Jesus vs. The Holy Spirit

Posted on May 31, 2013


[Spoiler Alert: many of these thoughts are going to be integrated into an upcoming sermon. If you are going to hear me preach and want it all to be a surprise, stop now!]

If we could choose between an encounter with the person of Jesus Christ or to live as we do with the Holy Spirit. Which would you choose?

My guess is that most people would choose an encounter with the person of Jesus Christ. I know I’ve wondered what it would be like to go back in time and meet Jesus? See him, listen to him (after learning Aramaic), touch him, watch the crucial, capitalized events unfold: the Incarnation, the Transfiguration, his Death, Resurrection, and Ascension. Even the lower-case, but no less important events of his life: his baptism by John, his temptation in the wilderness, the miracles and healing, his teachings. Just to share a meal with Christ! Sublime glory! A boon to our faith! Upon returning to 2013 would we ever doubt again?

But this may not be the best choice.

There are scripture passages that indicate that it is us who have the greater blessing, not the disciples.

“Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:12-14)

My contention is that we don’t actually want the Spirit of God because it is too dangerous and requires too much from us. What is attractive about Jesus the person is that he is not us. Jesus the person is the other. In this way, we do not have to bear the responsibility for continuing the healing, the miracle-working, and the complete transformation of the world though the power of divine love manifest in our lives. What we can do is to sit back and merely pray that Jesus do these things in some magical, disembodied way.

Unfortunately for our lazy selves, this is not part of God’s plan. It was not the intention that the risen Christ wander the earth for all time, blessing, teaching, and healing. (Christ as the anti-Highlander?) Besides being logistically impossible to spread the good news to the ends of the earth through a single person, the Pentecost event was (and is) part of the trajectory of God’s love. It injects the Incarnation into the lives of each and every follower of Christ.

“What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different form a slave, although he owns the whole estate. He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. But when the time had fully come God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of children. Because you are children, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but a child; and since you are a child, God has made you also an heir.” (Galatians 4:1-7)

Union with Christ is a frightening thing. 

But there is no alternative. To be a follower of Christ means that we recognize that the Spirit of Christ is inside us; shaping, nudging, inspiring, directing, pushing, pulling, connecting us to others, and making us new, body, soul, strength, and mind. This is the shock of following Christ:

“See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.” (1 John 3:1-2)


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Posted in: Theology