In March or April, Christians throughout the world celebrate Easter in remembrance of Jesus' resurrection. The Easter season continues until Pentecost, which commemorates the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and Jesus' other followers.
These two religious days, venerated by the Christian world, picture miracles important to Christianity. More than that, the Bible shows that the resurrection and Pentecost are central to our salvation.
Jesus' resurrection inspires us to profess faith in Christ. That's why Paul could write, "If you confess with your mouth, `Jesus is Lord,' I and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9).
Paul, of course, wasn't prescribing an empty confessional statement about belief in Jesus. Paul was interested in the faith behind the confession. It's a living faith the Holy Spirit expresses through God's people. As Paul pointed out elsewhere, "No one can say, `Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:3).
The apostles were moved by the Holy Spirit to understand what Jesus' resurrection meant. They were convinced that Jesus is the way of salvation (Acts 4:8-12).
Peter wrote that God "has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Peter 1:3). Paul staked his life and future on the resurrection. He wrote, "We know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus" (2 Corinthians 4:14).
But what about us who live almost 2,000 years later? We didn't see Jesus walking the earth as a man — performing miracles, healing thousands, and raising the dead. We didn't see him die, be buried, and then see him and touch him after his resurrection.
Thomas and us
In some ways, many of us are like the disciple Thomas. He had not yet seen the resurrected Jesus and remained unconvinced. Said the doubting Thomas, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it" (John 20:25).
A week later, Jesus appeared to Thomas. He insisted that Thomas feel his wounds, saying: "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side" (verse 27). Christ told him to "stop doubting and believe."
To be honest, it may be difficult for us living almost 2,000 years after the fact to "stop doubting and believe" as well. Can we have faith in Jesus' resurrection? Thanks be to God, the answer is, absolutely yes. We have, in the Bible, the testimony of those who saw the resurrected Christ. Because of their testimony and the Holy Spirit, we, too, can believe.
When Jesus dispelled Thomas' distrust, he said to him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed." But Jesus went on to speak of us, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (verse 29). It is we who are blessed, because although we have not seen, we can still believe!
We can stake our lives on the sure promise of Jesus. "I am the resurrection and the life," he said. "He who believes in me will live, even though he dies" (John 11:25).
The death of Jesus Christ, his resurrection and his living in us by the Holy Spirit constitute God's act of redemption. Jesus' death paid the penalty of sin and reconciled us to God our Father. By his resurrection, Jesus proved he was God in the flesh and that he would resurrect his people to immortal life.
Christ in us
In the gift he sent on the Day of Pentecost, Jesus demonstrated that he is intimately involved with his people through the Holy Spirit. The faith of God can now operate in us through the Holy Spirit.
Paul expressed this reality in memorable terms. "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live," he wrote, "but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).
This mystery of Christ in us is demonstrated by the miracle of Pentecost, which occurred about seven weeks after Jesus was resurrected. That day is documented in Acts, chapter 2. Suddenly, about 9 o'clock in the morning on Pentecost day, an incredible series of miracles began. A sound like the blowing of a violent wind filled the house where the disciples were staying.
Next, what seemed to be tongues of fire appeared and rested on each person present. The disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit, which empowered them to speak to the people in various languages. During this time, devout Jews from many nations were in Jerusalem to observe the Festival of Pentecost. The people in the neighborhood heard the noise and came to see what was happening.
Peter and the inner circle of the 12 disciples stood up and began to address the growing and curious crowd. The people who came to listen were amazed to hear the disciples speaking in the listeners' very own native languages.
Peter surprised the people by the direction of his sermon. He said, no punches pulled, that they were as responsible for Jesus Christ's death as those who had directly engineered it were (verse 23). It was his way of saying that all of us — all our sins — are responsible for nailing Jesus to the cross.
But Peter told the crowd there was a happy outcome to Jesus' death: He had been resurrected and glorified. "God raised him from the dead, said Peter (verse 24). He "has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ" (verse 36).
Steps to take
Through the Holy Spirit, the shocked listeners were convicted of their need to be spiritually converted. They asked Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" (verse 37). Peter outlined the steps they needed to take. "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins," he said. "And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (verse 38).
About 3,000 people accepted the challenge and were baptized that same day (verse 41). Acts 2 tells us that this greatest miracle of all can occur in us as well. The Holy Spirit can enter our hearts and minds to enable us to believe and be changed (Titus 3:5-6).
The Holy Spirit also guarantees our future inheritance through the resurrection to life everlasting (Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:11). That is our hope and promise. We must believe and repent, undergoing spiritual rebirth through the Holy Spirit, and be baptized (Acts 2:38; Titus 3:5-6). It is we who must look into the promises of God, and then act to claim them.