This article is an excerpt from Andrew Arndt’s new book, All Flame.
The tumultuous events of the weekend had left them completely depleted. The disciples had betrayed and abandoned their friend and leader, Jesus, leaving him defenseless against the bloodlust of the religious leaders and the angry mob. Crucified, dead, and buried, the story of Jesus—and all the hope and promise it entailed—as far as they could see, was over.
Until that morning of the first day of the week. One of their number, Mary Magdalene, had gone to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body with spices. Upon arriving, she noticed that the stone with which the tomb was sealed had been rolled away from the entrance. Looking inside, Mary—to her horror—saw that the body of Jesus had gone missing. To the injury of the Crucifixion now was added the insult of a likely grave robbery.
Afraid, panic-stricken, and aggrieved, Mary ran back to her friends with the news. Two of them came with her to verify her report. Sure enough, the body was indeed missing. They wandered back to where they were staying, bewildered.
Mary, meanwhile, remained behind in the garden by the tomb, weeping. And there, in her grief and alarm, he met her. At first she thought he was the gardener, but as the conversation unfolded, suddenly she recognized him—Jesus, the Lord, her dear friend. “Do not hold on to me,” he told her, “for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
Can you imagine the surge of energy Mary must have felt? Doing exactly what Jesus had told her to do, Mary made a beeline back to the disciples with the report, “I have seen the Lord!” It had to have been at once invigorating and confusing and terrifying to them. What could any of it mean?
In the midst of their confusion and terror, John reports this:
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
The risen Christ appears to them, amid their fear and doubt, speaking a word of peace, wrapping them into the mission given to him by his Father. The same one who had called to them along the shores of the Sea of Galilee was calling to them again, here and now, on the far side of death. The mission, so it turns out, would continue.
But note what Jesus does immediately after commissioning them: He breathes on them and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
The obvious implication seems to be that the disciples cannot do or be any of the things that Jesus intends for them to do or be apart from the experience of the Spirit of God. And this is confirmed by what Jesus says in the book of Acts. Just before his ascension into heaven, Jesus tells his disciples, “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 with the Holy Spirit.”
And indeed, a few days later, that is exactly what happened. The second chapter of Acts tells the story. The disciples, gathered together for prayer, hear a sound like the blowing of a violent wind and see tongues of fire separating and descending on each one of them, filling each of them with the Holy Spirit. This immersive experience of the Third Person of the Trinity spills out into the streets, where Peter begins preaching to a group of astonished onlookers, telling them the good news that the one crucified was now raised to life, offering the gift of the Spirit to all who would receive. Three thousand people were added to their number that day, and the church was born. Of that moment, we are all the beneficiaries.
But note what it was predicated on: The Holy Spirit.
God breathed his Spirit. And the dead came to life.
All Flame by Andrew Arndt
Many books engage the life of the Trinity at an academic level, focusing simply on fine points of theological distinction. In All Flame, Andrew Arndt drills down, with mystical power and missional energy, to the dream of the God revealed in three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—showing how the Triune God is not far but near, already in touch with your life, already present to you, already at work in and through your circumstances to make you the kind of person he desires you to be: ALL FLAME.