In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 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 1:1-5
Happy Easter 2021! Well it seems fitting that after a long time off the water this is the day, Easter, that God has prompted and prodded me to get back on the water and continue my journey with water in the bible. I am not sure why the book of Acts presented such a daunting bit of water, but I have been camped on shore for several months. I think as I previewed some of the passages that lie ahead, sort of like scouting rapids on a raft trip, I got the sense that the waters were about to get muddied by a bunch of flawed followers, like myself, trying to make sense of what Jesus came and did. I think in many ways the complex job of faithfully following in the midst of a sometimes confusing world is the same today as it was for these early followers of the way. This is especially true as we begin 2021 and leave 2020, the year without hugs, behind as a troublesome memory.
All evidence points to Luke as the author of the book of Acts, and he basically says this in the first part of this passage. It has been noted by many that Luke addresses this account of the early followers of Jesus to Theophilus, which in Greek means essentially God-lover, beloved of God, or friend of God. This is the ultimate “big tent”. All those who are willing to accept and return God’s love are “in”. Only those who choose to be free of God are truly “out”, and even those who choose to be “out” can turn around and meet the loving arms of the Father at any time.
So Let’s see where this entry into the book of Acts leads. The water reference here is the water baptism of John, “For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” This is a recognition of something that Jesus spoke of many times – that the change that is required is fundamentally a spiritual one. The change that John was commemorating with water baptism was only an outward celebration of an internal change in our relationship with God.
This relationship will take on new meaning as God’s presence on earth changes from a physical “condensate” in the form of Jesus to a spiritual “vapor” or wind in the form of the Holy Spirit that can permeate and infuse our souls. This is an interesting “circling back” to the form God took as a cloud for much of the early interactions with the Israelites. The crucial difference here is that instead of a cloud high above us the Holy Spirit will in some sense dwell within us. This is both amazing and terrifying.
Our baptism with the Holy Spirit is not a single act of commemoration like water baptism, but rather an immersion in a new way of being and seeing the world. It is a partial cure for the spiritual blindness that seems to afflict us here in the land of oblivion. It is also the fulfillment of a promise that Jesus made to give sight to the blind, in this case the spiritually blind. All those wandering and wondering about God are invited to use this set of night vision goggles to navigate the spiritual darkness that can threaten to envelope us if we let it. We have but to ask.
He is Risen!
Prayer: God thank you for the Holy Spirit and the light in provides in the darkness.
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