Circumstances, Space and the Spirit
Pentecost is the fulfillment of the Law
John 20:19-23 Acts 2:1-11
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Brothers and sisters, it is a truism; it is obvious, it goes without saying: Life is full of “circumstances” - difficult times, accusing times, happy times, times when we feel things are all well, times when we think that we don’t know what the next thing is that will happen and we are full of fear and anxiety. And out of those “circumstances,” those long periods of “space,” punctuated by important events, the Lord speaks to us, the Lord saves us. It’s always been that way. It was like that on Pentecost.
The Spirit was spoken of in the Old Testament quite often, but the Jews did not understand. Jesus Christ spoke of the Spirit quite often, and the Apostles did not understand. And then when He rose from the dead and after He ascended, the Spirit still had not come and they did not understand. But they were, as the Scripture says, all of one accord, in one place on the day of Pentecost; they were in a state of readiness, so when the Spirit came, they would understand. Do you understand?
Pentecost is a Jewish feast as well as a Christian one. Pascha, or Passover, was celebrated by the Jews to celebrate their escape from Egypt and Pharaoh. After they left and crossed the Red Sea, fifty days later, the law was given to Moses. Pentecost celebrates the giving of the law, the first Pentecost.
The second Pentecost is the fulfillment of the law.
The Jews (and all mankind) were not able to fulfill the law because they didn’t have the ability. They could know some of the law only in its broad strokes, but they could not really follow it very well because they did not have the Holy Spirit, not every man. The Lord showed us later what the law really meant, especially in the Sermon on the Mount when He spoke of what love, hate, murder and lust really are.
In the Old Testament, the Spirit was given only for specific purposes, to prophets and kings, with the anointing of oil. Only a few had the Holy Spirit. In the Christian age, all Christians can have the Holy Spirit.
But I say “can have the Holy Spirit” because we understand that the Holy Spirit does not abide in the person that does not attempt to live a pure life. The Holy Spirit is signified by the dove which is a very clean animal, so the Holy Spirit will not be where there is filth, only where there is cleanliness or, should I say really, where there is the attempt to be clean. Because the Holy Spirit will abide in the struggler, in the one who desires. The one who doesn’t care, the one who makes excuses -- the Holy Spirit is far from him even though he calls himself a Christian.
Jesus Christ, after He was risen, came to the all the disciples save Thomas, who was missing and He said --“Peace be to you,” and then He breathed on them, and said, “Receive ye the Holy Spirit.”
Were the apostles immediately peaceful after He did this, or did they immediately receive the Holy Spirit after He did this? No. The apostles still had many days of fear that the Romans were going to crash in at any time and arrest them and crucify them just like their Savior had been. They were unsure of themselves. They waited for fifty days, not knowing when the Spirit would come. It all comes together in the end.
There’s a perfect symmetry about it, but they didn’t know that at the time. The law given on Pentecost, the Holy Spirit is given so the law could be fulfilled on Pentecost.
On hindsight, it makes perfect sense; they realized it afterwards, but in the midst of it they did not know. So they were waiting an interminable length of time not knowing but all of one accord and together, and the Holy Spirit came, with the rush of a mighty wind and cloven tongues of fire over their heads, which was nothing that they expected.
And then because it was found out because of the sound and the commotion, many people came around with all these different languages, and the apostles spoke to all of them, and they were understood. An amazing thing, certainly incredible. And there are incredible things that happen in our lives.
But most of our life is not incredible. Most of our life is just struggle, just trying. Life is “space” punctuated by short events. The Christian who has less “space” in his day, that Christian is the one who is making more progress. Because really there should be no “space” in your day. You should be with prayer and with desire to become what the Lord has ordered you, commanded you to be every moment. So no moment should be wasted. Yet we know, yes, moments are wasted, but if we are waiting on the Lord, He will surely come.
In Pentecost, and incredible event that happens, but the most important story is not the event, but what led up to it. We must look closely enough at the “circumstances” under which it happened. These were men who were hunted. These were men who were afraid. Even when He ascended into Heaven, it is said, some doubted. So even in the forty days, even after seeing Him for several occurrences during the forty days, some still doubted. I think we would be among those doubters as well. It’s not so important if you doubt a little bit; it’s not so important if you sin. What’s important is if you desire; if you desire to be filled with God, then you will. Now, with desire comes effort. It’s not just wishing upon a star. Its effort and change.
So the apostles gave that effort to be together, which was
dangerous. It would have been safer to be apart,
wouldn’t it? Wouldn’t a large group of people
tend to get more attention from the authorities?
They stayed together, and the Holy Spirit came, outside of their expectations. Despite the fact that the Lord had said to them many times about the Holy Spirit, despite the fact that they as lovers of scriptures knew references to the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, they were surprised.
It is that way with us too. Not because the Lord doesn’t tell us but because we’re just a little dull and we don’t understand. That’s okay. The Lord will save those who are dull, as long as they wish to become bright. And you become bright by living in the “circumstances” of your life and seeing God in all things, in every “circumstance,” knowing that there is no “space” in your life. Everything is important. And then the Holy Spirit comes to you and comforts you in ways that you cannot understand, and peace comes to you in ways that you cannot understand.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t always feel peaceful; in fact, I rarely feel peaceful and yet I know that the Lord promised peace. So what do we do with this conundrum? The Lord said, “Peace be to you,” and yet we are not in peace. Well, the problem is that we don’t live in a peaceful way. The Holy Spirit will teach us this way. But not in some kind of way that is easy.
Reality is a whole lot different than our fantasy. Reality is hard. We learn to be peaceful by not becoming angry when someone slanders us, by not becoming bitter when someone harms us, by not lusting when we have an illicit desire. This is the path to peacefulness, and it is hard. But God will help because of the Holy Spirit.
The law was given on the first Pentecost by Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit was sent to fulfill the law on the second Pentecost.
Let us fulfill the law by living in the “circumstances” of our life. Let there be no “space” in our life but only the Spirit.
May God bless us and help us.
Priest Seraphim Holland 2010.
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