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Jesus Christ Comes in the Power of the Holy Spirit

General Audience — August 5, 1987

—    The sanctifying presence of the Holy Spirit

"I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father" (Jn 16:28). Jesus Christ is aware of his origin from the Father; he is the Son because he comes from the Father. This mission (missio) which is based on the eternal origin of Christ the Son from the Father, is rooted in him. Therefore in this mission the Father reveals the Son and bears witness to Christ as his Son, while the Son reveals the Father. No one "knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him" (Mt 11:27). The Son, who came from the Father, expresses and confirms his own sonship inasmuch as he reveals the Father before the world. He does so not only by the words of the Gospel, but also through his life, by the fact that he lives completely for the Father, and this to the sacrifice of his life on the cross.

This saving mission of the Son of God as man was carried out in the power of the Holy Spirit. Numerous passages of the Gospels and the whole of the New Testament bear witness to this. In the Old Testament the truth about the close relationship between the Son's mission and the coming of the Holy Spirit (which is also his "mission") was hidden, even if in a certain way already announced. The words of Isaiah have a particular intimation of it. Jesus referred to them at the beginning of his messianic activity at Nazareth. "The spirit of the Lord is upon me; therefore he has anointed me. He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind and release to prisoners, and to announce a year of favor from the Lord" (Lk 4:17-19; cf. Is 61:1-2).

These words refer to the Messiah, a word which means "consecrated with oil" (anointed), that is to say, he who comes in the power of the Spirit of the Lord. Jesus stated before his fellow townspeople that these words refer to himself: "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing" (cf. Lk 4:21).

This truth about the Messiah who comes in the power of the Holy Spirit was confirmed during Jesus' baptism in the Jordan at the beginning of his messianic activity. Particularly striking is the text of John which records the words of the Baptist: "I saw the Spirit descend like a dove from the sky, and it came to rest on him. But I did not recognize him. The one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'When you see the Spirit descend and rest on someone, it is he who is to baptize with the Holy Spirit.' Now I have seen for myself and have testified, 'This is God's chosen One'" (Jn 1:32-34).

Jesus, then, is the Son of God, he who "went forth from the Father and came into the world" (cf. Jn 16:28) to bring the Holy Spirit. He came "to baptize with the Holy Spirit" (cf. Mk 1:8), that is, to institute the new reality of being reborn from God on the part of the children of Adam burdened with sin. The coming of the Son of God into the world, his human conception and virginal birth were the work of the Holy Spirit. The Son of God was made man and was born of the Virgin Mary through the work of the Holy Spirit, and in his power.

John's testimony to Jesus of Nazareth as Son of God is closely linked to the passage of Luke's Gospel where we read that at the annunciation the angel told Mary that she would "conceive and bear a son who shall be called Son of the Most High" (cf. Lk 1:31-32). She asked, "How can this be, since I have no husband?" She received the answer: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you, hence, the holy offspring to be born will be called Son of God" (Lk 1:34-35).

If therefore the going forth from the Father and coming into the world (cf. Jn 16:28) of the Son of God as man (the Son of Man), was done in the power of the Holy Spirit, this manifests the mystery of God's trinitarian life. This vivifying power of the Holy Spirit was confirmed from the very beginning of Jesus' messianic activity, as is clear from the Gospel texts (Mk 1:10; Mt 3:16; Lk 3:22; Jn 1:32-34).

1.  The sanctifying presence of the Holy Spirit

Already in the infancy narrative, when it is said of Jesus that "the grace of God was upon him" (Lk 2:40), the sanctifying presence of the Holy Spirit is indirectly shown. However, it is from the moment of the baptism in the Jordan that the Gospels speak more explicitly of Christ's activity in the power of the Spirit. "The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness," according to Mark (1:12). In the desert, after a forty days' fast, the Spirit of God permitted Jesus to be tempted by the devil, as a result of which he gained his first messianic victory (cf. Lk 4:1-14). Also during his public life, Jesus showed the same power of the Holy Spirit in dealing with those possessed by the devil. Jesus himself emphasized it with the words, "If it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you" (Mt 12:28). The conclusion of the whole messianic struggle against the forces of evil was the paschal event—the death on the cross and the resurrection of him who came from the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Likewise, after the ascension, Jesus remained for his disciples he whom "God anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power" (Acts 10:38). They recalled that thanks to this power, the people, hearkening to Jesus' teaching, praised God and said, "A great prophet has arisen among us and God has visited his people" (Lk 7:16). "No man ever spoke like this man" (Jn 7:46). They testified that by virtue of this power, Jesus "performed mighty works and wonders and signs" (Acts 2:22), and so "all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came forth from him and healed them all" (Lk 6:19). In all that Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Man, did and taught, the words of the prophet Isaiah (cf. 42:1) about the Messiah were fulfilled: "Behold my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom I am well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him" (Mt 12:18).

This power of the Holy Spirit is manifested to the very depths in Christ's redemptive sacrifice and in his resurrection. Truly Jesus is the Son of God whom the Father anointed and sent into the world (cf. Jn 10:36). In obedience to the will of the Father, he offered himself to God through the Spirit as a spotless victim, and this victim purifies our conscience from dead works to serve the living God (cf. Heb 9:14). The same Holy Spirit—as the Apostle Paul testifies—"has raised Jesus from the dead" (Rom 8:11). Through this "rising from the dead" Jesus Christ received the fullness of messianic power, and was definitively revealed by the Holy Spirit as Son of God with power—"designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead" (Rom 1:4).

Therefore Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into the world by the work of the Holy Spirit, and as Son of Man he fulfilled completely his messianic mission in the power of the Holy Spirit. But if Jesus Christ acted through this power during the whole of his saving activity and finally in the passion and resurrection, then it is the Holy Spirit himself who reveals that Jesus is the Son of God. Thus today, thanks to the Holy Spirit, the divinity of the Son, Jesus of Nazareth, shines before the world. With this in mind St. Paul writes: "No one can say, 'Jesus is Lord,' except in the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor 12:3).