The Holy Spirit Didn’t Turn Jesus (or You) into Superman

The Holy Spirit Didn’t Turn Jesus (or You) into Superman May 23, 2015

Pentecost Sunday is tomorrow. Because the Holy Spirit is often considered the “forgotten member of the Trinity,” trinitarian Christians should reflect on the Spirit’s important role in the gospels, in the kingdom, and in the church–whenever we have a chance–but especially when we have a designated occasion to do so. One way to do so is to remember that Jesus would not have been Jesus without the Spirit. He would not have done what he did, apart from the Spirit.

In Jürgen Moltmann’s The Spirit of Lifehe writes:

The indwelling of the Spirit brings the divine energies of life in Jesus to rapturous and overflowing fullness. John 3:34 describes this unique endowment with the Spirit as ‘without measure’. It 14464405515_11dba7aa77marks the beginning of the kingdom of God and the new creation of all things. The Spirit makes Jesus ‘the kingdom of God in person’, for in the power of the Spirit he drives out demons and heals the sick; in the power of the Spirit he receives sinners, and brings the kingdom of God to the poor. The energizing power of God is given him not for himself but for others: for the sick, the poor, sinners, the dying” (61)

The Spirit is “energizing,” opening Jesus’ life and the power of God to and for the world. In the gospels–especially the synoptics–as Moltmann points out, the path of suffering, self-denial, or kenosis, that Jesus must walk, meant that he had to rely on the Spirit to “lead” him. As the “Shekina” (presence) of God, the Spirit “accompanies Jesus”…and therefore becomes “his companion in suffering.” The Spirit “condescends” with Jesus, as both Spirit and Jesus empty themselves, and turn toward the world–the sick, the hurting, the oppressed, the suffering. Moltmann writes,

Although the Spirit fills Jesus with the divine, living energies through which the sick are healed, it does not turn him into a superman. It participates in his human suffering to the point of his death on the cross. According to Matt. 8:17, Jesus does not heal the sick through his supreme power. He heals them through his anointing representation. ‘He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows’ (Isa 53:4). Through the Shekina, the Spirit binds itself to Jesus’ fate, though without becoming identical with him. In this way the Spirit of God becomes definitively the Spirit of Christ, so that from that point onwards it can be called by and invoked in Christ’s name.” (62)

The Spirit is not Jesus’ “possession,” but “is the power of indestructible life.” In a similar way, we too can and should request that the Spirit of God would empower us to work for justice, to work for healing, and to suffer on behalf of others. But if the Spirit didn’t turn Jesus into Superman, she won’t turn you into a super hero either. But she will empower you to suffer.


photo credit: <a href=”″>Common tern HOLY GRACE</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>(license)</a>

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