“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” – Acts 1:8
Perhaps one of the greatest, if not most frequent, lessons that Jesus taught His disciples was that of being patient. Oh, He didn’t necessarily teach that lesson the same way He taught other character-building traits. He simply required them to be so. Of course, it was something the Jewish people as a whole had learned over the course of the centuries. But with the arrival of John and then Jesus, following 400 years of God-silence, that patience must have seemed to finally be on the edge of reward. The delayed gratification would be sweet and complete.
But then there was crucifixion. Confusion. Utter despair. But roller coasters, good ones, aren’t just one big hill and then back to the station at the bottom. They continue with more loops, hills, twists and turns. And the disciples were in for a wild ride. The empty tomb, the message to the women, Jesus appearing in the room with them, all the slow chain pulls of going up the next hill.
When Jesus told them, “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), they knew there would be more waiting. More of the slow lull of anticipation before the next thrilling loop. But it was almost unbearable. The question had to be asked, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). The answer? Be patient.
And so, the disciples waited. They were getting good at it. Gathered together, they waited now for the promised power to come. They were ready to witness. But they waited. Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth waited with them. Good things come to those who wait.
What kind of power would they receive?
They knew the stories of how the Spirit gave wisdom, understanding, and knowledge to Bezalel to construct and decorate the tabernacle. How the power of the Spirit went to the 70 elders of Israel, giving them wisdom to judge. The disciples knew of the judges, to whom the Spirit gave courage, wisdom, and even physical strength—as a child I fantasized about the strength to kill a lion with my hands, what power! They knew of the prophets, through whom God, by the power the Spirit, spoke to the people of Israel, raised the dead, and counseled kings to victory.
The disciples had seen power. Stood next to it for three years. Watched it command nature, diseases, and the spirit world. Anticipation must have been high. But patient as they had been, as much power as they had seen and heard of, they were about to experience something completely new. They would receive power, but not before experiencing it one more time.
It’s fitting, really. The descent of the Spirit to empower the disciples was unlike what had come before because God was doing something unlike what had been done before.
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:1-4).
While the disciples had seen the power of Jesus in controlling nature, none of the works that Jesus did are described in terms like this. The Spirit came audibly, with a sound like a rushing wind; visibly, with tongues of fire descending on the disciples. And the disciples spoke in languages they did not know.
There was little doubt that the Spirit had come. No head scratching over alternate possibilities/explanations. Jesus’s word had come to pass. Now was the time to witness. And surprisingly, witnessing to the ends of the earth required no travel. The ends came to them.
To people “from every nation under heaven” the disciples, in the power of the Spirit spoke of Jesus crucified and resurrected. And some, perhaps in astonished disbelief, made fun. But 3,000 believed and were baptized that day. (Conversion and baptism on the same day—something some churches may need to wrestle with, but that’s for another article).
The coming of the Spirit required patience. Patience to wait on God’s plan and God’s timing. But when the Spirit came, the coming brought power, power for the purpose of proclamation. That God’s kingdom may come, and His will may be done.