Several years ago my wife and I were on vacation in South Carolina. We had a room with a spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean. Each morning we woke to the rising sun and the sound of waves crashing on the rocks below.
On our final day at the resort we were warned that the water was off limits. There was a storm three hundred miles south of us, and it was creating six- to nine-foot waves at our resort. Naturally, as a curious tourist, I immediately went down to the water to check it out. I watched in amazement as the massive waves relentlessly pounded away at the rocks. At first it appeared to me that the rocks were winning the battle. With each crash of the waves the rocks would reappear seemingly unscathed. As I sat on the grass watching and contemplating the timeless battle raging before my eyes, I began to think of the Church and the work of the Holy Spirit.
On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
With the crash of each wave, the seemingly invincible rock weakens. The process is slow, it cannot always be detected by the human eye, but it is happening nonetheless. The rock is beaten down. Over time there will be nothing left but dust.
The Bible speaks of the hardness—the wickedness—of the human heart. God’s Word reveals that the human heart is so stubborn, and so lost in sin and selfishness, that it is incapable of seeking God. It is incapable of recognizing its desperate need for a Savior.
At Pentecost the Spirit of God was poured out on his Church. Living water rushed into the hearts of those who believed and, like a cliff beaten by the waves and finally crumbling into the sea, faith transformed them. To those present that day, the process appeared to happen in an instant, but in reality it was something that had started long ago. The disciples had heard John the Baptist preach about Jesus. They had walked with Jesus, they had seen him crucified, and they had seen him rise again. With each event their hard hearts had been prepared for the gift of the Holy Spirit, a gift that would transform them into the Church.
As the Holy Spirit entered him, Simon Peter stood up to speak, to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Many who were present that day believed that message; they were crushed into dust by the power of God’s law, and they were brought back to life by the promise of his Gospel. Others doubted, their hearts were not yet ready to surrender and receive the salvation found in Christ alone… and so our epic battle began.
As the Church, we are called to proclaim the Gospel, the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. We offer this living water to those in need, to those who are lost. It often feels like we are losing this battle, that the hard hearts around us are unfazed by the good news we proclaim, that the world is getting darker and more sinister each day. But the Spirit is at work. It cannot always be detected by the human eye, but the Spirit is at work nonetheless.
Our job is not to create faith. Our job is to keep the faith, to live relentlessly the Christian life, moving forward with the Gospel no matter how difficult the task, no matter how pointless it may seem. We move forward, like waves crashing onto the rocks, knowing that all things return to dust. But those who believe in Christ will rise again!