Meet the Makarioi (Dispensers of Grace)

THE HOLY SPIRIT ASSISTS IN MOURNING

The Apostle Paul reminded his followers that it is the Holy Spirit speaking when they call God “ Abba” or Father.  He continued, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will” (Ro. 8:15, 26-27).  Jesus comforted his delegation to preach this message, “But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it.  At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Mt. 10:19-20).

John the Baptist’s disciple came to Jesus and wanted to know, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” John the Baptist was not aware that God was present in Jesus.  Hence, Jesus replied: “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them?  The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast” (Mt. 9:14-15).  With the help of the Holy Spirit mourning will turn into joy.  Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices.  You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.  A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.  So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy” (Jn. 16:20-22).  Then Jesus said this regarding the taking away of the bridegroom that will bring sorrow to his disciples, “It is for your good that I am going away.  Unless I go away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (Jn. 16:6).  Earlier, Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.  My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (Jn. 14:23).   This is in reference to being baptized in the Holy Spirit, or being reborn in the Holy Spirit (Jn. 3:3-8).

There was another reason that the Baptist was important to Jesus.  Jesus asked the crowd, “What did you go out into the desert to see?  A reed swayed in the wind? If not, what did you go to see?  A man dressed in fine clothes?  No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces.  Then what did you go out to see?  A prophet?  Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.  This is the one about whom it is written: ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you’”(Mt. 11:7-10).  What the people saw and did not understand was a man filled with the Spirit of the Lord, pointing out to them, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”  And look at the dispenser of the Holy Spirit.  The Baptist declared publicly: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remained on him.  I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’  I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” After John the Baptist announced that the nameless man was the one to come, the crowd departed and the Baptist was left with two disciples.  When Jesus passed by the next day, John again said, “Look, the Lamb of God,” he lost the last two disciples.  It was astounding that only two men out of a huge crowd followed Jesus.   One of the men stayed with Jesus and preferred to be nameless, but his companion Andrew went to share the good news with his brother, Simon who became Peter (Jn. 1:29-42).  The most important role of the Baptist was to identify Jesus as the dispenser of the Holy Spirit or the creator of new life in the Spirit.   It is in the Spirit that Father and Son are with the spirit within the believer, and that is how mourning could turn into joy that never ends?  Man in the flesh has temporary moments of joy; in the spirit, man can have lasting joy.   Jesus, in human form, was dispensing limited joy; but while in the spirit He can always be present.  That was the reason why he had to return to his Father. “All this I have spoken to you.  But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (Jn. 14:25-26).

The word comforter is very popular with Christians.  The primary reason is that Jesus himself linked Him to the Holy Spirit (Jn. 14:26).  However, the Greek “parakletos” is a noun while the word in question, “paraklethesontai” is the future passive of “parakaleo.”  It conveys the idea of calling on someone who is in need of cheering up, of consoling or encouraging.  Basically, an afflicted and bereaved person invited comforters to help that individual to bear the loss or tragedy.  The disciples would very soon experience the loss of their Master and they would need someone to help them over their bereavement.  We do know that they took their loss very hard and were scattered.  Someone did bring them back together, gave them shelter and helped them recall what their Lord had said to them before he died physically.  This person did more than speak consoling words.  He rescued a group of people from total dissolution.  Then Peter must have remembered what Jesus had said to him, “I have prayed for you, that your faith will not fail; and when you regain it, encourage your brothers” (Lk. 22:32).  What Jesus said to Peter applies to all of us.  He is seated at the right hand of God and intercedes for us (Ro. 8:34). The Holy Spirit also intercedes and comforts us through the words or teaching of Jesus; for, “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life” (Jn. 6:63).  I love reading, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Lk. 21:32), or “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand” (Jn 10:28-29).  No one can match such comforting assurance for mourners, but the Holy Spirit!

The Risen Lord comforted the disciples, and Jesus did warm their hearts and had breakfast ready for them at the lake (Jn. 20; Lk. 24; Jn. 21): but how do we know that it is his Spirit that is with us?  How is the no longer visible Christ showing his greater greatness in us?  John the beloved disciple of Jesus has opened for us a window that shows us how the Holy Spirit can be in us.  John tells us in his Gospel that Jesus disclosed this special relationship to a Samaritan woman by telling her that God and Spirit are one and the same. “Believe me, woman… a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks.  God is Spirit, and his worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:21-24). Paul the Apostle gave us additional insight, “The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.  For who among us knows the thoughts of man except the man’s spirit within him?  In the same way on one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.  We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.  This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.  The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (I Cor. 2:10-14).

What was Paul trying to tell us?  The beloved John tried to unravel the mystery in his Epistle and we do get a better view when we insert Spirit for God. “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from the Spirit, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.  This is how we can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come into the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.  This is the spirit of antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world” (I Jn. 4:1-3).  This, of course, is merely a belief but not prove that the Spirit is active in the human spirit.  One can believe that there was a historical Jesus, but can one show how he affects the spirit within man?  John quickly added, “You, dear children, are from the Spirit (God) and have overcome them (false spirits or prophets), because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.  They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.  We are from the Spirit, and whoever knows the Spirit listens to us, but whoever is not from Spirit does not listen to us.  This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood” (I Jn. 4:4-6).  This is sufficient to be comforted by the idea that Christ made the Spirit available to be in us and with us.  Far too many have stopped here and have not moved beyond lip service.  John was not content with a passive faith.

The real comfort came when the Spirit moved the spirit of man into action. “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from Spirit.  Everyone who loves has been born of Spirit and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know Spirit, because Spirit is love.  This is how Spirit showed his love among us: He sent is one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we love Spirit, but that He loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since Spirit so loved us (Became man for us and gave his human life for us), we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen Spirit (God): but if we love each other, Spirit lives in us and his love is made complete in us.  We know that we live in him and He in us, because He has given us his Spirit” (I Jn. 4:7-13).  Love without service is incomplete and void of the Spirit.