2. The Holy Spirit in Jesus' Ministry


Audio (22:51)

Andre and Paul Rault, 'Jesus and Friends,' Blessed Sacrament Church, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
Andre and Paul Rault, "Jesus and Friends," Blessed Sacrament Church, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.

The threads of the Old Testament, come together in the New Testament to weave a portrait of Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God. In particular, Isaiah prophesies that the Holy Spirit will rest upon the Messiah, David's descendant (Isaiah 11:1-2; Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 61:1-2). Peter proclaims this to the people gathered in Caesarea:

"37  You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached -- 38  how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him." (Acts 10:37-38)

In this lesson we will examine how the Spirit coming upon Jesus of Nazareth becomes an example or pattern for us of how the Holy Spirit comes upon Christian believers.

The Spirit Provides Jesus' Primary Identity -- Son of God

We start our study with the Angel Gabriel's announcement to Mary explaining how she, a virgin, will become mother of the Messiah.

"The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God." (Luke 1:35)

Let's consider this verse carefully.

  1. The Holy Spirit will "come upon"[7] Mary. Using Hebrew parallelism, the angel's word includes a second line that is similar to, but carries forward the same idea, "overshadow, cast a shadow, cover."[8]
  2. The Holy Spirit is associated with power, for "Holy Spirit" is used  in parallel with "the power of the Most High." This doesn't mean that the Holy Spirit is merely an emanation of God's power, a force rather than a Person (as the Jehovah's Witnesses allege). We'll consider the personality of the Spirit in Lesson 3. However, notice that the Holy Spirit is clearly associated with power, here and throughout the Old and New Testaments.[9]
  3. The child will be holy, Greek hagios, "dedicated to God, holy, sacred."[10]
  4. The child is literally the Son of God. The clear point here is that the child has God as his "biological" father, with Mary as his "biological" mother.[11] The idea of "son of God" is sometimes used in a figurative sense in the Old Testament, of a special relationship between God and David's descendants (2 Samuel 7:14; 1 Chronicles 17:13; 28:6; and perhaps Psalm 2:7). But Luke 1:35 makes clear that a literal, unambiguous, father-son relationship is intended here, via the Holy Spirit.

This fact is repeated to Joseph in a dream:

"Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 1:20)

Jesus' identity is also confirmed by God's voice when Jesus is baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit.

"When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: 'You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.'" (Luke 3:21-22)

My point is that the Holy Spirit is clearly the basis of Jesus' core identity on earth. As we'll see in Lesson 5, our primary identity as children of God, comes through being born by the Holy Spirit.

Q1. (Luke 1:35; Matthew 1:20; Luke 3:21-22) In what ways is the Holy Spirit active in establishing Jesus' core identity as Son of God as Jesus came to earth? How does the Holy Spirit establish your core identity as a disciple of Jesus?
http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/topic/1789-q1-core-identity/

The Spirit is the Source of Jesus' Power

Jesus' Reliance on the Father (John 5:19)

One of the most shocking verses in John's Gospel is this:

"I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees[12] his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does." (John 5:19)

Verse 19 troubles us because Jesus claims that he can't do anything by himself.[13]  Why not? He is the Son of God, after all.

Paul explains that Jesus voluntarily lays aside some of these prerogatives of divinity.

"Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness." (Philippians 2:6-7)

This is a voluntary submission to the Father's leadership (1 Corinthians 15:24-28). If Christ subjects himself to the Father, you might ask, does this mean that he is somehow inferior to the Father? No. The doctrine of the Trinity explains (in conformity to the New Testament) that the Father and Son and Holy Spirit are equal in Person, but the Son and Holy Spirit are subordinate to the Father in role. A theologian might word it: "ontological equality, but economic subordination," in other words, "equal in being, but subordinate in role."[14] This understanding of equality and role is apparent in the very words "Father" and "Son."

So the phrase, "the Son can do nothing by himself," indicates how dependent Jesus is upon the Father, especially during his time as a human being. As you study the Trinity, you see that members of the Godhead are interdependent, working together. For example, God creates the world through the agency of the Son (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17; Hebrews 1:2). The concept of independent action is foreign to the Godhead of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

I know this is getting theological, but it is important to what I'll say next. Get this: Jesus on earth as a human didn't operate on his own inherent will and power!

How Do We Explain Jesus' Miracles?

