“Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” (verses 6-7)
I have lived the stories of Jesus all my life. As a kid, Dad shared them with us on “flannelgraph” (if you never experienced that, I’m afraid it’s too late – its day has passed!). Both Mom and Dad read numerous stories from kids’ picture-Bibles. Mom sang songs about “Mothers of Salem” and a “Green Hill Far Away.” I heard stories of Jesus in weekly Sunday School classes, by the fire at summer camps, in a multitude of sermons over a multitude of years, in morning devotions (seeking to keep “eyes on Jesus”), and in seminary classes and conferences and retreats and video series.
Again and again those stories were told – absolutely familiar, but fully alive.
Often I’ve thought: Wouldn’t it have been amazing to actually be there? To see Jesus heal the blindman and watch the surprised unfamiliarity of the man’s gaze as he sought to focus. To be startled (and scared to death!) with the other disciples as Jesus approached the storm-tossed boat, wading past the waves’ crests. To hear Jesus’ strong command – “Lazarus! Come Forth!” – and watch in rapt amazement as the recently dead man did exactly that. To have tasted bread and fish, fresh from his hands, as he distributed provisions to the hunger-filled masses. To observe his care for children. To experience his care for me. To hear the power of his words. To see the love in his eyes. To know the joy of his presence.
Wouldn’t it have been amazing. Wouldn’t it have been good.
Yes. But Jesus says that where we’re sitting at the moment is actually better. So much better. “It is for your good that I am going away,” Jesus says. Other translations say, “it is to your advantage” or “it is better for you.”
Why? How so? Really? Yes, because the Counselor is now with us – the Spirit of truth that Jesus has sent to us from the Father, the “one called alongside to help”, who is with us and now dwells within us.
But we can miss the goodness. Because we’re physical beings and because we can’t actually see the Spirit, it is possible for us to be more unaware of his ongoing activity (with us and in us) than if Jesus himself were present beside us. Nonetheless, Jesus says this is better – so much better.
There are so many different avenues that could be explored to prove Jesus’ point, but let me simply grab hold of one. The Apostle Paul, who, like us, didn’t have the opportunity to walk side by side with Jesus, day by day, on the dusty roads of Judea, knew the vital reality of the goodness of the Spirit’s presence. He prays that goodness over us in Ephesians 3, asking that we be strengthened with the Spirit’s power in our inner being so that we might be able to grasp what is ultimately beyond our own ability to grasp, beyond knowledge – namely, that we would understand, fully and deeply, the infinite dimensions of the love of Jesus for us. More than we could ever grasp walking the roads with him. More than if we’d experienced his amazing works of power firsthand. More than if we’d eaten that bread and fish, or physically heard his commanding voice, or seen him dying on the cross, or experienced his fresh-from-the-grave living presence in that Upper Room. The indwelling Spirit gives us power to grasp what is ungraspable.
And it is good. Oh, so good.
Lord Jesus, I marvel at your stories. I wish I’d been there. But I receive your word as truth – this is better. Your Spirit is here!
Holy Spirit, welcome again. Come strengthen me with power in my inner being that I might know the love of Jesus and the love of the Father. May I know your presence deeply, even though I can’t see you. Welcome. Praise your name.
Reflect: Imagine what it would have been like to be side by side with Jesus during the years of his ministry. How would your relationship with him have been strengthened? Jesus says it’s truly better now. So, take time to pray – invite the Spirit to strengthen you in those same ways by his presence in your life right now.