The Distant Cousin
I know this isn’t news, but the members of the Trinity are pretty tight. Since before there was time, they've made it a habit of hanging around together and at the foundation of the world, came to a group decision saying, “Let us make man in OUR image.” They’re often found finishing each other’s sentences.
Still, many believers find that, because of his supernatural disposition, the Holy Spirit seems somehow separate from the other two - more like a distant cousin, rather than the very life which flowed through Jesus.
May the Force Be With You
To some extent, even Charismatic types sometimes think of the Holy Spirit more like the Force in Star Wars than as a personality belonging to the Godhead. Those on the other side of the theological aisle often have the same perspective, but within a tighter and more subdued context. Yet, the Spirit was as close to Jesus as the blood that flowed through his veins. The Spirit was not alien to Jesus nor were the two merely silent partners, even though he is subconsciously regarded that way in many circles today.
In John Chapter 6, things get really weird when Jesus starts talking about how life is found in eating his flesh and drinking his blood, He says, “For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.” (John 6:55) In the next chapter, he announces that,
“…Anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them. By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.” (John 7:37-39 NIV)
There is no way around it. His blood is real drink and so, to those who are thirsty, it is his blood that he offers. When we drink, a flow of that mysterious living water (the Sprit) begins to flow from us.
“For there are three that testify. The Spirit, the water and the blood…the three are in agreement.” (I John 5:7,8 NIV) Some translations say that, “the three are one,” or that “the three agree as one.” Basically, this passage is telling us that all three bear witness or testimony together as to the identity and validity of Jesus as the Son of God. Beyond this, it also harkens back to the passages above, connecting the blood, the water, and the Spirit they represent. All three together are crucial in bearing witness to Jesus and are found doing so in many Scriptures. (Hebrews 9:14, 10:29, 1 Peter 1:2, Revelation 22:17, Nehemiah 9:20, etc.)
Blood and Water
Our bodies consist of over 50% water. The blood that flows through our bodies bring oxygen and nourishment to our cells and tissues on a consistent basis. Water and blood are not foreign concepts to us. We know them as the stuff of life. The same was true of Jesus. He had an intimate relationship with the blood within him. You could say that they were quite attached to each other. Although biblical manifestations of the Spirit such as healing and speaking in tongues can seem to reinforce the “otherness” aspect of the Spirit perceived by some believers, this was not true of Jesus. This was HIS blood and this was HIS life.
This is MY blood
“…After supper He took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is poured out for you.” (Luke 22:12 NIV)
Think about it! Jesus said that this was HIS blood - not just some blood. “He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood…” (Hebrews 9:12 NIV)
The Spirit was his life, for life is in the blood (Genesis 9:4, Leviticus 17:11). Jesus literally poured out his life for us. This is the same life we gain from eating his body, and drinking his blood.
So much is said about the sacrifice of Jesus as the propitiation for our sins. Sometimes, however, we are so caught up in the legal aspects of what he accomplished we forget the reality of the cost. Jesus didn’t merely go to the store to pick up bread, using his father’s money. Jesus paid the price with his own blood - he gave up his Spirit.
When we buy something with our own hard-earned money, not borrowed, stolen, or spent on someone else’s behalf, we have a unique connection to what we’ve purchased and feel the cost of that purchase personally. Jesus spent all that he had on us so that we could enter into his eternal life.
Shed for Us
This is why his blood was shed - “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life (John 6:54 NIV). Jesus wasn’t talking about life in the future in eternity, although it includes that. He was talking about how he would transform the nature of our lives now. His blood was not shed for the sake of ceremony; it was not dumped to the ground and wasted. His blood was poured out for us so that it could flow through and out of us.
The water, the blood and the Spirit testify to the same things. Upon his death, the blood and water that flowed from Jesus’ side, along with his last breath (his Spirit), these were all expelled to testify to his sacrifice, and to our redemption (John 19:34). It was there that Jesus gave up his Spirit. Although all was accomplished there, those things began to be realized by believers until after the resurrection and at Pentecost.
The Spirit he forfeited at the cross and took back up at the resurrection and ascension into heaven, he then poured out upon those who had been waiting to receive it. Acts 2:17, 33).
Drawing On Our Thirst
“I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood.” (Acts 2:19,20 NIV)
Words like this, spoken on the day of Pentecost, tend to reinforce the distance some people feel towards the Holy Spirit. These words, much like the parables of Jesus, are intended to draw those who have a thirst, to seek for more. Within this otherwise mysterious Scripture, it’s plain to see that Joel is speaking of the testimony of the water and the blood. Along with these emblems of the Spirit, he rightly cross-references other imagery used throughout Scripture to represent the Holy Spirit. These are: fire, billows (vapor or breath), and smoke (cloud).
It’s interesting to note that all three of these properties have the ability to dry the tongue and create thirst in those who are exposed to them. Unusual? Yes! Unlike God? No!
Those who find the ways of the Spirit to be too unusual, forget not only the recorded signs and wonders Jesus performed by the power of the Spirit, but all those things he did which were not recorded (John 21:25). There is always more to thirst for!
From the flow of his Spirit, we are to be continually filled. At Cana, Jesus commanded that the stone pots be filled to the brim so that a full supply would be available. It is our choice whether or not to stay hydrated in order that we may freely give what we have freely received. Jesus wet the appetite of the disciples when he told them they would be empowered to be his witnesses (Acts 1:8). This prophecy was fulfilled in the following chapters, and is continually being fulfilled today.
“…They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” (Acts 4:31 NIV)
“He was...full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.” (Acts 11:24 NIV)
“‘Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus…has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit’.” …He got up and was baptized, …began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.”
No Other Way
The truth is that despite how uncomfortable any of us feel regarding the Holy Spirit, there is nothing we can accomplish as co-laborers of Jesus without the Spirit. Our success is dependent upon and can only happen within the confines of our level of comfort regarding the Holy Spirit - that is, upon our degree of thirst and upon our level of faith. If we don’t desire for Jesus to move by his Spirit and don’t believe that he can or should move past some level we determine, then that is as far as he will move.
Paul tells us that no one can even say, “Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit,” (I Corinthians 12:3). He also tells us to desire (or thirst) for the Spirit to manifest (1 Corinthians 14:1). These expressions, declaring Jesus as Lord and overt outward expressions of the Holy Spirit occupy each end of the same spectrum. We choose where our lives will chart concerning our cooperation with the work of the Jesus through the Spirit.
In the natural, we are told to maintain a consistent, healthy level of hydration. It is no different in our spiritual lives. Jesus often withdrew in prayer so that he might maintain his intimate relationship with the Father, and with the Spirit. There is only one time in Scripture where we find Jesus separate from that fountain. It is when he gave up his Spirit.
“Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”
To be properly hydrated, we should take the advice from that beer commercial which says, “Stay thirsty, my friends!”