In John 14:26, Jesus tells the disciples that, “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” Jesus goes on to say in John 16:7, “I tell you the truth it is to your advantage that I go away…,” which most modern Christians fundamentally disagree with. After all, if Jesus was here, things would be way better, right? And we’d know exactly how to live the Christian life because He’d show us, right? But He still says His leaving was to our advantage because, “if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.”
So Jesus said that it is to the benefit of the church that He has left the earth because He has sent the Holy Spirit in His place. This is a benefit because the Holy Spirit will not only remind us of what Jesus said, but He will teach us the full truth of the Gospel, revealing to us the Kingdom of God in fresh and deeper ways every day.
Would Jesus Lie to Us?
Now, let’s get real for a second. I don’t think there is a single person reading this who doesn’t stop for a moment and think, “Yeah, having the Holy Spirit is good and all, but I think it’d be better if Jesus were here to fix everything.” For those of us raised in the rationalist, naturalist worldview of the west, we fundamentally cannot imagine that an unseen, metaphysical presence of God is better than the physical, touchable, seeable and hearable presence of God in Christ. We are convinced that physical reality is better. So the question is, would Jesus lie to us?
In mentally resolving this issue, it can easily become a test of faith for us as our logical mind, clinging to primacy of Jesus’ physical presence, is placed against our faith in the very words of Jesus saying it’s better that He goes away.
In fact, Jesus even tells us that there are things we need to learn, but that they had to come from the unseen Holy Spirit, and not from Him directly.
“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.” (John 16:12-13)
An Issue of Identity
I believe our desire to have Jesus with us comes from a place of misunderstanding about the identity and calling of the church. See, Jesus said He would establish the church, which throughout the rest of scripture, after Jesus’ ascension to Heaven, is called the “Body of Christ.” In essence this is saying that Jesus’ hands and feet have not left the world, but in His going and sending the Spirit to dwell within the church, His hands and feet have been multiplied millions of times over. Christ has physically left, but it is Christ’s Spirit that is now living and active in the church when we learn to follow His lead.
This is why so much of Jesus’ teaching time with the disciples was spent telling them, “This is how things work in the Kingdom…” “This is how you engage with God…” “Where is your faith?” “Don’t be afraid.” “How long will I be with you? You have to learn this…”
And it seems that when Jesus left, He really did expect that all of the things He has been doing on earth (including the crazy miracles and such) would continue on in the church, as we learned to walk by the leading of the Spirit. He even says so in John 14:12
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.
Yet the works that Jesus did were only the works that He saw the Father doing through the leading of the Holy Spirit:
“So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” (John 5:19)
And the words that Jesus spoke were only the words that He heard the Father speaking through the Holy Spirit:
“The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.” (John 14:10)
Claiming Our Calling
So if the church is to be the hands and feet of Jesus, active in this world, and continuing the ministry of Jesus, then the only way it’s going to happen is when we learn to pay attention to the Holy Spirit’s leading as He teaches us what to say and do.
We can no longer just passively sit back, watch the world go to hell in a handbasket, and think to ourselves, “I can’t wait until Jesus comes back and fixes this mess.”
When Jesus gave us the authority of Heaven, He was telling us that it is our job to be cleaning up this mess ourselves. We are to seek Heaven for the transformation of our world, and then be the active agents through which that change comes.
So it’s time for the church to come alive again. It’s time for the disciples of Christ go, be who God is calling us to be, and do what the Holy Spirit is leading us to do. I believe Jesus is still sending us out with the same instructions He began with:
“Go…And proclaim as you go, saying ,‘The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleans lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; now give without pay.” (Matthew 10:5-8)