There are some who disagree. Historically, there are two basic ways Christians have explained Jesus' miracles:

  1. Jesus does miracles by virtue of being divine. He's the Son of God. He is all powerful. However, if this were true and Jesus' life is completely unique, then he can't serve as a useful example for us humans today. Moreover, Jesus would be unable to train his disciples to do as he did in ministry, since his actions would be due solely to his divinity. He would have to tell them: Do as I say, not as I do.
  2. Jesus does miracles by the power of the Spirit. In his humanness, Jesus performs miracles in the same way that he teaches his disciples to do them -- by direction from and dependence upon the Father, through the power of the Holy Spirit.[15]

I believe that this latter interpretation is much more faithful to John 5:19 than the "Jesus-works-miracles-because-he-is-divine" understanding. And it has huge implications in how we apply the patterns of the New Testament to our lives and ministry.

 If we accept that Jesus' miracles resulted (at least in part) from him being a human being who is full of faith and in tune with his Father's will and timing, then Jesus becomes our exemplar as the Spirit-Filled Man, from whom we can learn how to operate in the Spirit!

The Spirit Comes on Jesus without Limit (John 3:34)

 Jesus operates by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes upon Jesus in a unique way at his baptism -- without limit!

"For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God [literally "he"] gives the Spirit without limit."[16] (John 3:34, NIV)

Jesus not only operates by the Holy Spirit, he baptizes his followers in this limitless access to the Spirit of God.

Q2. (John 5:19; Philippians 2:6-7) What does Jesus' statement, "the Son can do nothing by himself," indicate about his relationship with the Father? Why did Jesus have to "empty himself" from his heavenly glory when he became a man?
http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/topic/1790-q2-son-can-do-nothing/

Jesus Ministers in the Power of the Spirit

Luke's Gospel especially emphasizes the work of the Holy Spirit in Jesus' early ministry. Trace this series of references in Luke.

"The Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove." (Luke 3:22)

"Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert." (Luke 4:1)

"Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit." (Luke 4:14a)

When Jesus is invited to speak in the synagogue at Nazareth, he turns to a passage from Isaiah that provides a paradigm of his ministry:

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
(Luke 4:18-19, quoting Isaiah 61:1-2)

"At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, 'I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.'" (Luke 10:21)

Exactly how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit work together during Jesus' earthly ministry is a mystery, though there are hints throughout the Gospels.

 Christian believers, too, engage all three Persons of the Trinity. We are to pray to the Father in Jesus' name (John 16:26-27). Jesus promises to be with us always (Matthew 28:20). And we are promised the presence and gift of the Holy Spirit who mediates God to us here on earth (John 14-16). How this all fits together is again a mystery. Nevertheless, countless modern-day disciples have learned to live their lives in the presence of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The point here is that Jesus clearly ministers through the power of the Spirit -- in the same way we are to minister.

The Power of the Spirit to Heal and Deliver

We've already seen two verses that connect Jesus with the power of the Spirit to heal:

"Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit." (Luke 4:14a)

"... How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power...." (Acts 10:38a)

Now let's consider some other verses.

"... And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick." (Luke 5:17b)

This verse doesn't name the Holy Spirit, but the power is indicated as external to him, "the power of the Lord." Now look at parallel verses where the phrase "finger of God" is inserted as a synonym of the Holy Spirit:

"If I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you." (Luke 11:20)

"If I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you." (Matthew 12:28)

In Jesus we see a Man who lives fully in the Holy Spirit. He is God, yet he has laid aside his heavenly glory and prerogatives (Philippians 2:5) to operate in our midst as a Man. In doing so he shows us how we can minister by the Holy Spirit that has been poured out on us.

In addition to imbuing him with the power to heal, Luke indicates that the Spirit even empowers Jesus to teach -- "giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen." (Acts 1:1-2).

Indeed, Jesus' power to minister is dependent on the Holy Spirit that is upon him and in him. This is true for Jesus' disciples, too, as we'll see when we examine the gifts of the Holy Spirit in Lesson 8 and Lesson 9.

Q3. (Luke 3:22; 4:1, 14a; 4:18-19; 5:17b; 10:21; Acts 10:38a) Did Jesus do miracles by reason of being the unique Son of God, or by means of the power of the Holy Spirit upon him? Why is this important for us as his disciples? In what ways does Jesus serve as our example in ministry?
http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/topic/1791-q3-power-of-the-spirit/

Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit to His Followers

This promise of the Holy Spirit in the disciples introduces a final theme: Jesus will pass on the Holy Spirit to believers after he goes to be with the Father.

