Have you ever thought about the events that transformed the apostles from runaway associates of Jesus into witnesses willing to be martyred for his message? The ‘About’ page on the Veracity blog encourages readers to “figure some things out.” That’s precisely what the apostles did between Good Friday (on the eve of the Jewish festival of Passover) and Pentecost (during the Jewish festival of Shavuot). But what they figured out wasn’t good enough.
The apostles witnessed all the miracles of Jesus while shadowing him for three years, but when the Roman soldiers showed up in Gethsemane all they had processed during those three years was quickly abandoned. They distanced themselves from him. So much for being bolstered by intellect. Obviously they were focusing on self-preservation and avoiding the pain and suffering that was about to be inflicted upon Jesus—just like you and I would have done. They knew that Jesus was God and that he had the power to raise the dead. They were there for the miracles, the transfiguration, the raising of Lazarus. Intellectually and experientially they knew—but they followed their feet.
Forty days after the resurrection, they witnessed the ascension. But as mind-blowing as that event must have been—particularly in the afterglow of the resurrection—it wasn’t enough to change the apostles from cowards to revolutionaries. Jesus told them to wait in Jerusalem (for Pentecost, 10 days later).
Jesus knew that his ascension would not be enough when he told the apostles beforehand, “…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.” The anointing of the Holy Spirit wasn’t icing on the cake, and it wasn’t an unplanned or spontaneous result of all the teaching that transpired before Pentecost. It wasn’t an insurance run in case the apostles didn’t get it. It was a vital part of God’s plan, preordained, and God’s provision for equipping disciples.
Ray Vander Laan has an amazing lesson on Pentecost (on the Southern Stairs of Herod’s Temple). It is one of the clips from the Faith Lessons DVDs, that should be in your personal library. This is teaching as good as it gets, and you can understand why Ray gets choked up when he describes the significance of being on those steps.
So…after all they had witnessed in the 51 days after Good Friday, particularly the resurrected Christ and his ascension, the apostles still didn’t have what it takes. We may like to think that if we had seen the ascension we would have been fully convicted and empowered. But the truth is it takes more. It takes God with us, not merely God before us. God knew that. God knows that.
When Christ gave the Great Commission in Matthew 28, he commanded his disciples to go to all the nations and baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The ascension was not enough. It took Pentecost. It takes the power and person of the Holy Spirit. Dick Woodward has a lot of teaching about the Holy Spirit, as does the Apostle Paul. If we’re going to get anywhere in our devotional lives, it takes the Holy Spirit. There are rich blessings behind the preceding two hyperlinks.
Why is it important to appreciate the ten days between Christ’s ascension and Pentecost? It gets to the heart of the Trinity, and understanding that God is manifest in three persons—and that we need the power of all three in our lives. It also clearly demonstrates God’s plan for us—we are not only his children, but his anointed children. Without that anointing, it’s not enough.