10. The Holy Spirit
Updated: Mar 4
When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.
Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Matthew 14: 13-23
As the crowds swell and the Jewish leaders turn their backs and hearts on Jesus, we begin to sense anguish and heartache from the words that Jesus says and the things that he does. Jesus, a mere man, is surrounded by his wounded, suffering, and alienated fellow humans. This is so much for anyone to bear. Christ, the Son of the Holy God, is witness to every result of sin and degradation that has spiraled for generations as we have fallen further and further from our true home, dwelling with our Father.
Read all of Matthew 14. Most of us know the story of what happened to Jesus’ beloved cousin, John. After he baptized this Son of Man as Christ, the Son of God, in the River Jordan, he is arrested by Herod and then beheaded when Herod’s niece/stepdaughter demands John’s head on a platter.
When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place…Jesus seeks solitude in order to pray. Interestingly, these passages of Jesus praying do not mention the Holy Spirit. But I believe that these times that a heartbroken and overwhelmed Jesus seeks God, his Father, he does so with the Holy Spirit. Finally, deep into this bible study, lesson 10, here it is, there he is, that mysterious and all encompassing Holy Spirit. We’ve discussed Gabriel’s announcement that through the Holy Spirit, the power of the Most High will overshadow the virgin, Mary, to conceive the child that will be the Son of God. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. We first saw the Holy Spirit in the adult Jesus’ life at his baptism as a dove that descended on the newly announced Christ. Immediately after this, it was the Holy Spirit that led him into the desert to be tempted by his own creation, now his enemy, the fallen angel, Satan.
One of my dearest friends, Jean, my minister’s wife, and I led high school bible study together for many years of Wednesday nights. Gathered in our cozy room, we would always have a heated and lively discussion about what does it mean to be the Son of Man and the Son of God? How is this possible? Who is this Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, … Philippians 2: 6-8
Christ “made himself nothing” and became a human, Jesus. Other versions of the bible use the words “emptied himself.” What does this mean? Allow me to be bold. Remember, this bible study is not written by someone who has been to seminary. I am just a mother who was called by God to struggle with the untimely and horrible suffering and death of a child, let me add, my firstborn son. I believe that when Christ came to the earth in the perfect fullness of time as a human, a son of man, he came as a mere human baby brought into this world perfectly innocent and also full of humanity’s brokenness. While we believe that Jesus was sinless, I believe that he came bearing all of humanity’s generational sin in his earthly body of flesh and blood. This is so very mysterious!
Here is where our heated discussion lay: I believe that Jesus, the man, like me, was not connected to God, the Father, because of that sin. I believe that Jesus, like me, had to seek his Father, my Father, through prayer through the Holy Spirit. I believe that Christ is Christ, the Son of God fully but not with God his Father while he was here incarnate. He left his heavenly home and his Father to condescend to come down to this precursor to hell, this broken kingdom of earth in order to atone for its very great sin. This broken kingdom of earth, then and now, was and is ruled by the prince of this world, Satan. But Satan’s time is limited. Others would argue that Christ was always in every way connected to his Father in heaven.
But I believe that during his life as Jesus, Christ is so very far from his home with his Father. But the Holy Spirit is with him. The Holy Spirit is indwelling within him; the gospels tell us that Jesus is full of the Holy Spirit. Listen to the love and regard Christ holds for the Holy Spirit:
“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
Matthew 12: 30-32
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. …
Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Genesis: 1: 1-7, 27-28
The Hebrew word for God is a masculine word, Elohim. The Hebrew for spirit used here is the feminine word, ruach, which means wind, breath, or spirit. Yes, a masculine word for a plural God and a feminine word for Spirit. Say the word ruach aloud and you will exhale breath. The Breath of God was hovering over the waters of the new creation. It is the same word that is used twice in the following sentence as the Lord God formed mankind, and man and woman became alive. This is the same word that will describe the wind that blew to recede the flood waters for Noah. God’s ruach is our literal source of life. God’s breath is our breath and God’s breath is the Holy Spirit.
