SUMMER REBOOT – this podcast was originally published on 22 May 2019.
Welcome to Wednesday’s podcast. Our reading today is John 1: 19-34 but today I’ll focus on verses 32-33
Then John gave this testimony: ‘I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptise with water told me, “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptise with the Holy Spirit.”
I inherited my Grandfather’s 1973 Volkswagen Beetle. It had been handed to me Dad and then onto me. I loved that car.
It had a few quirks which made for a fascinating driving experience. For example the petrol gauge was at best vague. This caught be out one night driving home from a friends’ house. I could see the gauge hovering over the red – this is decades before you got an electronic warning or anything fancy like that. The gauge was unpredictable, as it would move about as the petrol sloshed around the tank. I thought I had more fuel than I actually did… the car coughed, spluttered and juddered (I thought this isn’t good) and then it ran out of fuel. This was pre-mobile phone days and so I had to walk the rest of the way home on foot.
It was late when I got home and my Dad about to go to bed was not best pleased but came to help me get the car going again.
He asked me this very simple question spoken with great clarity: ‘How did you manage to run out of fuel?’
There are definitely times in life when I feel like I’ve metaphorically run out of fuel. My wife Clarissa & I work with families here at STC. It’s often common for young parents to experience that feeling of running on empty. The combination of extreme tiredness and the phenomenal change in circumstance can be so draining!
How about you? Have you ever experienced that feeling of running on empty? Perhaps it feels like that right now. A last minute push before half term or you’re waiting to get through the exams or the stress of work means you have that you know your internal fuel gauge is hovering over the red.
I’ve heard, as fuel is the source that empowers an engine so the Holy Spirit is the very presence that that empowers our lives.
Billy Graham, the late great American Evangelist, said this:
‘Everywhere I go I find that God’s people lack something. They are hungry for something. Their Christian experience is not all that they expected and they often have recurring defeat in their lives. Christians today are hungry for spiritual fulfilment. The most desperate need of the nation today is that men and women who profess Jesus be filled with the Holy Spirit.’
Those words are as true today as they are when Billy Graham said them.
In today’s short passage we read of John the Baptist’s testimony of what he saw at Jesus’ baptism. There’s much to say about John the Baptist. He was a incredible character – well known – who spoke of Jesus’ imminent arrival. Someone describes him in this way: a bit like a politician on the campaign trail who had the ability to draw a huge crowd and by his actions a significant amount of attention but not to himself – ultimately to Jesus. And he takes a lot of heat from the religious rulers who are deeply concerned about John the Baptist and who he’s preaching.
As with all of the very early chapters of John’s gospels there’s so much meaning and imagery in each of the words but what strikes me is the significance of Jesus’ baptism.
He describes an incredible scene where as Jesus emerges from the waters a dove descends upon him. John hears the audible voice of the Lord ‘the Man on whom you see the spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit..’
In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit empowered specific for specific tasks at specific times. In Jesus the Holy Spirit would remain with him. This was a sign of Jesus’ divinity – in fact it’s confirmation to John the Baptist of Jesus’ identity as the Messiah.
As believers we’re called to be baptised – as Jesus was. Jesus didn’t need to be baptised – he was, after all, without sin. But he shows us the way – to demonstrate a new life – a life where our sins are forgiven and we embrace the empowering presence of the Spirit of God in our lives – not for a specific time but for all time.
God’s presence connects us to our Father in heaven. He grows the fruit of the Spirit in our lives so that we become more and more like Jesus.
There’s a brilliant short passage in Zechariah 4:6 and it says this:
‘So he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.
I love this passage for two reasons. Zerubbabel is such an awesome name and secondly because in a brief punchy way it states that we don’t need more might or power – but God’s Spirit in us and through us.
How do we do that? First we get right with God. If we know there’s an area of life that aren’t quite right – stuff we need to say sorry to God for – we ask the Lord to forgive us and cleanse us. Then we pray the prayer the church has prayed throughout the age ‘Come Holy Spirit’ – empower me this day. Demonstrate your power – work in and through my weakness.
If you’re empty today – the Lord wants to fill you to overflowing! Ask Him.
We pray come Holy Spirit. Send your Spirit into our lives this day – may we know your empowering presence in our lives. Amen
READING: John 1:19-34
Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, ‘I am not the Messiah.’
They asked him, ‘Then who are you? Are you Elijah?’
He said, ‘I am not.’
‘Are you the Prophet?’
He answered, ‘No.’
Finally they said, ‘Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?’
John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, ‘I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, “Make straight the way for the Lord.”’
Now the Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, ‘Why then do you baptise if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?’
‘I baptise with water,’ John replied, ‘but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.’
This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptising.
The next day John saw Jesus coming towards him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, “A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.” I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptising with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.’
Then John gave this testimony: ‘I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptise with water told me, “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptise with the Holy Spirit.” I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.’