Holy Wednesday - Jesus Promises To Send The Holy Spirit
by Jonathan T. Parks
Take a few minutes and read John 14:1-31 & John 16:4-15.
When I was 17 I lost my best friend. He was killed in a car accident. Actually he was more than just a friend. We grew up together, we leaned on one another through adolescence, we became men together (as much of a man as you are at 17 & 18). He was a brother to me.
Mark’s death devastated me for years and it still hurts at certain times, but things do get a little easier as time goes by. I do miss him. I miss his friendship and I also miss the part of me that only he could bring out. This year is significant because he’ll officially be “gone” for as long as he was here. 18 years. A weird tipping point in the balance of his history.
Even though it’s been 18 years since I’ve seen him, in some ways I remember everything about him. His sense of humour and laugh, his facial expressions, the way he ran, and that weird knuckle he had on his left ring finger.
But in other ways, there is distance. The way we used to encourage one another isn’t available to me anymore. That invaluable and intimate accountability that you experience with maybe 2 or 3 people in your lifetime is gone. The really good parts of me that came out quite easily simply by being around him are suddenly much harder to conjure up. Some things are just harder because Mark isn’t in my life anymore.
And I can’t help but wonder if this is what Jesus’ disciples were afraid of in this passage.
Their dear friend and teacher has just told them that he is leaving them, that he’s going away. I don’t think you can overestimate just what Jesus meant to this group of men. They gave up everything to follow him; their trade, their livelihood. They followed him from town to town, through the deserts, watching him closely and listening to every word that came from his mouth. They watched him feed a crowd of thousands from a one boy’s lunch pale. They stood by as he raised people from the dead. The past three years of their lives were like nothing anyone has ever experienced. And now he is saying that he’s going, that they are going to lose him.
They must have been devastated. That sick feeling in their guts.
But then Jesus says something that was difficult for his disciples to understand in the moment.
He says he is going away, but he also says he’s going to send them another Helper. In fact, in this same conversation in chapter 16, he says it’s actually to their advantage that he goes, so that he can send this Helper!
Often I think of what it would be like to be in the very presence of Jesus. To see exactly what colour his eyes are, how tall he is, and what his voice sounds like. I think about if I had the option of having Jesus, of being with him (like his disciples in that upper room), of knowing him personally and intimately; his quirks, his sense of humour..how amazing would that be?
But Jesus says it’s actually better for us that he goes. It’s better for our relationship with him that he’s not here physically right now. That distance, that fading of relationship that his disciples were afraid of experiencing actually isn’t going to happen.
Let me paraphrase…Jesus says “I am going, but I’m not going to leave you as orphans. You’re not going to be without a home. In fact, even though the world won’t see me anymore, you still will! And instead of a distant, fading relationship, you'll have an even closer one with me because the amazing relationship you’ve seen that I have with the Father…I’m going to include you in that now. You’ll be able to join in that. All because I’m sending you the Helper, the Holy Spirit. He’s coming to dwell in you and he’s going to be with you forever; to teach you all things and to bring to your remembrance all that I have said. You’ll no longer be taught merely from the outside, but also from the inside now. The Spirit has been with me all throughout my ministry and now I’m sending him to you. He’ll continue to teach you like I taught you, he’ll encourage you, he’ll help you, he’ll empower you, he’ll open your hearts and guide you into all the truth. He’s going to glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
Just like the disciples on the road to Emmaus when Jesus opened their hearts to the Scriptures and the Spirit taught them and their hearts burned, Paul says the Spirit reveals to us the deeper things about God.
So Jesus leaves, but our relationship doesn’t fade with distance like it does when our earthly friends go. Rather, it increases in intimacy when we listen to the Spirit. It gets deeper and richer. We actually get to know him better than we would if he were here with us now.
“Let not your hearts be troubled.”