In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him (Mark 1:9-13).
There is a desire in all of us to experience something like Jesus experienced at his baptism. We want to hear God say “You are my son (or daughter), chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life” (Mark 1:11 The Message). We long to know that the Spirit is with us and within us, “the Spirit descending like a dove on him.” We want a spiritual experience that is uplifting and beautiful.
However, notice that Jesus’ experience of the Spirit also included a very disturbing event. “The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness” (Mark 1:12). The Greek literally says that the Spirit “threw” Jesus out into this desert wasteland. The wilderness is a wild place, a place of danger and evil. In this wilderness Jesus met Satan and was tempted – tempted to deny that he was God’s Son, tempted to deny that he was beloved, tempted to give up his life and ministry.
If we are open to the Spirit and long for spiritual experiences, we must accept the reality that the Spirit works in us and around us in both the positive and uplifting experiences, the ones that make us feel good, and in the struggles of our lives. The down times, the times we are filled with doubts and pain, are also the work of the Spirit within us. These are challenging and difficult times, yet in them, maybe especially during these times, God is at work in our lives, transforming us and drawing us closer to His heart.
Pentecost is May 15th. This is the day we remember the coming of the Holy Spirit on the early church, the Spirit working in a fresh and new way. We also celebrate the presence and work of the Spirit in our lives, and in our church, today. As we focus our attention on the Spirit let us remember that the Spirit is always with us, in both the good times and in the struggles. The work of the Spirit is constant part of our lives, disturbing us when God wants to get our attention and help us to grow, and filling us with peace and joy and hope when we are discouraged. And so we pray:
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me; Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me;
Melt me, mold me, Fill me, use me. Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
(#322 in the Presbyterian Hymnal)
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