This week we remember the wonderful moment in church history when the church began – Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came down upon the hundred followers of Jesus, with a noise like a freight train. 3,000 people turned to Jesus as the Messiah and received the Holy Spirit. They became the church – the people of God, trusting in Jesus, lived-in by the Holy Spirit, worshiping God the Father. You can read all about it in Acts 2.
In Luke’s telling of our story he sets up a whole book earlier: in Luke 4 we read that Jesus returned to his home town full of the Holy Spirit’s power. He told his people, in the words of Isaiah, “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 favor.”
Jesus lived out this mission – he proclaimed the good news of freedom and then he set the oppressed free. By his death on the cross and his rising to new life he freed human life from the power of sin and death. At Pentecost, Jesus poured out the Holy Spirit on his church and they began to proclaim the amazing things that God had done through Jesus.
This year it is good for us to remember Acts chapter 8. When Stephen was killed, a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem. Everyone was scattered through the province, away from the city. Suddenly they were isolated – they couldn’t meet in each other’s homes, they couldn’t refer to their leaders, they couldn’t gather in large groups, they couldn’t worship in the Temple. And yes, they were in mortal danger.
What happened next? ‘Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.’ Those lonely Christians took the message of freedom in Jesus Christ and proclaimed it wherever they went. They knew, even then, that Jesus frees the oppressed.
The power that makes people free – the power that will free the world – is the Holy Spirit who is in us. As we begin to engage in person again with the world around us, let’s remember that we have been set free. We didn’t free ourselves, but by the Holy Spirit we can live out our own freedom. And we can call on him for power to proclaim: to tell others how they can find freedom, too.