Is it really to our advantage if Jesus goes away?
One of the odd parts of today’s ready from the gospel according to John 15:26-27;16:4-15 is Jesus’ talk about going away. He’s promises that he is leaving. This seems to contradict other pieces of scripture, especially in Matthew, that Jesus is “God with us” and he will be with us until the end of the age. It’s easier (and more comforting!) to talk about Jesus’ being with us, right now. A Jesus who is with us is a Jesus who makes a difference. So what can we do with a Jesus who is about to walk out the front door?
One thing we can do is look at the context of this passage. Jesus is in the middle of his long sermon preparing his followers for what comes next. Jesus, in John, knows he will be killed. His reality is going to change. The people who experienced him in person are, after the Cross, going to experience him in a different way. Jesus, who ate, slept, and sweated just like the rest of u. But now he is becoming something new. That newness is a type of leaving. Jesus’s followers will need to learn how to hold onto Jesus once Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension are the current reality. Their old experience of Jesus will be replaced by something they didn’t plan or expect. And the new thing that will make this happen is, according to the gospel of John, the Holy Spirit.
It’s the Holy Spirit that helps all of us to experience Jesus in different ways. It’s the Holy Spirit that helps us see the Jesus who is (in the Spirit), right before us. It’s the Holy Spirit that gives us the faith to trust that God’s promises are meant for you and for me. And Jesus’ chooses to make himself known to us through the Spirit. We are here, right now, because the Holy Spirit brought us here. God needed you in this space, to hear the words of God’s promises, and to experience the community God has brought into being The Holy Spirit is how God connects, serves, and loves all of us. And the Spirit is the only thing that can inspire us to connect, serve, and love each other in the exact same way.
Each week, I write a reflection on one of our scripture readings for the week. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship Bulletin for Pentecost, 5/20/2018.