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 ESV
Author J. D. Greear draws an interesting and potentially life-altering conclusion from the verse above. Jesus had been dropping bomb shells of information on His disciples as He attempted to prepare them for His death. He told them that the world was going to hate them, just as it hated Him. He broke the news that they would soon find themselves thrown out of the synagogues and even killed for claiming to serve Him. Then He told them, “it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you” (John 16:7 ESV). This is where J. D. Greear concludes: “…something was so important about the Holy Spirit that Jesus told his disciples it was to their advantage that he go away – if his departure meant the Spirit came. The Spirit’s presence inside them, he said, would be better than himself beside them” (J. D. Greear, Jesus, Continued…). The New Living Translation puts it verse seven this way: “it is best for you that I go away.”
Think about what Jesus is saying. Consider the impact it had on His disciples. They had spent more than three years of their lives with Jesus, looking on Him as their Messiah, master, Rabbi, Lord and friend. He had been their mentor. Now they were having to listen to Him say that they would be better off without Him. How could that be? That didn’t even make sense to them at the time. The concept of no Jesus was unacceptable to them. Without Him, they would have no hope. It’s the reason they all went into hiding and mourning after He was crucified. The two who were walking along the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus put words to their pain. “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:19-21 ESV).
Yet here was Jesus telling His followers that they would be better off without Him. It would be to their advantage that He leave them. How? Why? Because Jesus was going to send His Spirit, the one He described as the Helper. “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me” (John 15:26 ESV). When Jesus left, He was going to send the Spirit, who would act as their helper. And the major difference would be that the Spirit of God would indwell them, not just dwell with them. They had enjoyed the companionship of Jesus, but they would experience an even more intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit. Rather than having the Messiah walk among them, they would have the Spirit of God residing within them. That amazing thought was not fully comprehend by the disciples until they were filled with the Spirit on the day of Pentecost. When the Spirit came and took up residence in them, they were immediately transformed from fearful, timid, hopeless, former followers of Jesus Christ into bold, passionate, fearless messengers of the good news regarding Jesus and His resurrection.
Jesus had told His disciples, “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” (John 14:12 ESV). When Jesus was on this earth, He was limited because of His humanity. He could only be one place at one time. He grew tired. He was restricted to a 24-hour day just like the rest of us. He could perform only so many miracles in a given day. He could travel only so far during a 24-hour period. But when He died and ascended back to the side of His Father in heaven, He sent the Spirit. He didn’t send the JV or the B-team. He sent the third person of the Trinity, the Spirit of God. And the Spirit came to dwell within each and every believer, providing them with a power they had never known before. He imparted to them an intimacy with God that no one except Jesus had ever known before. Jesus was called Immanuel, which means “God with us”, but the Spirit would be God IN us. Even in the Old Testament, God dwelt among the people, but He didn’t take up residence within them. Occasionally, men like David would be filled with the Spirit, but it was not a permanent condition. But with Jesus’ departure, the Spirit became a permanent part of the life of every single one of His followers. That includes you, if you have accepted Jesus as your Savior. You have the Spirit of God living within you. And according to Jesus, you are better off with the Spirit inside you, than if the Messiah was walking beside you. The disciples of Jesus spent most of their time watching Jesus do miracles. They were spectators of God’s power. But once the Spirit came they went from observing to doing. Rather than watching the power of God displayed in the life of Jesus, they were experiencing that power as it flowed out of their own lives. And we have that very same power available to us as followers of Jesus Christ. God isn’t some ethereal force existing somewhere in the universe. He is living right inside of us in the form of His own Spirit. We have the power of God residing in us and available to us – 24/7. And we need to take Jesus at His word when He tells us that we are better off without Him. Not because He is gone, but because His Spirit has come – and is here to stay – providing us with everything we need to live powerful, bold, hopeful, joyful, content and godly lives.