Baptizing with the Holy Spirit

We see varied terminology in the Gospels for sending the Holy Spirit. First, John the Baptist tells us that the Messiah will baptize with the Holy Spirit. This promise is contained in all four Gospels.

"I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire." (Matthew 3:11)

"I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." (Mark 1:8)

"He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire." (Luke 3:16)

"The one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit." (John 1:33)

The word "baptize" is baptizō, "to immerse." We'll examine this word in greater detail in Lesson 6. For now, recognize that "baptize" is a metaphor describing an experience -- the metaphor of immersion in a liquid. Other metaphors are used by Jesus as well. Late in his ministry, Jesus specified that this baptism with the Spirit would occur in Jerusalem shortly after his resurrection.

"I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." (Luke 24:49)

"On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: 'Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'" (Acts 1:4-5)

"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8)

Synonymous to the "baptism" metaphor, are the ideas of being "clothed," and having the Spirit "come upon" one. We'll discuss this further in Lesson 6, where we examine what baptism of the Holy Spirit is.

Sending the Spirit in John's Gospel

While John's Gospel uses the term "baptize with the Holy Spirit" (John 1:33), John 14-16 introduce other terminology. I'll develop each of these verses more thoroughly in Lesson 3 on the Paraclete or Counselor or Comforter. Here, however, I want you to see that Jesus promises to send the Spirit. In Luke, Jesus says:

"If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (Luke 11:13)

The next passage comes from Jesus' teaching at the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem.

"38  'Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.' 39  By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified." (John 7:38-39)

Several references occur in John 14-16:

"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever -- the Spirit of truth." (John 14:16-17a)

"The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." (John 14:26)

"When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me." (John 15:26)

Finally in the upper room after Jesus' resurrection, we read:

"And with that he breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'" (John 20:22)

This last verse is difficult to understand. It seems to be what theologians call a "proleptic act,"[17] an act that anticipates or prefigures what will happen a few days hence on the Day of Pentecost.

Before we leave this section, let's look again at the verbs used to describe the sending of the Spirit:

  • Baptize (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:4-5)
  • Clothe (Luke 24:49)
  • Give (Luke 11:13; John 7:39; 14:17)
  • Receive (John 7:39; 20:22)
  • Send (John 14:26; 15:26)
  • Come upon (Acts 1:8)

Observe who does the sending. In nearly each instance the Father is involved, but Jesus is involved too -- "I will ask the Father" (John 14:16), "in my name" (John 14:26), "I will send you from the Father" (John 15:26). You get the idea that Jesus is using his words carefully here -- though we don't know the exact relationship between the Spirit and the Father.[18]

Q4. Who sends the Holy Spirit? The Father or Jesus? Does it matter?
http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/topic/1792-q4-send-the-spirit/

Lessons for Disciples

We have learned several things about Jesus and the Spirit in this lesson.

  1. The Holy Spirit is responsible for Jesus' core identity as the unique Son of God, in his conception and anointing by the Spirit at baptism (Luke 1:35; Matthew 1:20; Luke 3:21-22).
  2. The Holy Spirit is the source of Jesus' power. He says he can do nothing by himself, but only what he sees the Father doing (John 5:19).
  3. Jesus doesn't do miracles by virtue of being the Son of God, but by the Holy Spirit that is upon him.
  4. In a number of instances (especially in Luke's Gospel) we see that Jesus ministers in the power of the Spirit (Luke 3:22; 4:1, 14a; 4:18-19; 5:17b; 10:21; Acts 10:38a; Luke 11:20 = Matthew 12:28).
  5. Jesus will baptize his followers with the Holy Spirit -- that is, immerse them in the Spirit. But in doing so he works closely with the Father.

Growth Assignment (Week 2) -- Pray about Everything

This week, I want you to begin to literally adopt Jesus' pattern of looking to the Father before doing any kind of ministry. It sounds easy, perhaps, but this will be radically different for many of you.

Let me explain what I mean. In my own case, I've spent years in school, learning the Bible and how to be a minister. I've had 50 years of experience in ministry, so I can do a lot of ministry without thinking much about it.

DANGER!

When we try to minister in our own power without complete reliance on God for the results, we get thoroughly predictable, low-power results that reflect our own competence. Only when we listen for what the Spirit says, and then do what he is showing us -- even when it doesn't make rational sense -- will we see supernatural results.


Available in paperback, Kindle, and PDF formats

If Jesus relied on the power of the Spirit, then how much more we must rely on Him and listen to him.

