By J.R. Miller
"Now I am going to him who sent me--yet none of you asks me, 'Where are you going?' Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief."
The disciples were in great sorrow. Jesus had told them that He was going to leave them, and they were so absorbed in thoughts of their loss and so overwhelmed that they had not even thought to ask Him where He was going or why He was going away. He seems here to complain of them for this. Their conduct showed selfishness; they were nor interested in His glory, but were absorbed in their own grief and loss. It showed also lack of faith, for they were in danger of losing their hope in Him as the Messiah.
We may get a lesson here for ourselves when called to endure bereavement. We are in danger of making the same mistake. When God takes away from us our beloved friends, we are apt to think only of ourselves and our own earthly loss--and not of the joy and glory into which our Christian friends have gone. Is there not in this an element of selfishness? Is it right that we should think only of what we have lost in their departure, and not of what they have gained? Is it not unbelief that sees only the sorrow and the gloom--and not the light that is behind the gloom? Should we not be willing to stiffer loss to ourselves, when what is loss to us is eternal gain to those we love? We train ourselves in the fellowships and experiences of life to endure cost and hardship, that our friends may be helped, benefited, or made happier. Shall we not exercise the same spirit of unselfish affection toward our loved ones who have gone from us into glory, when we suffer loneliness and must bear the double burdens which are ours because they are not with us?
The disciples thought that Christ's going away would be an irretrievable loss for them. It seemed the crushing of all their hopes. They saw no silver lining whatever in the dark cloud that was gathering. But now Jesus says to them, "It is for your good that I am going away." There was a silver lining after all in that black cloud. What seemed an irreparable loss, would prove in the end a gain. They did not understand it now--but here were the Master's words assuring them of it.
The same is true in the case of Christ's disciples now when He calls away their human friends. We can readily see how it is well for our believing friends, when Christ takes them home. They exchange earth--for heaven, sin-for holiness, and pain--for eternal joy. But how about the friends who are left with bleeding hearts to walk on, lonely and sad over earth's ways? This word of Christ replies, "It is for your good that I am going away."
The young wife whose husband is called from her may believe that it is better for him to be with Christ. He is doing more exalted service. He sees His Lord's face. His wife, who stays behind, has to meet life's tasks and responsibilities alone, and misses the joy of companionship. But she, too, has her gain. She learns lessons in the hardness of her loneliness, which she never would have learned in the sheltered and pampered care of love. The finer possibilities of life are brought out in her. Burden-bearing develops her womanly strength. She grows into a strength and a beauty of character which she never would have attained, if she had not lost the companionship which made life so restful and quiet. We cannot understand now, and neither could the disciples understand how Christ's departure could be better for them, than His staying with them would have been. Afterwards they knew; and afterwards we shall know, too, how even for us the going away of our Christian friends will become a blessing, if we in faith submit ourselves to God.
The disciples had no thought that when Jesus was gone from them, He would be more to them than He ever had been in His bodily presence. "Unless I go away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you." Many people wish they could have known Christ as His personal disciples and other friends knew Him. They think it would have been so much easier to have loved and trusted Him if they could have seen His face, and heard His words, and felt His
touch--if they could have gone to Him with all their questions and perplexities and could have had His help in every experience of need. But Christ Himself says that His staying with His disciples would have been a loss to them, and that His going away would be a gain.
Christ has not left the world; He was never so really present with His own disciples when they could see Him--as He afterward was, when they could not see Him. The presence of the Holy Spirit in the world, is a greater blessing than Christ's continued bodily presence would have been. It is the same presence in a form that can do infinitely more for us. There are limitations to physical presence--but there are no limitations to the divine Spirit. We have lost none of the blessing which those who knew Christ in the flesh enjoyed; on the other hand, He is far more to us now than He was to the first disciples. In the body He could not be present in even two places at the same time; in the Spirit He can be with millions of people in different lands at the same moment!
Jesus tells His disciples of the work the Spirit will do, when He comes. "When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment." The first work of the Spirit is not pleasant work--but painful. He crushes--before He heals. He brings terror--before He brings joy. He comes first of all--to show us our sins. As His light shines upon us--we see the stains in our hearts. As His holiness is revealed--it shows us how unholy we are.
Then, as He lifts the veil, we have a glimpse of the judgment when we must stand before God's bar. Yet this is not unkind work; He shows us our guilt and peril, not to trouble us--but to save us, and then, when we have seen our need and danger--He points us to Jesus Christ the Savior!
Some tourists once lost their way in the Alps as night came on. They groped about for a time, not knowing where they were, and at length a terribly violent storm burst upon them, and a lightning flash showed them that they were standing on the very edge of a fearful precipice; a few steps more, and they would have been hurled to death. It was a kind storm that by its lurid flash revealed to them their peril, because thereby it saved them. Terrible are the convicting flashes of the Spirit, sometimes striking terror into the soul; but they are merciful flashes, for they are meant to save.
"In regard to sin, because men do not believe in me." The sin of which the Holy Spirit convicts--is the sin of unbelief. So the worst of sins--is the rejection of Christ. He is the Son of God who came to the world to prepare and bring salvation. People think that murder is the worst sin, and they think that stealing and lying are terrible sins--and so they are. But do we ever think that no other sin we can possibly commit is so base and so soul-destroying, as the sin of unbelief in Christ? We should think of this. Unbelievers are very ready to pick flaws in the conduct of professing Christians, and they congratulate themselves that, while they do not believe in Christ, they are better than those who do. They do not remember that, as evil as their other sins are, their unbelief is the blackest of them all in God's sight! No moral goodness, however beautiful it may be, makes one acceptable in God's sight--while Jesus Christ is rejected in the heart and shut away from the life. It is a terrible thing to reject the Son of God, who comes to us to be our Savior.
"But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth." Part of the work of the Spirit, is to lead us into ever fuller and deeper knowledge. We never can know the truth, if the Spirit is not our teacher. We cannot understand the Bible, unless the Spirit makes it plain. Men of great intellectual powers have listened to sermons of which they could understand scarcely a word; while some plain, unlettered woman, with threadbare garments, sitting in some back gallery seat, understood every word, her heart being enlightened and thrilled by the blessed truths. She was taught by the Spirit. There are devout men who never open the Bible without a prayer that God would show them its meaning.
We must remember also that it is as a guide that the Spirit comes to us. He does not promise to teach us Himself; He will not make any new revelation to us; He teaches through Biblical truth. He comes to guide us to the understanding of the truths already revealed in Scripture. He honors God's Word, and comes not as a teacher of new truth--but as an interpreter of Scripture truth. There is no doubt about the Spirit's readiness to help us into the deepest things of the Scriptures, if we are truly ready to follow His guidance. But we must be willing to receive the truth without question, though it sweeps away all our own opinions; and to accept it as a rule of our life, though it revolutionizes all our conduct.
The great work of the Spirit, is to make Christ known. "He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you." Even the divine Spirit does not preach Himself--but, remaining unseen, points men to Christ. The Spirit glorifies Christ; that is, makes Him glorious in the eyes of men. As the world saw Jesus, He was far from lovely. His visage was marred; He was despised; He died on a cross of shame; His name was hated and covered with defamation. But the Spirit came and poured such light upon Him, that He appears all glorious in His beauty! In all the world there is no other face so lovely, so radiant--as the face of Jesus Christ. Men who have hated Him, seeing Him only dimly--when the Spirit reveals Him to them as He really is--see Him as the chief among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely one.