Pentecost: The Breath of Jesus

Br. Michael ofm

Pentecost is not just a great festival which marks the birth of the Christian Church it also calls the followers of Christ to action. The most common image for Pentecost is the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples and Mary as recorded in Acts (2.1-11). However, the Gospel of John (20.19-23) also has a beautiful Pentecost moment, which speaks to what we are to do as followers of the Risen Christ.


Yes, the Acts version has people gathered and the gift of languages being shared as the message of Jesus is broadcast. It is powerful and speaks to the diversity of the church. The Johannine version is more intimate and speaks to the gift of the Holy Spirit at work in each one of us. In John’s account the movement of Pentecost begins with Jesus greeting his disciples on the day of Resurrection. He then offers them peace, they are reminded they are sent and finally Jesus breathes on them to receive the Holy Spirit and the call to forgiveness.


I find the intimacy of John’s account a beautiful invitation for all of us who profess to be Christian. The intimacy of the moment capture is a reminder of how intimate our relationship with God is, for Christ dwelled among us and gifted us his very Spirit. This is the intimacy of “there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life” (John 15.13). In doing so Jesus released his Spirit to be infused into our living, moving and being (Acts 17.28). The closeness of our Risen Saviour is as a close as our breath.


The gift of peace Jesus promised his disciples gathered on the evening of the Resurrection, is beyond the peace of our world. It is not even the peace our world tries to fight for each day. The gift of the peace of Christ is the gift of our hearts being attuned to him, of surrendering our demands and false selves knowing we are met with the depth of love poured out. “By his wounds we are healed” (1 Peter 2.24) and this healing comes with hearts which settle into peace when they are met with the wounds of the Risen Lord. Only the risen life which comes with these wounds can bring us true peace.


This peace meets us in what is ours to do, which is to be sent. Notice how Jesus doesn’t tell the disciples to sit around and wait for more instructions, he tells them to go. He reminds them they are sent in his name because he was sent by God. It is in this sending which leads to the great festival of Pentecost where the disciples proclaim the good news, worship God and are a holy place for the Spirit to fall. This too is the truth of our life. We each are a vessel of the Holy Spirit, and we too hold the intimacy of our God in our hearts for we are sent to give witness to how this has transformed our life.


In the upper room on Resurrection Day, Jesus breathes on those gathered, he continues to pour himself out to those whom he loved and empowers them to be forgivers. To forgive means we have made space for the other, it means we have been met with peace, it means we are open to the working of the Holy Spirit. Our hearts and homes are the places where we are filled with Holy Spirit and enkindled with the fire of the love of God, they are where forgiveness takes root.


The Spirit of Jesus breathes through all of creation and each one of us, may we continue to trust we are met with this gift not only at Pentecost but also in each season of the journey ahead. Let us go forth as the “baptized into one body” (1 Corinthians 12.12-13) being signs of renewal in our world. Come Holy Spirit!


Photo Credit: Robert Collins