Luke is one of the two New Testament writers who deals at length with the fundamental crisis of the early church, and that was the departure of Jesus. While the Christian church all over the world celebrates Easter as triumphant, as the day of resurrection and the launching of life and the power of life over death, in the early circle of the friends of Jesus Easter had a pathetic note, a note of sorrow and sadness. For Jesus to be raised from the dead, to go and sit at the right hand of God meant to them that Jesus was gone. Resurrection means not only the power of life; resurrection means to them the absence of Jesus.
Jesus is gone, but the power of the Spirit is present in the church
Now what do we do? If Jesus is gone, do we stand around and try to survive on a thin diet of fond memories of how it was? Do we try to spend the rest of our lives recalling that one spot called Camelot when he was here and we had great times but exist no more? What do we do?
The two New Testament writers who deal at length with this crisis are Luke and John. Both of them deal with it in terms of the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of truth, the Paraclete. The fundamental definition of the Holy Spirit coming to the church in the Gospel of John is presence. “I will not leave you orphans.” I will not leave you desolate. I will not leave you alone. For as you recall that marvelous chapter fourteen. When Jesus began to speak of leaving, the disciples were like children sitting on the floor who suddenly notice Mom and Dad putting on coat and hat and their questions are the same questions.
Where are you going? Can we come? Then who’s going to stay with us? For the writer of the Gospel of John the ...
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Fred B. Craddock is Bandy distinguished professor of preaching and New Testament emeritus at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, and author of Preaching (Abingdon Press).