Epic Family, before I jump into today’s message, I want to encourage you to be here next week in the Epic space -- we are finally coming back indoors. It’s going to be a special day. Let me tell you what I mean by special by giving you a different example. You guys have probably heard that Hamilton is coming back to San Francisco for a month at the Orpheum. Even though you can watch it on Disney+ people are still buying tickets. Why? Because there is something about being in the room where it happens. And if that’s true for a musical, it’s even more true for the church. Something special happens when the church collectively gathers together in anticipation of what God might do or say as we worship, as we celebrate people taking next steps of faith, and as we receive with open hearts the teaching from his word. So don’t miss out and be sure to join us.
Today is part two of the The Third Wheel series; and we are going to talk about The Holy Spirit’s role in Jesus' life and ministry. Now this may go without saying, but I want to state the obvious right up front. Jesus did not see the Holy Spirit as a third wheel. We never read in the Scriptures that as Jesus is going to pray and talk to the Father that he asks the Spirit to give him some alone time with the Father. He’s never dismissive of the Spirit. But on the contrary, to Ben’s point last week, Jesus saw the Spirit as absolutely necessary. And if Jesus, the Son of God, God in the flesh, needed the Spirit, how much more do we?
Let me show you how necessary Jesus saw the Spirit: He did not begin his ministry until the Spirit came upon him. Before he went to work and stepped into the mission and purpose for which he came and was born, he waited for the empowerment and leading of the Holy Spirit. (By the way, before he ascended to heaven he also told his disciples to wait for the Spirit.) But we know what that’s like -- to wait before moving forward. This is like when we wait to propose to a girl until we receive the blessing from her parents; or like when we wait to seriously launch a new company or product until we receive the right investor or funding. We simply know that it’s not right or safe to take another step until we have what we need. So let’s look at the moment when things changed for Jesus and he felt the freedom to step into something new.
When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
Jesus’s baptism is the clearest picture that we have of the Trinity. You have Jesus, the Son of God, being baptized -- he’s painting a picture of the new life he has come to offer. (By the way, if you have not been baptized yet, you can do so next week and follow Jesus’s example and declare that you now live in him.) And then you also have the Father, with a voice from heaven, affirming Jesus and expressing his love. And lastly, you have the Spirit descending upon Jesus to fill and empower him. They are all together, supporting one another, and playing their respective roles. And as we go through this series, not only do I hope that we will grow in knowledge of who the Holy Spirit is, but that we will Fully embrace everything the Trinity offers us -- the Father’s gift of love, the Son’s gift of life, and the Spirit’s gift of power and presence.
I heard someone say recently that without the Holy Spirit we are only operating at two-thirds of our potential. We are never good at operating at 67%; and that goes for our bodies and health, our companies and the effort that we give at work, and so on. We would never think to operate at such a deficit; but we do that with the Trinity.
But again, Jesus knew better not to. Prior to his baptism Jesus did not have a ministry. He didn’t have any disciples. He was not on a speaking circuit. He wasn’t performing any miracles that we know of. His baptism was a defining moment in his life. There was life before his baptism and life afterwards; and they looked completely different. And the Spirit is an integral part of that difference.
Now, this does not mean that Jesus did not have the Holy Spirit in any form or fashion prior to his baptism. We just don’t have a direct statement from the Scriptures about when, and how, and to what extent did Jesus have the Holy Spirit. But we do read that John the Baptist was filled with the Spirit from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15). So if John, who was to prepare the way for Jesus, was filled prior to his birth, how much more would Jesus be? We also know that the Holy Spirit is the one who overshadowed Mary, which made way for Jesus’s birth (Luke 1:35). And lastly, Luke shares a story in his gospel about Jesus being 12 years old, at the temple, and he clearly knew who he was at that time; and the Holy Spirit likely played a role in that revelation (Luke 2:49).