Here's the assignment for this week: Pray about everything -- especially your contacts with your family, others, and ministry situations. Explicitly ask for God's direction and power. If God shows you to do something different than your normal practice, obey fully. Don't expect minimal results as you might have in the past. Expect God to show up with his power. Then briefly write down what happens in a journal.

Prayer

Father, please establish in us the habit of looking to you through the Spirit, so we don't operate in our own power but in yours. Forgive us for years of trusting in our own competency rather than relying on you. Help us to minister in the Holy Spirit just as Jesus, our example, did for us. In Jesus' holy name, we pray. Amen.

Key Verses

"You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached -- how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him." (Acts 10:37-38, NIV)

"The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God." (Luke 1:35, NIV)

"Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 1:20, NIV)

"When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: 'You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.'" (Luke 3:21-22, NIV)

"I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does." (John 5:19, NIV)

"Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness." (Philippians 2:6-7, NIV)

"The Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove." (Luke 3:22, NIV)

"Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert." (Luke 4:1, NIV)

"Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit." (Luke 4:14a, NIV)

"... How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power...." (Acts 10:38a, NIV)

"... And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick." (Luke 5:17b, NIV)

"If I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you." (Luke 11:20, NIV)

"If I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you." (Matthew 12:28, NIV)

"I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire." (Matthew 3:11, NIV)

"I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." (Luke 24:49, NIV)

"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8, NIV)

"If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (Luke 11:13, NIV)

"'Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.' By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified." (John 7:38-39, NIV)

Notes

[7] The two Greek words are simple. The verb is eperchomai, "to move to or upon" (BDAG 361). The compound verb eperchomai is formed from the preposition epi-, "upon," and the very common verb erchomai, "to come, to go" (Thayer, p. 230). The preposition is epi, "upon." The same phrase is used in Acts 2:38 on the day of Pentecost to describe the Holy Spirit coming upon believers.

[8] Episkiazō, BDAG 378. The same word is used in the Gospels to describe the shining cloud of God's glory that enveloped the disciples on the mount of transfiguration. Also in Matthew 17:5; Luke 9:34; Mark 9:7.

[9] Judges 14:6, 19; 15:14; 1 Samuel 10:6, 10; 11:6; 16:13; Isaiah 11:2; Micah 3:8; Zechariah 4:6; Luke 1:17; 4:14; Acts 1:8; 10:38; Romans 1:4; 15:13, 19; 1 Corinthians 5:4; Galatians 4:29; Ephesians 3:16; 1 Thessalonians 1:5; 2 Timothy 1:7.

[10] Hagios, BDAG 11, 1a.

[11] Luke 1:35 uses the inferential conjunction dio, "therefore, for this reason" (BDAG 250), indicating that this divine parenting makes the child divine.

[12] "Sees" is blepō, "see" (with the eye), then, by extension, "discern," here, perhaps in the sense of "to pay especially close attention to something, notice, mark something" (BDAG 179, 4).

[13] We also see this thought in John 5:30; 8:38; 12:49; 14:10.

[14] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Zondervan, 1994), pp. 251-252.

[15] Cessationists" believe that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased after the apostolic era, so for them, Jesus' miracle-working ministry is not a useful example. I am a "continuationist," not a "cessationist" because I see the whole New Testament as a pattern for disciples today, not just the "non-supernatural" portions of it. For a balanced description of this debate, read the "Cessationism versus Continuationism" article in Wikipedia.

[16] "Limit" (NIV), "measure" (NRSV, ESV, KJV), "reserve" (NJB) is metron, "an instrument for measuring." Here the word means "not from a measure, without (using a) measure" (BDAG, 644, 2b). J.B. Philips paraphrases it this way: "There can be no measuring of the Spirit given to him!" The Message has: "Don't think he rations out the Spirit in bits and pieces," which makes the subject of the rationing more ambiguous. New Living Translation has, "God gives him the Spirit without limit."

[17] Prolepsis means, "anticipation, the representation or assumption of a future act or development as if presently existing or accomplished" (Merriam-Webster).

[18] The framers of the Nicene Creed struggled with this issue. The revised Nicene Creed (381 AD) reads in part: "We believe ... in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets." This wording was accepted by both Western Latin churches as well as the Eastern Orthodox churches. However, a few decades later the Western Churches altered it slightly, changing the phrase "who proceeds from the Father," to ""who proceeds from the Father, and from the Son," adding the word (filioque). Sadly, this word change became a primary cause of the Schism between the Catholic and Eastern churches in 1054 AD. For more on this see the Wikipedia article on "Filioque."


Copyright © 2018, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.