Introduction

The call to discipleship and faithfulness is a call to be yourself while owning your faith. This often means God promotes us beyond our own ability, putting us in situations we would not volunteer for. In our passage, John 14, Jesus assures the uncertain disciples that he trusts God’s ability to work through them even in the most daunting of circumstances. Can we be so daring as to be so trusting?

“I Will Leave You”

The family has gathered at the dinner table. The silverware clinks and the glasses clunk as the conversations flow back and forth like a breeze over a field of spring barley.

The topic suddenly changes and the easy breeze changes to a bluster and produces a storm of emotions inside each disciple. Jesus tells the disciples, “I am going away from you. It’s getting close to goodbye.” This is not the first time Jesus has said it, but it feels different this time. It hits them. “I am going to Jerusalem, and will be betrayed and I will be killed.”

One can read Luke 9:52 onward and see that Jesus has been on a slow and steady walk toward Jerusalem. “He resolutely set his face toward Jerusalem.”

A common theme in Scripture is the storm that threatens our trust.

Real People with Real Feelings

The disciples are like children who have just heard their parents bring the suitcases down the hallway. They ask Jesus the same set of questions, “Where are you going? Can we come too? Are we going to be okay?” They are children after all; children of God.

Notice their deeply human feelings:

  • Confusion (v.5) Thomas doesn’t understand where Jesus is going and how they will follow
  • Doubt (v.8) Philip asks to see the Father, implying some doubt Jesus’ identity
  • Fear (v.27) Jesus tells them not to be troubled or afraid, indicating they are worried about what is to come
  • Sadness (v.18) Jesus tells them he won’t leave them as orphans, suggesting they are sad about him leaving
  • Uncertainty (v.22) Judas asks why Jesus will reveal himself to them and not the world

We can’t deny that a major component of our discipleship journey involves how we process our feelings and our faith. When circumstances are pressing on us and all seems as dark as a slice of midnight, trusting God can seem impossible. Prayer can seem like a vain recitation, meditation a silent vacuum.

Therefore, it is good for us to consider how Jesus cares for them.

What Jesus Promises As We Trust

Jesus doesn’t shame or chide them for having emotions, for feeling sad, anxious, or uncertain. Nor does he do that to us when our hearts race when we hear the suitcase coming down the hallway and hear him say, “You are going to have to go out into this wild, wild world and be yourself. You can’t hide. The world needs you. Our Father will be with you and so will the Helper Spirit.

Let’s pull out some specific promises found in this text.

  • Peace (v.27) Jesus promises peace that is distinct from what the world offers
  • Security (v.16,18) The Holy Spirit will be a helper, and Jesus assures them they won’t be left alone
  • Love (v21) Jesus emphasizes that those who love him will be loved by the Father and by him

They are confused, scared, and sad, and Jesus offers comfort, security, and peace within the friendly connections of a faith community. Remember, this conversation happens around a table.

The Church at its best is a supportive community that buttresses our trust and trying through prayer, conversation, challenge, and empathy. Why challenge? Well, notice that Jesus says, “I know this might be impossibly tough to imagine right now, but you will do greater things than you’ve done.” That’s a challenge and we need those same people around us with empathy, prayer, and loving talk.

The Family Table, The Family Tree

This passage is not just about what happened; it’s about what happens. This scene is played out over and again as our lives move from comfort to challenge. This is also the comfort I find in Holy Communion – The Family Table, during which Jesus says, “I will be with you, even to the end of the age.”

In our passage, Jesus tells the disciples that they are no longer going to have his physical presence, but they will have the unseen but no less real presence of the Spirit. What does he say about this Spirit?

Another of the Same Kind

My New Testament Greek professor, Dr. Douglas Bain taught us a lasting lesson about the Spirit. When Jesus says in verse 6, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth . . .” he is saying something spectacularly brilliant. It’s amazing what the Spirit can do!

Jesus is not saying another, as in foreign. Remember, Jesus is at the table. He has spoken to those despondent and increasingly unnerved disciples. “I am leaving you. I am going away.”

“But Jesus,” they protest, “Will we be okay? Who is going to be with us? You are our teacher? Who is going to guide us and teach us?”

“Don’t worry,” Jesus replies, “I’m going to give you someone you’ve never met. Someone completely different than me, with a different mindset and methodology and demeanor.”

No!!!!

That is NOT what Jesus says. Jesus is not saying God “will give you another of a different kind.”

Jesus is saying, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper of the SAME kind.” (for those inclined to look at the Greek) Just like I have been with you, guided you through my teachings, comforted you on the stormy seas, and worked miracles alongside you, our Father will send someone else who is just like me to be with you.”

Oh, what comfort! You will not have me, but you will have another one like me. The Spirit will be like me to you, will love you, teach you, guide you, and comfort you as I have. I will not leave you or forsake you and neither will the Spirit.

I can personally bear witness to the comfort of the unseen but deeply felt presence of God. Jesus could only be in one place at one time. If the disciples were scattered into 12 different places, Jesus could possibly comfort 1 of them at the most! With the giving of the Spirit, all 12 could be comforted and strengthened at once!

Greater things!

As Brian Mansfield shared on Twitter, as you read Scripture you see that God likes to make sure that we are under-equipped for the task at hand. We want to know more about God, but we are hesitant to sign up for the change it will require. We all want to grow, but we often grimace when it comes to accepting the inconvenience of the pain.

Life has a way of promoting you beyond your adequacies.

The disciples are called forward into the uncomfortable. So are we.

Dependence is when we really see, feel, and sense our need for God. There’s no point to trust, if you need nothing. It is when we are stretched beyond our capacity that we come to see the end of ourselves and the fullness of Divine Help.

Undoubtedly, Christ’s first words to the disciples astonished them, “I am going away.” Equally astonishing are these words, “Whoever believes in me will also do the words that I do; and greater words that these will you do!”

Um, pardon me, but I’ve always thought I could do more WITH Jesus than without Jesus by my side. This gets to the point that Jesus is making, though. That is how equally powerful and good the Spirit is and that is how capable God is: God can take scared and hesitant people and make us willing and capable!

Conclusion

We can admit our emotions to God and not fear being rebuked or chided for being as human as God created us. Even Christ experienced intense fear and set the example that we can be distressed by our experience while also not being distrustful of God.

This passage equips us to navigate life’s inevitable challenges with faith and trust. Sure, we will feel inadequate, but we trust God promotes us for a purpose. Just as he empowered the disciples to achieve even greater things after his departure, soo too the Spirit strengthens us this very day.

This journey is not mean to be faced alone. We are people of the Table. The supportive community of faith, like the family and friends gathered around the table, provides a safe space to share our doubts, fears, encouragement, and prayer.

Let’s go forth with courage, vulnerability, and an open heart to God’s transformative power, remembering the promise, “The Helper will be with you forever.”

Comments are closed