In Judaism, the Hebrew word “shekhinah” indicates the presence of God. Please note, this lovely word is not found in the Bible, only in rabbinic writings and teaching. It is a feminine word that is used to denote the Presence of God in the burning bush, the cloud on top of the mountain where Moses talks with the Lord, and in the tabernacle built by Moses and later in the holy temple built by Solomon. In the Jewish tradition, Shekhinah is used to refer to God’s dwelling among his people here on the earth.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. John 1: 1-4
In the New Testament, John gives us an amazing detail to the creation story. John clearly tells us that it was the Son of God who was and is the Word. God breathed with the Spirit, and the Son, Christ, was the Word that was spoken! The mysterious Trinity, breathed the creation into being. The part of the Trinity that is most perplexing is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, the supernatural breath of God, spoken as the Word of Christ, created every other being that drew and still draws breath. Every living creature of the heavens and the earth owes his and her life to the Holy Spirit:
By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth…
For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. Psalm 33:6-9
The essential and all importance role of the Holy Spirit in the earthly life of Christ as Jesus is prophesied by the prophets:
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears;
but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. Isaiah 11: 1-5
Our God is the Trinity: the Father, and the Holy Spirit or breath of God, and the Son of God, the Word: one and the same and yet three separate beings! How mysterious is the Holy Trinity. How exquisite is the holy family of God. The prophet, Ezekiel, lived during the captivity of the Jewish people in Babylon. Read Ezekiel 1 and take in the supernatural vision that this chosen, called man witnessed:
He said to me, “Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.” As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me. He said: “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have been in revolt against me to this very day. Ezekiel 2: 1-2
Now read Ezekiel 37: 1-14. This passage is on par with Revelations with its cosmic and supernatural imagery. Jerusalem has been destroyed, the holy temple razed, and, its many bodies left to lie unburied. The survivors were carried away to Babylon where they are once again enslaved:
Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’” Ezekiel 37: 4-6.
The 29:11 Story
Remember from our first lesson, In the Beginning, I discussed the three beautiful beads that represent the Holy Spirit on God’s time line. The first Holy Spirit bead is located right after God has made the heavens and the earth, and is hovering over the waters. Now, Jesus is close to his preordained sacrifice of his earthly life. After his death, resurrection and ascension, the Holy Spirit will finally be able to make a home with us by indwelling in our hearts and souls. That bead will be represented along with an orange bead that looks like fire, as the Holy Spirit alights on the new young Christians during the Jewish Pentecost. Our last Holy Spirit will be at the end of God’s story as he brings the bride of Christ home.
Ezekiel is the last of the major prophets that is represented by the bronze beads at the end of the Old Testament on every 29:11 Story. His bead, bronze for judgement, sits next to an angel bead. The book of Ezekiel is full of strange, supernatural, frightening creatures of angelic being.
When William was first diagnosed, more than anything, I longed to be able to fill him completely with myself. I wanted to be with him in every cell of his body because I wanted to take on all of his fear and pain and suffering. I couldn’t stand the thought of him being all alone in his mind, heart, and body. I wanted to protect him from the evil harm that was inflicted on him and inside of him. But I couldn’t.
Very shortly before William died, he was able to go on one last very important trip. It was with his high school and his posse friends for a week to Albany, Georgia. He got to help build a house, a new home, with Habitat for Humanity. I got to go to help take care of him. One evening as we were being fed by a church, a group of boys, really they were young men, getting ready to leave home for their futures, asked me to sit with them. All of these young men were of different religious backgrounds than my family; they were Muslim and Hindu. They had all witnessed William’s struggle with cancer since his sixth grade diagnosis.
One of them asked me, “We understand Jesus, the Son of God. We understand how God would need to send his son to earth. But can you explain the Holy Spirit?” “No, I can’t,” I replied. “But this is what I can explain. William is going to die soon. When I wake up in the middle of the night, terrified with fear, I am not alone.” Then I added, “And what is way more important is that when William wakes up in the darkness, he is not alone.” That’s the Holy Spirit - God with us, our Comforter.