Coming into Focus. (Living by the Word)

By O'Brien, Bill | The Christian Century, May 31, 2003 | Go to article overview

Coming into Focus. (Living by the Word)


O'Brien, Bill, The Christian Century


Sunday, June 8

John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15; Acts 2:1-21

WHEN THE Counselor Comes!" What was Jesus trying to tell us? His words came after an embarrassing incident. When none of us disciples was willing to wash someone else's feet, Jesus did it. Our rabbi and leader. Not until much later would we understand what he was doing, but on that night we could only listen and try to make sense of his words.

Jesus laid some heavy stuff on us, stuff about loving one another. He talked of radical things, like being hated--and hinted at the possibility of even being thrown out of synagogues. Yet he also intimated that someone--this Counselor guy--would come soon.

He had held back from talking like this on previous occasions, but we could sense that tonight we were on to something big. We argued among ourselves as to which of us would be the executive assistants. In fact, two of the brothers had a plan big enough for three--the two of them and Jesus in the middle.

Jesus ended the meal and dialogue with an intense prayer. Then he went out into the night and everything came unraveled.

We were suddenly alone, and felt afraid and forsaken. Jesus was to have been the conquering messiah with an "In your face, Rome" attitude. What went wrong? More important, where would we go now? Who among us would claim to be a follower of a misguided memory?

Then faithful women brought the electrifying news: He is alive! From that moment on we felt as if we were on fast-forward. Jesus appeared, and met with us several times. Now he was even more focused about what was going to happen, and pointed out that everything said about him in the Law of Moses, the prophets and the psalms had been fulfilled. He had suffered and risen from the dead. Now forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed to every ethnic group, starting in Jerusalem.

Again he said, "The Counselor is coming," but this time he added, "Stay in the city until you have been empowered." He was gone and once again we didn't know what he meant. But this time it was different. This time we waited.

To the very end the disciples viewed Jesus through the paradigm that had shaped them. One reason for their misperceptions of Jesus and his kingdom priorities might be that "the ministry of the Spirit was inseparable from Jesus' physical presence with them. The disciples were so satisfied with the tangible association that none of them had asked where he was eventually going," says William E. Hull, professor at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama.

So what difference did it make that they waited?

Pentecost gave them a new lens with which to view the Master's grand design. Gone was the competitive spirit. Gone were the visions of a conquering conquistador. Gone was any advantage of privilege.

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