Two Pentecosts: John, Evangelist of the Spirit

[I apologize to those who are waiting for the 2nd part of the Ascension Meditation.  Even in the Liturgical Year, “life happens,” in this case, the new life of the Spirit on Pentecost. I promise, God willing, to post the 2nd part on the positive reasons for Jesus’ Ascension shortly.]

John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him. I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the holy Spirit.’ Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.” [Jn 1: 32-34] [1]

On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood up and exclaimed, “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as scripture says: ‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him.’” He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in him were to receive. There was, of course, no Spirit yet, because Jesus had not yet been glorified. [Jn 7:37-40] While the NABRE connects this “glorification through his death, resurrection, and ascension”[2] with “the giving of the Spirit with Jesus’ glorious return to the Father,”[3] the “glorification” of Jesus in John is his exaltation on the Cross: But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.”…And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” [Jn 12:27-28, 32].

And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit. [Jn 19:30] “There is a double nuance of dying (giving up the last breath or spirit) and that of passing on the holy Spirit.”[4]

And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”“This action recalls Gn 2:7, where God breathed on the first man and gave him life; just as Adam’s life came from God, so now the disciples’ new spiritual life comes from Jesus. Confer also the revivification of the dry bones in Ez 37. This is the author’s [John the Evangelist’s] version of Pentecost.” [5] Up until this very moment in the history of humankind, only God had the authority and power to forgive sins.

Jesus exercised this many times during his ministry in conjunction with healings, showing by a living parable that the healing of the body was only a sign of the healing of the soul. Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth”—he said to the paralytic, “I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.” [Mk 2:9-11; see Mt 9:6; Lk 5:24].

Now He bestows this Divine power on frail, fallible fickle human beings…and knowing that they are precisely that, He conveys the power of the Spirit to guide, instruct, empower and oversee their forgiving ministry.

But this still begs the question, if, according to John, Jesus bestows the Holy Spirit on the Apostles during this visitation, why Pentecost?  Why, in this very gospel does Jesus say: But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. [Jn 16:9] And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate* to be with you alwaysThe Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you. [Jn 14:16-26]

Obviously, as we saw above, when Jesus commends His Spirit into the Father’s hands; He returned to the Father, who, with Him, simultaneously gives the Spirit to the world, as is graphically demonstrated when one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out. An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; he knows that he is speaking the truth, so that you also may [come to] believe. [Jn 19:34-35], the living water about which he spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well [Jn 4: 10,14] and which He announced publically at the Feast of Tabernacles cited above and connects this living water directly to the Spirit: He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in him were to receive [Jn 7:39].

But this still begs the question, if, according to John, Jesus bestows the Holy Spirit on the Apostles during this visitation, why Pentecost? I think that the answer is in an incremental giving of the Spirit which we see demonstrated in Jesus own life:

  • The Spirit was instrumental in Jesus conception: The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.[Lk 1:35]
  • The Spirit greeted Jesus through Elizabeth: When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice. [Lk 1:41-42]
  • The Spirit prophesies through Zechariah: Then Zechariah his father, filled with the holy Spirit, prophesied. [Jn 1:67]
  • The Spirit was active in Simeon concerning Jesus, e.g.: Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him,28he took him into his arms and blessed God. [Lk 2:25-28]
  • The Spirit was active training Jesus the teen: And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced [in] wisdom and age and favor before God and man. [Lk 2:49-52]
  • But at Jesus baptism, there was a special new identifiable physical presence of the Spirit: After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. [Lk 3:21-22]
  • Thereafter, there was a “greater,” a more noticeable, a more public presence of the Spirit in Jesus life: “At once the Spirit drove him out into the desert.” [Mk 1:12; see Mt 4:1; Lk 4:1] The NABRE notes: “Filled with the holy Spirit: as a result of the descent of the Spirit upon him at his baptism (Lk 3:21–22), Jesus is now equipped to overcome the devil.” [Note for Lk 4:1]. The Spirit fills Jesus and is shown as his prompter and guide.
  • Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news of him spread*throughout the whole region. [Lk 4:14] The manifestation of the Spirit continues in Jesus ministry, particularly in the miracles and these are what cause the word to spread about Him.
  • And Jesus is aware of what His ministry is through the Spirit, as defined by Isaiah: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord. [Lk 4:18-19; Is 61:1-2; 58:6]. As the NABRE note for this verse states: “As this incident develops, Jesus is portrayed as a prophet whose ministry is compared to that of the prophets Elijah and Elisha. Prophetic anointings are known in first-century Palestinian Judaism from the Qumran literature that speaks of prophets as God’s anointed ones.” This, too, is the meaning of Christos, the Anointed one, the Messiah.
  • And this anointing is ultimately what the Father revealed to Peter: Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood* has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. [Mt 16:16-17]
  • And it is on the basis of this anointing, this further public manifestation of the Spirit, that Jesus speaks of the “living water” and ultimately commending of His Spirit to the Father and the pouring forth of the living water from the Cross, all the referenced above.

All this was to demonstrate the progressive increase of the Spirit’s influence in the life of Jesus himself.  It is on this basis that it seems reasonable that the influence of the Spirit in the lives of the Apostles also progressively increased…from the initial encounters with Jesus, through the revelation by the Father to Peter of His Messiahship and Divinity, to the enabling of the disciples to cast out demons, to the mandate to “Do this in Memory of Me,” to the reception of the power of the Spirit to forgive sins through Jesus breathing on them, to the final and very overt manifestation of the Spirit in wind and fire, tongues and understandings, metanoias and baptisms not only in the Apostles and disciples but in the birth of the Christian Community on Pentecost and beyond.  Amen.  Alleluia!!!

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

[2] Note on Jn 7:39, NABRE. New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner.

[3] Note on Jn 19:30. NABRE.

[4] Note on Jn 19:30. NABRE.

[5] Note on Jn 20:22,

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