All that to say that the Holy Spirit was active in Jesus’s life from the moment of his conception. But what took place at his baptism was uniquely different. It kick-started Jesus’s ministry. Think of it as Jesus’s inauguration day. And from that day forward we see the Holy Spirit leading, directing, and empowering Jesus. Let me show you a few examples, just from the very next chapter (Luke 4) after his baptism:
(v.1-2a) Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.… I love this verse because it’s a reminder to us that the Spirit, God himself, can at times lead us into some hard things; but they serve a purpose and through the Spirit’s help we can overcome whatever comes our way. But many times we expect smooth sailing if we are following Jesus or walking in the Spirit. But that might not ever be the case. We don’t know much about Jesus’s life before his baptism, but my guess is that life got harder afterwards -- once he was filled with the Spirit. I don’t say that to scare us; but just to remind us that challenges are inevitable and that they don’t always mean that we are doing something wrong.
Here’s another example of the Spirit’s activity in Jesus’s life: (v.14) Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. Even Jesus, the Son of God, is not trying to get things done in his own strength; but he’s relying on the power of the Spirit. (Jesus: fully God and fully man.) And here’s the other thing, it says that news about him spread. Let me tell you, the power and manifestation of the Spirit in a person’s life is attractive to others. It draws others in. Personally, more than being well polished when I preach or teach, I want the power of the Holy Spirit to rest upon me. And you should too when you walk into the boardroom, into the hospital to work, when you’re meeting with clients, and so forth because it is that distinction that will make the greatest impact in the lives of others.
Let me say something else about this power that the Holy Spirit brings. Too often we focus on the supernatural works of Jesus, like the miracles and healings, as evidence of the Spirit’s power in his life. And so for those of us who are familiar with Jesus’s promises, like when he said that we (his church) would do greater works than he did, we struggle to reconcile those words with what we actually see, live, and experience. But why do we miss that the "greater works" and power also include Jesus's compassion to the poor and broken, his forgiveness of his enemies, his ability to flee temptation and remain pure, and so on? Let me tell you, love, mercy, generosity, are just as, if not more, attractive and needed in our broken and hurting world than physical healing is. Do you want to see a miracle? It happens every time a bitter heart is healed and forgiveness comes forth. That’s the power of the Spirit at work. Come on, isn’t the fruit of the Spirit -- the evidence that he is active and present in someone’s life -- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? This was evident in Jesus’s life -- it was the power of the Holy Spirit. And it can and should be evident in our lives as well. (By the way, we will talk about the supernatural and charismatic gifts of the Spirit in a later message.)
This leads me to another verse in Luke 4 where I want us to see the Spirit’s role in Jesus’s ministry. It’s a bit longer, but it’s so key in helping us understand the Spirit’s role in Jesus’s life and ministry; and in turn, the Spirit’s role in our lives. Luke 4:16-21 -- He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
This scene is so amazing to me. I mentioned earlier that Jesus’s baptism was like his inauguration day. Well this moment is like after he is sworn in and he now goes to give his first address. As you would imagine, in that first speech the goal is to share what the mission and Kingdom of God is going to be all about. And he does that by quoting from Isaiah 61 -- one of the many passages in Isaiah about the coming messiah. And he begins, The Spirit of the Lord is on me… Right from the beginning Jesus inextricably links his mission with the work and presence of the Holy Spirit in his life. He’s like, I’m not doing this alone. The Spirit is on me.
And then he adds, … because he has anointed me. This is so key. Before I tell you what it means to be anointed, let me give you a few examples of where we see it take place. You see, Jesus wasn’t the first to be anointed by the Spirit. No. Although it didn’t happen to others like it did at Jesus’s baptism, his experience is simply building on the foundation of the Old Testament -- on the examples of the kings and prophets that came before him that were anointed by God with the Holy Spirit. For example:
- Saul, the first king of Israel, was anointed in this way. 1 Samuel 10:1 says, Then Samuel took a flask of olive oil and poured it on Saul’s head and kissed him, saying, “Has not the Lord anointed you ruler over his inheritance?
