“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” Acts 1:8
The cooking is done, and the decorations are down. The plastic eggs are put away, the kids have finally come down from their sugar high, and the spirit of all things bunny and chick is fading.
Ah, Easter is over.
It’s a familiar feeling. We felt it right after January 1 just a couple months ago, but unfortunately, here it is again. That vacuous, empty, “now what?” feeling.
For me, the days after Easter often feel dull and boring. I suddenly find myself with nothing to do, nothing to look forward to. I’m willing to bet the disciples went through a similar experience in those days after Jesus’ death on the cross. They might have looked at each other and thought, “Okay, that’s that. Now what do we do?”
Well, it didn’t take long to find out. The disciples discovered a few days later that Jesus’ tomb was empty, which was incredible enough, but they were about to learn a new command plus meet someone special- the Holy Spirit. It’s all in the book of Acts.
But, before we get to Acts 1, let’s back up to the book of John for a moment.
Jesus Always Shows Up
At the end of John, we read about Jesus appearing to the disciples the same day of His resurrection.
“Then, the same day at evening…Jesus came and stood in the midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.” John 20:19–20
Jesus didn’t wait around. The same day He conquered death for us all, He appeared to the disciples to prove that He really is the Son of God.
He continued to appear to them several more times over the course of 50 days:
- On the road to Emmaus to two of the disciples (Luke 24:13–32)
- To allow Thomas to put his finger in the Lord’s hands and side (John 20:26–29)
- To rebuke eleven of the disciples for their unbelief (Mark 16:14)
- To cook breakfast on the beach and appoint Peter as the head of the new church (John 21)
- To introduce the Holy Spirit to the world.
This is where Acts 1 picks up the story, and it begins with the Great Commission.
The Great Commission
The days after Jesus’ resurrection surely were a very confusing time for the disciples. Some days He showed up, other days He didn’t, and sometimes He vanished right in the middle of a visit (Luke 24:31). To make this more difficult, some of the disciples recognized who He was (about 500 of them!) but others didn’t because the Lord had not yet “opened their eyes” (Luke 24:41).
Then one day He was ready to give the disciples the Great Commission. Now, don’t get the Great Commandment and the Great Commission confused. The Great Commandment is to love God and love others like you love God (Matthew 22:36–40). The Great Commission is for us to spread the Gospel throughout the world.
“Then He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things.’”
Acts 1:8 says something similar:
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, to the end of the earth.”
Notice that they could only begin successfully spreading the Gospel after they received power from the Holy Spirit. When was that, you might wonder? That was the Day of Pentecost.
The Unacknowledged Day of Pentecost
The last time the disciples saw Jesus was fifty days after His resurrection. It’s called the Day of Pentecost and it’s special for two reasons. It was the day Jesus ascended (back) to Heaven to sit at the right hand of the throne of God, and it’s the day He gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit, which He had spoken about twice in the book of John.
“And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper that He may abide with you forever — the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him for He dwells in you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:16–18
“But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.” John 15:26
The Day of Pentecost is perhaps the least acknowledged occasion in the Christian faith. I have heard only one pastor speak about its importance in my 30+ years of following Christ, and it bothers me every year when the day comes and goes without even the slightest mention.
Here’s why the Day of Pentecost is so important and why I think we should be paying more attention to it.
Why Pentecost is Special
Genesis 1:1 explains to us about God the Father’s power, and the Christmas story and Easter tells us all about Jesus the Son. Similarly, the Day of Pentecost reflects the fulfilled promise of the Holy Spirit. The event dramatically changed the world and the way Christians live.
Before the Day of Pentecost, the disciples had already experienced the Holy Spirit’s power through Jesus. Now, they would experience His indwelling presence forever, and so can we. The Holy Spirit inside of us gives us the power we need to both fulfill the Great Commission and to make good choices.
The Spirit gives us power over temptation and sin. He gives us the power to overcome our challenges and find victory. His power allows us to find compassion and forgiveness when we don’t really want to, and His power helps us discern right from wrong and choose goodness. It’s because of Him we can be obedient to God.
Think about the fruits of the Holy Spirit as the apostle Paul tells us about in Galatians 5:22– love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The Spirit gives us the power to do all of them. Christian or non-believer, it’s the Spirit who helps all of us to just be nice.
God indeed gives us the power to do many good things for Him, but our ability only comes to us through the Holy Spirit.
Another Reason for the Spirit
One other important point to make here concerns Acts 1:6 where the disciples ask Jesus, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom of Israel?”
The disciples already knew from Ezekiel 36 that Jesus would re-establish His kingdom only after the Holy Spirit had come, which means they recognized that prophecy was in the process of being fulfilled.
And though the Spirit has been with us since the Day of Pentecost over 2,000 years ago, we have yet to see Jesus’ second coming. But, because the Spirit has already arrived, we know that Jesus is, in fact, coming again at some point. We have that assurance.
Now, think about what the world would be like if the Holy Spirit had not come.
If He’s the one who gives us the power to be good and righteous…if He’s the one who leads us and makes us wise…if He’s the one who helps us overcome our struggles (physical, mental, emotional, situational, etc.)…what would the world be like if He wasn’t here?
Think about that for a second.
Without the Day of Pentecost and the arrival of the Holy Spirit, the world would be in utter chaos. It would be one hot mess out there. Anarchy…selfishness…cruelty…pure evil would be the dish of the day, every day.
Yes, a Christian might still manage to endure it all, but it would be exceedingly difficult. We would still have forgiveness of sin and the hope of Heaven because of Jesus; but, to share that forgiveness and compassion with others, to make good decisions, the ability to be loving and kind would be a perpetual afterthought. Even worse, we would be teaching this to our children.
Essentially, we would regress back to the days before Jesus came.
The best I can imagine is it might be sort of like sitting for hours and hours in bumper-to-bumper, rush hour traffic on a Friday afternoon trying to hurry home in the middle of August with no air conditioning in the car. Everyone’s changing lanes and cutting each other off, slamming breaks, honking horns, yelling and screaming. All day. Every day. Seven days a week.
Yeah, no fun.
Thank the Lord, in His good sense, He gave us the Holy Spirit. Without Him, our lives would be frustrating, stressful, and dog-eat-dog to the extreme. Without Him, the world would be simply dystopian.
The Spirit is Alive Inside Us
Now that Easter is over, don’t forget about what the disciples were still going through in the days that followed. They had a new normal to adjust to; but in the middle of the confusion, Jesus gave them (and us) both the Great Commission plus the gift of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost.
This year, the Day of Pentecost occurs on May 20th. Take a moment that day to appreciate the incredible gift of the Holy Spirit and how He helps us every day in so many ways. Go out and tell the world how wonderful and amazing He is. Share the Good News wherever you can.
Easter may be over, but Jesus is still risen and alive inside of us through the power of the Holy Spirit.