Scripture tells us James the brother of John was put to death by the sword on the orders of King Herod. (Acts 12:1-2) Of the ten other apostles who were alive when Jesus rose from the dead, it is believed that all but one met violent deaths. John was exiled on the Island of Patmos where he received the Revelation.
Of the three confused disciples mentioned last week, tradition says Philip was crucified; Peter was crucified upside down; and Thomas was killed with a spear in what is now India. All eleven were committed to carrying out Jesus’ instructions to take His Good News to all the world.
What transformed faithless, fearful friends of Jesus into bold, confident witnesses? The resurrection solidified their faith… but there is more…
“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift My Father promised, which you have heard Me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized by the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:4-5)
John the Baptist had predicted what Jesus promised: “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after Me will come One who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” (Matthew 3:11)
The Holy Spirit makes the difference! He is the Helper who not only comforts… but empowers. After receiving this promise of Jesus on the day of Pentecost, Peter, who earlier had denied his Lord, clearly proclaimed the fulfillment of God’s Word to thousands. The Messiah had come. He had performed signs and wonders witnessed by many. He had been nailed to a cross which was lifted up by wicked men. He had been buried in a borrowed tomb… but God raised Him to life and exalted Him to His own right hand.
The prophet Joel’s words were being fulfilled: “In the last days, God says, I will pour out My Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on My servants, both men and women, I will pour out My Spirit in those days and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heaven 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 before the coming of the great day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Acts 2:17-21)
The Holy Spirit transformed weak disciples into powerful ambassadors willing to give their lives for the Lord… and He does the same today. “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:39)
“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” Luke 11:13