Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
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 favour.
He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’
Holes in the wall, stains on the carpet, and mouldy plates piled up next to the sink. Pounding drum and bass, casual sex, excessive drinking, and recreational drug use were the norm in these university halls of residence. It was here Emily showed her fellow-students what life with Jesus looks like, and lives were transformed through her witness. Who was here in the midst of all of this, silently strengthening, emboldening, and renewing? The Holy Spirit.
God’s people, past and present, have this annoying tendency to drift into, well, drifting. They (we?) slide backwards to the comfortable, sink downwards from God, and fold inwards on ourselves. We clock out from God’s mission. But the Spirit prompts us, woos us, and beckons us toward the challenge, upward to God, and outward to the world he’s reconciling to himself through Christ. We see this forward, upward, and outward pattern woven throughout Luke and Acts.
Right off the bat, we see it’s the Spirit who plants the seed of the embryonic Messiah (Luke 1:35). It’s the Spirit who moves Simeon to announce Jesus will be ‘a light for revelation to the Gentiles’ (2:27, 32). Jesus, at the launch of his public ministry, had returned to his home synagogue. Eyes were fixed on him. Some curious, some bemused, some hopeful – all staring. What did Jesus say? ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor… proclaim freedom… set the oppressed free… proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’ (4:18-19). Luke then goes on to show how this happened through the words and actions of Christ, and ultimately through his death and resurrection.
Acts picks up where Luke left off, showing how the disciples picked up where Jesus left off. Jesus poured out his Spirit upon them, empowering them to be his ‘witnesses’ throughout the whole world (Acts 1:8). By the Spirit they spoke in languages that drew an international crowd to Christ (2:4). It’s the Spirit who connected Philip with the Ethiopian eunuch (8:29). And the Spirit who led Peter to talk Jesus with Gentiles (10:19; 11:12).
Whatever you’re doing today, may the Spirit of mission fill you. May he lead you forwards, upwards and outwards, helping you align your prayers, words, and deeds – indeed your whole self – with God’s great mission. Make this your prayer: ‘God, by your Spirit, weave something of heaven into this patch of earth.’