I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, “Where are you going?” But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:1-15, ESV)
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I have lately come to see the final “sermon” of Jesus to His disciples as a bookend to His earlier offering from Matthew 5-7 (the Sermon on the Mount). In the former, He told His disciples and the others gathered around about a Kingdom that could be theirs. The point of entry was low, so low that in fact the seeming dregs of society were the ones who qualified. You needed to be beaten down, scorned, and have little to no sense of self-worth. Possessing this (which really meant possessing nothing) you were uniquely qualified to be a part of this new Kingdom.
Jesus spent the next couple of years walking His followers through a multitude of teaching all meant to point them to their Heavenly Father and this Kingdom which was yet to come. Many, if not most, of the followers believed their Messiah had come and they would play a role in this new Kingdom. The only problem was, they thought it had come right then in a temporal, political way. They couldn’t look much farther than their oppression by the Romans at the time and they thought Jesus had come to reclaim the throne in
Now, nearing the end of His time with them physically, Jesus has broken the news that He is leaving. The Disciples are confused and bewildered (as noted in an earlier writing). Their path has never seemed as crooked as it did at that moment. Then, just when they thought their confusion had reached the limit, He tells them of another Comforter He is sending. This Comforter will not “take His place” in the same physical manner, but will lead the disciples to a new level of understanding the Kingdom. He lays out the tasks of the Spirit and tells them it is actually to their advantage that He leaves and sends the Comforter. And, while they might be at their most bewildered state now, if we skip ahead to Acts chapter 2, we see just what the Spirit brings.
Often in my past, I’ve struggled with the role of the Spirit. I was raised in a conservative manner, so it almost seems like the Spirit took on a lesser role among the other Persons of the Trinity (at least to me). I was raised to believe the “sign gifts” that others practiced were not what the Bible taught and were certainly not the work of the Spirit. While this is not intended to be a debate about the Trinity, I will say the teaching of my upbringing was at least partially right. The Spirit, according to John 16, has a much greater work to do in the world and in my life.
Christ told his disciples that their advantage was much greater with the Spirit and without His temporal presence. The Spirit would teach them things they could not possibly understand in their current state. The Spirit would bring conviction to the world at large. The Spirit would provide a level of comfort they could not imagine and they were soon to be in a position where they would need that above all else. Their life in the orphanage and walking the crooked path was not going to be easy by any definition. What it was going to be was bearable and instructive. The Spirit would teach them and everything they learned would bring glory to the Son and the Father.
Perhaps we can all take heart in the words of that final sermon from Jesus. He did not stay on earth with us, but He does provide a level of comfort and learning beyond anything we have experienced to date. Praise God that Jesus returned to Heaven to finish preparing the Kingdom. And thank God for the Spirit who teaches and comforts in a way nobody else can. As I walk the crooked path, that is a great security to me.
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- Have you thought lately about the work of the Spirit in your life? Have you felt His presence and the unique comfort only He can bring?
- Do you feel privileged and advantaged that Jesus left the disciples and sent the Spirit? Can you see the work of the Spirit the world around you?
- Do you find yourself wishing the Kingdom was here on earth now, or are you content to live as an adopted child and learn by the teaching of the Spirit?
ESV - Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.