- And then you have David, the second king of Israel, anointed. So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David. (1 Samuel 16:13)
- And here’s an interesting example. Isaiah writes about Cyrus, who was a Persian king, not an Israelite, but nevertheless was anointed by the Spirit. [The Lord], … who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, “Let it be rebuilt,” and of the temple, “Let its foundations be laid.”’ “This is what the Lord says to his anointed, to Cyrus… (Isaiah 44:28-45:1a)
As Pastor Ben said last week, in the Old Testament the Holy Spirit would come upon some people at some times. But here’s the thing that so many people miss; and I missed it for so long. The Holy Spirit comes upon people not because they are special and unique, but because they have been given a task and responsibility. Check out this quote from a theologian (Christopher Wright): "Anointing ... is a sign of office -- not in the sense of status and privilege, but rather in the sense of task and responsibility. An "anointed one" simply meant somebody chosen and commissioned by God to do a job that God wanted to be done, and then enabled by the power of God's Spirit to get on and do it." That’s why he anointed Saul and David -- to be the best possible kings and shepherds that would lead his people. That’s why he anointed Cyrus -- to get something done. And hear me, that’s why he anoints you. Look at this beautiful truth from 1 John 2:20a (ESV): “But you (the Church) have been anointed by the Holy One…”
We believe that God has a plan, purpose, and assignment for each of our lives. And if we want to live out that plan and fulfill God’s purpose for us, then we must do it through the leading and empowerment of the Spirit. If you are a follower of Jesus know that you are anointed for the benefit of this church community, for your family, for your neighbors, and even for the office.
But the church today often operates as if pastors and worship leaders are the only ones that are anointed; as if they are the only ones that are special and unique; as if they are the only ones that have a task and responsibility. What if you serve in Kids, are you anointed? What if you greet on the Host Team, are you anointed? Absolutely! (What about Production? I don’t know about Production. jk) The Spirit, and his anointing (his activity and empowerment in a person’s life), is given to those who have an assignment from God and a responsibility.
As we start to wrap-up, let’s look at what Jesus says he was anointed to do. By the way, do you know what “Christ” means? No, it’s not Jesus’s last name. It means “anointed one”. Jesus, the anointed one, says this, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” In this passage, and in other messianic passages like Isaiah 11 and 42, and throughout his earthly ministry, we see Four elements that are present in Jesus’s ministry because of the Spirit’s presence: justice, compassion, enlightenment, and freedom.
- JUSTICE -- Jesus came to put things right; that’s what justice does. That’s why he came proclaiming good news to the poor. As followers of Jesus we are to be men and women of justice.
- But also, COMPASSION. Jesus did not come with a lot of noise or violence. In fact, many people were bothered by Jesus’s approach to “justice”. He didn’t meet their expectations. His was a gentle justice; strength with compassion. We hear many people calling for justice today. Which is good. Let us join the chorus. But let me encourage and remind all of us that our strong convictions must always be accompanied with compassion. One without the other is not the way of Jesus.
- ENLIGHTENMENT -- Jesus came to bring recovery of sight for the blind. He came to shine a light on those living in the dark. We do the same when we share with others the hope and light that we have in Jesus.
- FREEDOM -- Jesus came to proclaim freedom for the prisoner, to set the oppressed free, to break the chains that are keeping many in bondage. And he who the Son sets free is free indeed.
If you’re not aware, all of this is available to you. Jesus came, was anointed by the Spirit, and died on the cross for you. All you need to do is believe in him. Trust in him. His Spirit, which is here today, is ready to move in your life and take residence in you; not just to produce this work through you, but to make it evident in you first. Receive him today. Just say, Father, I put my trust in your love and in your Son, Jesus. Give me your Holy Spirit so that I may live for you. Amen.
Francis Chan wrote a book about 10 years ago on the Holy Spirit titled Forgotten God -- similar to our third wheel idea. Here’s the thing, Jesus did not forget about the Spirit. Our tendency today as Christians is to forget; but not Jesus. Wherever Jesus went the Spirit went with him. And I can flip that statement and it also be true: wherever the Spirit led Jesus, Jesus went. Let us follow Jesus’s example and do as he did and give the Holy Spirit his proper role in our lives. The Spirit of the Lord is upon you because he has anointed you to fulfill God’s plan and purpose for your life.