive it. Amen