God the Holy Spirit
The Apostles before Pentecost
Let’s take our minds back to a night long ago in Jerusalem. It was the night of the full moon, and in a little garden on the slope of the Mount of Olives called Gethsemane, though the moonlight streamed in, under the olive trees there were great patches of dark shadow. There Jesus waited with his disciples. Judas had been to the chief priests and was now on his way with an armed gang.
There were 11 disciples in the Garden. They had shared their lives with Jesus for the last three years. They had travelled around with him as he preached and healed sick people. They had eaten together and laughed together. And in that time, they had grown to love him. Yet when the mob burst into the Garden to arrest him, they broke their promise to stand by him and instead, seized with fear and panic, they deserted him and bolted through the trees.
In other words the disciples all played the coward, and we mustn’t think that we should have done any better if we had been there.
The Apostles after Pentecost
Not long afterwards, however, they were very different men. A few weeks after the Ascension of Jesus the chief priests told Peter and John that they must stop talking to the people about Jesus. Did they stop? Certainly not. They went on all the more, so much so that the chief priests had them all up before the Jewish Council. But the same Apostles, who had run for their lives in the Garden of Gethsemane from the servants of the chief priests, now told the chief priests themselves to their faces that they were not going to obey men who had murdered Jesus (Acts 5:28-30).
At this, they were all beaten. “As they left the council they rejoiced…And every day in the temple and at home they did not cease to teach and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah” (NRSV, Acts 5:41,42).
Now, what is the explanation? Well, we read that when Peter spoke to the Jewish rulers he was “filled with the Holy Spirit” (NRSV, Acts 4:8). The Apostles had actually been different men ever since Pentecost when they were filled with heavenly power and received the Holy Spirit of God. It was he who gave them their new courage to stand up for what they knew to be right.