“But these things I have spoken to you, that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them. And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you” (Jn 16:4-7).
Jesus has been sharing many new insights with His disciples here in the upper room just prior to His betrayal and arrest. And the reason these truths were not explained earlier is because it was not necessary. The disciples had Jesus with them, “from the beginning” as Jesus states, and they could question Him or explore any topic at any time.
But now Jesus is filling the disciples minds with many new things so that when He is gone – and His departure is imminent – they will be able to remember what Jesus said and taught. Here, on the very doorstep of Jesus going back to “Him who sent Me”, He recognizes a sense of sadness coming upon His followers. He sees the “sorrow that fills their hearts”.
So Jesus comes back to a topic meant to spark hope around His departure; the coming of the Holy Spirit. Jesus returns now to the person of the Helper, the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit. Jesus not only promises to send the Holy Spirit, but speaks as if it will even be better that Jesus goes away and the Spirit comes. Jesus says that it will actually be “to their advantage” that He goes away.
Wow! “To their advantage” is an awfully bold statement. There is something better than the physical presence of Jesus? Something better than Jesus in the flesh? In my sacred imagination, I am not sure if that is even possible. But I believe it because Jesus said it, and He emphasizes that He is telling the truth. “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away” (Jn 16:7).
How can Jesus going away be “to their advantage”? How is this to our advantage? The short answer is that the Holy Spirit can only come to us if Jesus goes away. They are trading places in an incredible way. And Jesus is making quite clear that the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts is more advantageous to us than Jesus’ physical presence.
The long answer is the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the world and our lives. We will learn more about this next time.