full (fʊl/), adjective
containing or holding as much or as many as possible; having no empty space.
And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness (Luke 4:1)
My eye is drawn to this phrase ‘Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit’ in Luke 4:1. This sentence is translated in the same way in 7 of the 8 translations I looked at. So the underlying meaning is clear, but what does it tell me about Jesus and what does it mean for us for me today?
Matthew and Mark use the same word translated in Greek to describe the measure of leftover bread after Jesus fed the thousands and they collected the excess. Luke uses the same word to describe the man covered totally by leprosy. John uses the same word when he describes Jesus and tells us about the measure of total grace and truth Jesus possessed. Luke later in his account uses the same word to describe how the early church were instructed by the Apostles to look for men ‘full of the Spirit and of wisdom’ and uses it to also describe the measure of Stephen’s faith and of Tabitha’s good works and mercy gift.
Today the word means, to contain as much as is possible and it’s safe to say that the same meaning is apparent in it’s original context.
From Luke and the other eye witness accounts, we know that as Jesus was coming up out of the water at His baptism, the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus. Now we read about the measure or the result of that anointing, that coming upon by the Spirit, in the man Jesus. He was full of the Holy Spirit.
Before continuing the narrative, Luke wants to tell us something descriptive about Jesus. It is meant to help us understand who He was and what He was like and how or by what power He was acting. Luke describes Jesus as full of the Spirit, overflowing in the Spirit like the baskets of bread, covered with the Spirit like the man who had leprosy all over – Jesus was filled to capacity by the Holy Spirit.
This is a key description of Jesus for Luke who later explains the source of Jesus’ ministry power in the following way;
“you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him” (Acts 10:37-38)
For Luke then, there is an intimate connection between Jesus’ acts of power and His being full of or anointed by God with the Holy Spirit. The source of Jesus’ being guided into the desert and having power to resist the temptation of the devil, the source of Jesus’ ministry effectiveness was His being ‘full of the Holy Spirit’.
It is vital that we see that this being ‘full of Holy Spirit’ as an attribute of Jesus’ humanity, not His deity. Like Luke’s description of Jesus here, Elizabeth, the first deacons, Stephen & Tabitha are all described in the same way by Luke as Jesus is being described here. None of these other people were divine but rather human in every way, just like you and I. And yet they too were described as being filled or full of the Holy Spirit too!
This means that being filled/full of the Holy Spirit is a possibility for us a believers too.
More than that is a necessity that we be full of the Holy Spirit, which is why Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit before they embarked on fulfilling His great commandment and great commission (see Luke 24:49 & Acts 1:1-8) and why Paul commanded the Ephesian believers to “be filled with the Spirit” in light of the evil days in which we live out our followership of Jesus.
Luke describes Jesus as full of the Spirit, Paul exhorts us to be filled (crammed to the full – literal meaning of the word he used). Some questions arise; ‘Is this fullness automatic?’ ‘If it is possible/necessary to be full of the Holy Spirit, then is it possible to not be full?’ ‘How can I/we be filled/full of the Holy Spirit?’ and ‘What caused Luke to describe Jesus in this way, what did he observe in Jesus that resulted in this description?’
Luke’s description of Jesus as full of the Holy Spirit would have been superfluous and just literary padding if it was not necessary, if it were not distinguishing Jesus’ state from other possible states (like not being full of the Spirit).
Paul’s commandment for us to be “filled with the Holy Spirit” would be non-sensical if it were not possible for one to be in a state of ‘not-being-full-of-the-Holy-Spirit’, and it would be a non-sensical command if it were not possible to in fact be filled with the Holy Spirit, like Jesus was!
Much more could be written, but for today my prayer is simply; “Father, fill me to the full with the Holy Spirit, anoint me as You anointed Your Son. Amen.”