I was thinking about Easter the other night when a line popped into my head: “He did not leave my soul in hell.” It sounded like a Bible passage, but I wasn’t sure. Neither was I sure if the writer was referring to Jesus.
I would like to say I pulled out my Bible and flipped to the passage, but no, I pulled out my smartphone and googled the phrase. It was in the Bible, and you can find it in Psalm 16: “You will not leave my soul among the dead.”1
Next I wanted to confirm who David was speaking of, so I looked a little further. The passage is quoted by the apostle Peter in his very first sermon at Pentecost.2 Jesus had just ascended into heaven and had told His disciples the Holy Spirit would come to them. The believers anxiously huddled together in an upper room waiting to see what was next. Then the Holy Spirit swept through in the form of flames of fire, and they were all filled with a power and boldness that they had never known.
At that time, Jerusalem was filled with Jews from all over the world. These devout believers were in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover—one of the most significant events in the Jewish calendar.
Upon being filled with the Holy Spirit, the disciples trickled out of their upper room and into the public, where they began declaring the gospel—in foreign languages none of them previously knew! All the pilgrims to Jerusalem were astounded that these people spoke their languages. People were trying to figure out how it could be possible for them to speak in languages they had never learned. Some took to making fun: “They must be drunk.”
Then Peter, the same Peter who had denied Jesus just a few weeks before, stood up and addressed this huge crowd: “We aren’t drunk; it’s only nine o’clock in the morning. We’re filled with the Spirit just like the prophet Joel prophesied.”
He went on to explain that Jesus of Nazareth, the one who everyone knew had recently been crucified, was the Son of God, whom God had raised from the dead. And that’s where he referenced David’s prophecy in Psalm 16:
“Brothers and sisters, I can speak confidently about the patriarch David. He died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this very day. Because he was a prophet, he knew that God promised him with a solemn pledge to seat one of his descendants on his throne. Having seen this beforehand, David spoke about the resurrection of Christ, that he wasn’t abandoned to the grave, nor did his body experience decay. This Jesus, God raised up. We are all witnesses to that fact.”3
Peter’s delivery was so powerful and anointed that 3,000 believers were added to the church that day. And that was just the beginning.
When I read this chapter, I was so impressed with Peter’s delivery. He wasn’t just bold, he also sounded educated. He referenced Jewish prophets and prophecy and spoke with a clarity that he wasn’t previously known for. It was obviously the work of the Holy Spirit.
Through His death and resurrection, Jesus gave us gifts that have completely altered the course of mankind. These gifts are:
- Salvation and a personal relationship with God,
- The Holy Spirit, and
- The gift of healing, through His suffering on the cross.4
When Jesus was with His disciples, they could not have the gift of the Holy Spirit. He had to leave them in order for them to be able to have the Holy Spirit: “I am going to do what is best for you. That is why I am going away. The Holy Spirit cannot come to help you until I leave. But after I am gone, I will send the Spirit to you.”5
I haven’t always thought of the Holy Spirit as something to celebrate at Easter, but I do now. Because of Jesus’ physical departure from His disciples, they were—and we are—able to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit simply by asking: “If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”6
Thinking about the Holy Spirit in this way has added another layer to my appreciation of Easter. I’m grateful for this deeper understanding of what Jesus has done for me, and it’s something I never want to take for granted.