“If only I had been alive when Jesus was walking the earth. Things would be so much simpler. It would have been so much easier to believe. If I had a question, I could just go ask him and he’d clear everything up. Yeah…I wish I had lived back then when trying to be a Christ follower.”
Have you ever thought those thoughts? Many people do, I know I certainly have.
The thing is, based on what we learn from the Gospel of John (as well as the rest of the New Testament), that line of thinking is flawed. For one thing, there’s no evidence given in the Gospels that Jesus’ disciples had an easier time of believing than we do. In actuality, maybe just the opposite. Those who were closest to him were still so unsure about him that betrayal and denial were still ready options. When push came to shove their lack of certitude about him made it easier for all of them to run and hide rather than stand with him in his arrest.
One could argue that they didn’t start taking shape as solid believers until after he wasn’t with them physically.
The reason for that may be found in the passage we’ll be reading this Sunday, John 14:15-31.
Notice that Jesus doesn’t say “If you keep my commandments I’ll love you”. The only “if” of this statement is connected to our love for him. Obeying isn’t a condition required in order to be loved…it’s a symptom of a condition of love. How does living by Christ’s teachings reveal love?
Jesus introduces the Holy Spirit to us in this passage. Jesus seems to indicate that our journey with him will be that much more stable because he’s sent the Holy Spirit in his stead. Now, instead of being with the Holy Spirit as he’s operated through Jesus, he will be in us, guiding, teaching and helping us on our way. That indicates a quantum leap in our journey. Think of it – a 24 / 7 Counselor and Friend within us, available to us at all times. He will teach us and guide us and empower us. What of life’s puzzles and dilemmas do you bring to the Helper? How has His presence in you provided guidance for your life?
Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will teach us and lead us into truth? If He is the teacher, how can we properly understand the role and place of “teachers” in the Body of Christ?
Just as he’s about to be arrested and crucified – with the launch of the church in view with all of the persecution and turmoil it has faced throughout history – Jesus says he will leave us with peace. How can we understand what he’s saying? How can we be peaceful even when there is turmoil surrounding us?
The characteristics of this relationship with God are profound. God IN us manifests in our lives as love, discovery and peace. For as much as I’d really like to see Jesus, I still think we’re better off where we are right now.
This should prove to be an interesting (albeit heady) exploration this Sunday. Hope to see you there!