Israel had a rich tradition of rabbis and their students. A wise teacher would attract a band of followers and carefully instruct them in all the things that he wanted them to know. Over years of lessons and interaction, there would grow a close connection between the teacher and his pupils.
And so when a rabbi died, his bereaved disciples were often described as “orphans.” They were like parentless children, like youths without a legal guardian. Now there was no longer someone to lead them—they were on their own.
In the tradition of the Jewish rabbis, Jesus led and taught his disciples for years. And He knew they feared the day of being alone. So on the eve of his death, Jesus speaks comfort and hope. His words in John 14 have a Trinitarian theme. He tells them about the Father’s heavenly house, about the Son’s mission to do the Father’s will, and about the promised Counselor, the Holy Spirit.
Jesus is leaving, but this good rabbi won’t abandon his students as orphans. He says that He is going to come to them yet. He would be gone, but not absent! Ten short days after ascending, He would send them the Spirit.
Even as the disciples are despatched into all the world to testify about the Christ, and even as they face opposition and encounter a lot of unbelief, Jesus says in John 14:18,
I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
After He ascends, the good Teacher will send the Spirit. And not just any Spirit, He will send his Spirit. He is a Spirit so connected to Christ, a Spirit so full of Christ, that it would be like Christ himself was still among them! “I will come to you.” This is how Jesus can say to his disciples just before He departs for heaven, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt 28:20).
This beautiful truth lives on today in this place. He has ascended, but Christ is with us. As God’s children, whoever we are, wherever we are, whatever we are doing, Jesus comes to us, He draws near to us, and He stays among us. By the Spirit we get to enjoy true communion with Christ.
Compare it to how we value being connected to people in our life, in touch and aware of loved ones. Maybe we have a family WhatsApp group which keeps us daily connected with the happenings of siblings and parents, nephews and nieces. In a far more intimate way, the Spirit daily links us to our Saviour’s love. He connects us to his power and his grace. The Spirit takes the gospel of Christ and makes it known to us.
For the Spirit is always pointing not at himself, but pointing to Christ and his glory. The Spirit is always lighting up the cross, so that we see it clearly and move towards it!
The Holy Spirit sets Christ before us so that we embrace him with the arms of faith. We are invited to receive his gospel with great joy, and we are encouraged to find all our confidence in the cross.
In the age of the Spirit, that is Christ’s promise: “I will come to you. In the hard times. In the good times. I will come to you in happiness and sadness. In days of contentment, and anxiety.”
Through his Spirit, our Saviour is always near: to bless, to guide, to comfort, restore and forgive. For He has united himself to us, like a rabbi and his students, like a head and its body, like a shepherd and his sheep.
It means Christ doesn’t forget us when we’re grappling with uncertainty nor overlook us when we’re grieving. He’s not out of earshot when we cry in a prayer of pain. He says, “You can’t see me right now, but you’re not an orphan. You won’t face this all by yourself. But I will come to you. And I will stay with you.”
Through the Holy Spirit, the words of the old prayer are true:
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise.
Every moment of every day, by his Spirit our Saviour is very close, He is ever near.
It is a rich comfort and it’s a holy calling. As his believers, we cannot run from his presence. We cannot minimize the Lord to a small corner of our life when that’s convenient. He is with us. So God says, “Be holy, just as I am holy.”
Show in everything that you’re one with the Lord, connected to the Saviour. So how will we speak to one another with Christ hearing every word? What kind of choices do we make with Christ seeing every decision? What kind of places do we go with Christ standing near? Christ dwells in us like God used to dwell in the temple, a temple that must be holy and pure, most fitting for a holy inhabitant.
Christ with me, Christ in me, Christ before me, making us not orphans, but sons and daughters, and brothers and sisters!