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Jesus was a Spirit-man. What he did he did by the Spirit because he is fully man—let's be very clear about this. He is not just God in another mode, not God in disguise. He is fully God and he is fully man.
If we are to rightly discern and lay hold of our new life in the Messiah, we must remind ourselves of how central, how all prevailing the Holy Spirit was in the life of the man, Yeshua from Nazareth.
(1) Yeshua was conceived in the power of the Holy Spirit [the Ruach ha'kodesh].
And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God." (Luke 1: 34-35)
(2) The Holy Spirit comes upon Yeshua at his baptism [immersion], inaugurating his ministry.
"After being baptized Jesus went up immediately from the water and behold the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him ...".
This is classic Hebraic language. Only three times in the Hebrew Scriptures do we have the term Holy Spirit, twice in Isaiah and once in the Psalms. The more typical terminology is Spirit of God like we have here in Matthew 3:16.
(3) The Spirit compels Yeshua into the wilderness to be empowered.
"And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil."(Luke 4:1-2)
Look carefully at the conclusion and the result of his forty days of testing, "Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee" (Luke 4:14). This reminds me of Paul's exhortation in Ephesians 5:18, "Be filled with the Spirit." The language is that of an ongoing, continuous imperative. Be being filled, again and again, continuously.
He was conceived in the Spirit, baptized in the Spirit, led by the Spirit, and is continually filled with the Holy Spirit as empowerment for his ministry.
(4) And notice, not coincidentally, the subject of his very first sermon at the synagogue in Nazareth. Its theme is the messianic anointing of the Spirit of God.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)
Watch how this story comes to life when we add appropriate cultural context. Yeshua comes home to Nazareth where he was raised. Perhaps he was known by a nickname, Yeshi or Yeshu. As was his custom, he entered the synagogue on Shabbat (this would be Saturday morning). He was asked to read and comment, another first-century custom in Judaism.
Now here is where it gets very interesting. The portion from the Torah was assigned to each Shabbat based on a triennial cycle. In the course of three-and-a-half years, the entire nation would read through the five books of Moses on the same schedule. Today, and for centuries now, it is a one-year reading cycle in Judaism.
After reading and commenting on the Torah portion would come what is called the Haftarah, a concluding reading from the Prophets. At this point in Jewish history, the reading from the Prophets is not yet assigned, it is the choice of the reader. Yeshua specifically asks for the Isaiah scroll which, "He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written." In our Bibles, it is Isaiah 61.
Isn't that remarkable? Out of all the prophetic scriptures, this is the one that he chooses for his inaugural sermon at Nazareth. Immersed in and empowered by the continuous filling of the Holy Spirit, Jesus intentionally takes a key text that speaks about him and his work, all under the auspices of the Spirit of God. "Today this Scripture," he says, "has been fulfilled in your hearing."
Jesus was a Spirit-man. "You know Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power," says Simon Peter sharing the good news to the Gentiles at the house of the God-fearer, Cornelius. Remember I taught you that Holy Spirit and power are often used together—they are parallel, synonymous terms. You could read this, "He was anointed in the power of the Holy Spirit." To do what?
"He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him." (Acts 10:38)
The foundational root meaning of ruach is that which causes movement, like breath and wind. When God breathes, his Spirit blows, it moves us, leads us, empowers us with anointing for his prophetic mission. Where the Spirit is, life emerges.
The ancient credal hymn, preserved and presented by Paul in Philippians chapter two, tells us that in some sense Jesus did not leverage his oneness with God. To the contrary, he emptied himself, humbled himself and became a man. As fully man, he divested himself of the divine prerogatives and power that came with being fully God.
This is so important for our own life as his disciples. What Jesus did, he did as a man in right relationship with God, not as God disguised as a man. Do you grasp the difference? The implications?
Jesus' ministry—the power over evil, the signs, wonders and miracles, the teaching, correcting, and healing—was the result of a man in right relationship with his Father. And, he did it all in and by the power of God's gift, his Holy Spirit. With this in mind we can better understand Paul's imperatives, "Walk by the Spirit!" and, "Be being filled with the Spirit!"
The rest of the story then, which continues today, is that Jesus sends out his disciples to perform the same good works that he did by the same Spirit.
I want to show you one more crucial text. Not only was he conceived and baptized, empowered and led; not only did he instruct, deliver, and rescue; not only were his words Spirit and life—but even his death and resurrection were works of the divine Spirit.
"Paul, a servant of Messiah Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead." (Romans 1:1-5)
How is that relevant to our discussion, you ask? In the thinking of the great apostle and the early church it was gloriously relevant, "If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Messiah Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you." (Romans 8:11)
The Spirit-man wants Spirit-disciples.