Spiderman, Superman, the X-Men. We love a movie where the good guys save everyone from the bad guys. Superpowers originating from bug bites, far away planets and mutations: It seems the audience identifies with the need for a hero, someone to save us from the evil forces at work in this crazy world. But what if we have access to a superpower that makes jumping tall buildings look like leap frog? A power that does not need the ability to fly or see through brick walls or read other’s thoughts. A power so supernatural the effects are infinite. Spiderman could battle the Green Goblin to save Mary Jane’s physical life. We are given abilities to battle unseen spirits, demonic forces, evil on the most retched level to rescue people for eternity. We don’t need a supersuit or special ring. Just a name. The name Jesus.
When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus he asks them who they came for (John 18.) Then his words “I am He” cause them to “draw back and fall to the ground.” I always found this visual fascinating. If just hearing someone’s name makes my knees buckle, I would re-think my agenda in capturing him. Did no one have second thoughts? Seems likely, but the wheels had been set in motion long before they all met up in the garden. The point is, just Jesus’ name was enough to release a wave of force that even Gandalf’s staff could not create. And here’s the kicker: We have access to this power, a divine power.
The superpower is the Holy Spirit. And we are filled up with this power by an “anointing.” Used particularly in church circles, Biblically speaking it means to “pour on or rub into.” To be anointed by God was to be chosen and empowered for his service. In Joel 2:28 God says he will “pour out” his Spirit on all people. The imagery is that of a pitcher tipped such that the liquid rushes out. Not a trickle and not by divisions. It indicates a complete filling. One powerful cascade.
Anointing with oil was a huge part of Old Testament ceremonies. Aaron (Moses’ brother) and the other high priests would have oil poured over them (Lev 8:12) to indicate a setting apart for service or a reverence to God. Oil, in general, was used for three things:
- As a fuel for light. We are called to be the light in a dark world. The oil provided by the Holy Spirit is the necessary ignition of the flame. The Message puts it this way in Matthew 5: “I make you light-bearers . . . Now that I’ve put you on a light stand – Shine!”
- As an ointment for healing. No doubt the Holy Spirit works through us to provide spiritual healing. Jesus told the Pharisees it was not the healthy who needed a doctor but the sick. He never physically healed without addressing the spiritual condition. Psalm 104:15 tells us God provides oil “to soothe [the] skin.”
- As a soap for cleansing. Even when we are healthy, this world and its dirt rubs off. The Holy Spirit is perpetually working to cleanse those He inhabits. After describing a handful people who were “stuck in the mud” as it were (I Cor 6:11,) Paul calls out those who have accepted the cleansing and washing that comes through Jesus. The only way to keep from being filthy is through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.
Though I understand the calling by God through the Holy Spirit, I often question the empowerment. Both “Messiah” in the Hebrew and “Christ” in the Greek mean “Anointed One.” All power and authority was given to Jesus on earth to accomplish God’s plan for salvation. I certainly don’t question Jesus’ power, so why do I question my own? Jesus tells us we will “have power when the Holy Spirit comes” (Acts 1:8.) In fact, Jesus disciples were told to not even leave town until they were baptized with the Holy Spirit, given His power to accomplish their calling. Do you remember when Superman had his powers stripped away? What a mess he made. Our abilities, potential and capacity are at best lacking and at worst absent, without the work, the anointing, of the Spirit of God.
The oil poured out into my life sets me up and apart for God’s service. I’m am healed, cleansed and given a light that empowers me to complete the work I’m given. No superhero weapon in the most inventive comic or Hollywood script can compete with the weapons I have when I open the Word of God, get on my knees in prayer or speak in the name of Jesus.