THE WORK OF THE SPIRIT THAT ANTICIPATES THE FUTURE by Michael Horton for Core Christianity
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. (John 16:7)
“It is to your advantage that I go away.” What a strange thing to say. Right at the verge of Jordan in this new covenant conquest, how does Christ’s leaving benefit the disciples—or you and me? First of all, we need to exercise empathy here. When we read about how the disciples had not yet experienced the Holy Spirit’s illumination of their hearts so they could understand what was happening, we have to imagine how they would have heard this. In this light, it makes perfect sense that they were stunned. Here is the true and great Joshua—Jesus—standing on the verge of the Jordan, on the verge of the conquest, ready to lead the armies of God into the Promised Land, and he says, “Okay, it’s time for me to go.” Allow yourself to enter into their confusion about this because it makes perfect sense.
In John 13:36, Peter had asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” The Holy Spirit is the answer to Peter’s question. Why would Jesus desert the disciples right after he triumphed over sin and death, the cross and the resurrection? Why would he now ascend to the Father? Why would he have to leave Jerusalem in order to assume the throne of his father David? After all, Jerusalem was the very place where he was supposed to ascend to the throne of David. No, he’s going to assume the throne of David at the right hand of the Father himself. It’s not that the disciples’ thoughts were too great or that their hopes were too costly. They were too small! The horizon of their thinking was too narrow. Yahweh declares concerning his Servant-Son, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isa. 49:6).