Once upon a time, there was a disciple of Jesus. He was a good disciple – quiet, unassuming, and humble. Given the name Azarel (“God helps”) by his father, he was raised with lofty expectations to do in his life what many others could not. The bar was set so high that Azarel always fell short. Nothing he did was ever good enough, and an immense fear of failure quickly took root in his heart. But the day he met Jesus inspired an openness he had never experienced before…a yielding towards something much greater that made him want to be more than he thought he could be.
There was never anything Azarel lacked growing up. Yet meeting this man who could calm storms on command, heal the sick, and raise the dead led him to realize a deep emptiness in his heart. Just as many others did before him, Azarel left what he had to follow this Jesus of Nazareth.
But when His Lord was crucified, it seemed all was over. At least to everyone except one: her name was Mary of Nazareth, mother of the Christ. Azarel watched her eyes after they rolled the stone in front of the tomb. No longer were they focused on the suffering her Son had endured, the humiliating death he had died, or even the place where the disciples had laid His body. The eyes of Mary appeared to be waiting for something. There was a peaceful hope no one else could understand.
Not until three days later.
After the miraculous resurrection, Jesus had spent the next forty days visiting His friends and consoling His mother. It was a time of great preparation for still another departure; one so mysterious that when it finally happened, even the Apostles could not believe what they had seen together with their very own eyes.
Into the heavens He went, and there they were…suddenly without Him again. Azarel remembered Jesus’ last words to them before He left: “And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
The promise. What did the Father promise?
So young and inexperienced, Azarel couldn’t even begin to interpret the Lord’s parting message. All he knew was that he didn’t want to leave the others. He especially didn’t want to leave the Blessed Mother because,
unlike the disciples who were scared and confused, Mary brought a comforting presence to them all.
With each passing moment, Azarel’s anxiety was countered with joyful anticipation. They all felt a stirring in the air. The Apostles in particular had drawn from Mary’s encouragement. Each one of their questions about the promise received the same response, “Just trust Him. Wait and pray as He told you.”
What was this happening in their midst? Mary knew. She stood there, unmoved by the commotion. “She is not afraid,” Azarel thought to himself. “The way that she is receiving this gift is not a new experience for her. She has met this Spirit before.”
He was so focused on the mother of His Lord that he didn’t notice the others had left.
In her stillness she turned her gaze towards the young disciple crouched in the corner of the Upper Room. “Will you follow your brothers, Azarel?” Mary asked him as she motioned towards the door.
“Follow? Oh no, Mama. I don’t think they need me out there just yet. I’m not ready to go.”
“Are you afraid?”
“Yes,” Azarel responded, his eyes downcast.
He couldn’t bear to admit it. “I don’t know.”
Mary’s shadow fell upon Azarel and she gently placed her hand on his head. “You have spent three years listening to my Son, watching Him work miracles, witnessing Him forgive sins. There is no question that many lives have been changed because He was here. He has since left us – you saw Him ascend to the Father. Now you are to be His hands and feet in the world.”
“I don’t think I can do it, Mama,” Azarel said sadly. “The Apostles were directly instructed by Him. The other disciples sought His attention and were formed to be much better leaders than I am. I’m not sure if Jesus even noticed that I was around half the time.”
“Oh but He did. Look.” Mary brought her right hand in front of Azarel’s face and resting just above it was a burning flame.
“Your hand!” Azarel gasped. “It’s on fire!”
“No, my dear. This is the Gift…the Promise we were praying for,” Mary explained. “Everyone had the same outpouring and each one was given the Holy Spirit. Including you.”
“So what am I to do with this Gift?”
Guiding Azarel to his feet, she commanded, “You need to go. Join the others. You have been given a great mission to proclaim the kingdom. Do not worry about what you are lacking. Jesus has empowered you with all that you need.” Still sensing his fear, Mary took the flame and covered his heart with her hand, “The Spirit of Love is strong in you. There is no doubt that your faithfulness will require sacrifice. Allow Him to purify you and lead you to greater courage.”
“Thank you, Mama. But would you come with me?” he desperately pleaded.
Removing her mantle, Mary placed it carefully around his shoulders. “Take this with you. It will protect you well.”
Azarel nodded obediently.
“God be with you. It is time.”
“Will God ever ask you to do something you are not able to do? The answer is yes–all the time! It must be that way, for God’s glory and kingdom. If we function according to our ability alone, we get the glory; if we function according to the power of the Spirit within us, God gets the glory. He wants to reveal Himself to a watching world.”
– Henry T. Blackaby, Experiencing the Spirit: The Power of Pentecost Every Day