“Very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away.” - John 16:7
When we first hear these words of Jesus, we may wonder how his going away could be for our good. He often taught, in fact, that following him can bring trouble and hardship. How can that be good?
This question may seem especially relevant today. Many Christians around the world face persecution and even death for following Jesus. And in places where persecution is not so obvious, following Jesus still means sacrifice. As Peter once said to Jesus, “We have left everything to follow you!” (Matthew 19:27).
But when Jesus ascended to heaven, he was no longer physically present with his followers. How could that be a good thing? Looking back, his first disciples would remember Jesus’ words on the night before his death, when he addressed this concern. He said that his ascension would open the way for the Holy Spirit to come to them. Jesus’ followers would no longer need him to be physically present on earth, with all the limits that his humanity imposed.
The subtitle of a recent book explains, “The Spirit inside you is better than Jesus beside you.” Because Jesus has returned to the Father, we feel God’s presence even more powerfully as the Spirit comes to live in us.
This is sometimes hard to believe when we face the hardships of life. But it is God’s promise, for our good. Do you believe this?