Celebrating Easter: When was the Spirit Released?

At our outdoor Ecumenical Good Friday service, part of the liturgy included this statement:

Today we celebrate Good Friday, the day when the Spirit of Jesus was released into the world for always and everywhere.

As I read this, I turned to my friend Adrian, the curate from the local Anglican church, and asked him, ‘Is that true?’ He reread the statement and said, ‘It seems a bit early.’

During the moments between services and visits and writing sermons, I would try and read a little from the current book I’m reading, Cafe Theology, by Mike Lloyd. I came across this passage where he writes on the Ascension:

The Ascension is the ground upon which the Spirit could be poured out in new ways. In John’s Gospel, Jesus tells His disciples that ‘It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counsellor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you’ (John 16:7)…Jesus’ return to His Father releases the Spirit to come to His people and His world in new ways…The going away of the Son enabled the powerful new coming of the Spirit. (p. 120).

I have typically focused on the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost (or for John, on Easter Day), but I haven’t given much thought about when the Spirit would be released. Mike Lloyd’s thoughts on Ascension make much more sense to me than does Good Friday.

Does anyone know how Good Friday might be considered the day of the Spirit’s release, or are there any thoughts on when this happened?

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4 thoughts on “Celebrating Easter: When was the Spirit Released?

  1. Wow, this is really weird because during my preparations this year, I had an ‘insight’ that the Spirit was released *because Jesus rose*.

    I really haven’t got the words for it yet, but it was partly an insight from the BBC’s production of ‘The Passion’ and some of my theological reading around resurrection. There is a scene in The Passion when one of the disciples says ‘But you can’t go away. We need you to find God.’ And I understood that whole Johannine passage as saying ‘I will rise and the Spirit of God (my Spirit) will be with you to help you.’ My Eastern brothers and sisters will undoubted disagree strenuously, but I’m becoming a firm believer in filioque.

    Anyway. Jesus’ spirit released on the cross? Sounds awfully gnostic to me. I think I’d have avoided that wording. On the other hand, I’m not convinced that God’s salvific acts are time-bound either. I don’t really like the image of Jesus’ spirit floating out of him upon his death on the cross, though.

  2. Well, Pam, you have introduced a third possibility!

    I was getting ready to disagree with you in favour of the Ascension when I remembered the verse you and the other one Mike Lloyd both quoted happened before the death and resurrection (had it been after, then I think that would settle – well, for me at least). It also seems to connect with ‘Johannine Pentecost’ places the giving of the Spirit on Easter Day. Luke may have had a different understanding and perhaps is closer to the Ascension being the release since Jesus promised it to them at the Ascension and then it came after.

    [By the way, I didn’t quite understand that line in BBC story. I need to go back and watch it again to take it in again.]

    I agree with you about the spirit release on Good Friday – sounds gnostic to me, too. I hadn’t thought of naming it that way, but that’s the problem I have been having with it.

  3. I’m not sure I’m particularly worried about the exact timing of the release of the Spirit.

    For me, it was more of a personal ‘spiritual’ (sic!) insight about the ‘wow factor’ of the resurrection. Yes, the Ascension is important too and the Lukan narrative would certainly put the coming of the Spirit post-Ascension.

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