But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 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. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. (John 16:5-11)
“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.” The Helper, this is a title that Jesus gives to the Holy Spirit, who will come to convict the world of sin righteousness and judgment. This is what the Helper does, this is how he builds the church, sanctifies the bride of Christ. But before the Spirit comes, Jesus must go, and so it is to your advantage, he tells the disciples that I go. Here, in John 16 he is preparing the disciples for his good bye. He is preparing them for his ascension to the Father that will be celebrated at the end of the month. Those of us who have had to say good bye to those we love and care about can understand perhaps, just a little of what Jesus and the disciples must have been feeling as they prepare for what is to come. They aren’t easy, good byes, but sometimes necessary all the same.
Jesus says good bye because it is necessary. It is necessary for the disciples, it is necessary for his church, it is necessary for you. If Jesus doesn’t go, the Spirit, the Helper doesn’t come. Of course then you might start scratching your head a bit as you start poking and prodding into the hidden mysteries of God. The Holy Spirit, the Helper, being God means that he is just as omnipresent as the Father. He is already as present as Jesus is with the Disciples, at least in one manner of speaking. This is akin to the common misconception that the disciples did not receive the Holy Spirit until Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon them manifesting himself with tongues of fire, and allowing them to speak so as to be heard and understood in several languages. But Jesus had given them the Spirit in John 20 just after his resurrection, and you would be hard pressed to convince me that the Spirit hadn’t been with them beforehand as they wandered the wilderness of Israel with Jesus worshiping with him in synagogues across the land preaching the gospel, baptizing, and healing people. But they received the Spirit in a new manner with a new task, and a new manifestation on Pentecost. And this was what Jesus is speaking of here. When Jesus leaves, the Spirit will then convict the world of sin because they do not believe in him, he will convict the world of Righteousness because he goes to the Father and you will see him no more, and of judgment because the ruler of this world is judged.
Oh, it’s beautiful! Now the Spirit has his marching orders! Now he has his task, and it all centers on Jesus Christ! Sin because they do not believe in me! Who thinks of that as sin? Who thinks of it as sin that someone doesn’t believe in Jesus? But it is the heart of sin, unbelief. Unbelief is the chief of sin from which all other sins come, and it is an ugly thing. Today people think that you can be Christian without the church, without going to church, without the sacraments, without preaching and the Lord’s Supper, apart from the communion of saints. It is rank unbelief. You can’t be a Christian and despise the bride of Christ, the church. And the only way a person comes to believe this is if they think being a Christian is about something different than being forgiven children of God. This leads to all manner of hypocritical irony in the life of the church, the kind of which the likes of Flannery O’ Connor would like to make a pillory of in her novels. People trying to keep up the good Christian image end up indulging in the worst of sins to cover up their sins, trying to maintain the image of a respectable Christian, all because they don’t believe in Jesus. This is why faith and repentance are one in the same thing, because unbelief is sin. And those who believe, they understand the necessity of church, of hearing God’s word, of partaking in the sacraments even during the difficult times, even when not everything going on at church is something they agree with. Those who believe in Jesus want to be with him, and know that he is in his church with the forgiveness of sins, tending to his bride. And it is there that the Spirit convicts the world of righteousness because He has gone to the Father and you see him no more.
Where’s the Father? Well the Father is here too. It is in him that we move and have our being, as Paul tells the Athenians explaining to them who this unknown God is that they try to worship in vain. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit one God now and forever. But Jesus leaves the world in one manner that he might be with us in another. Now that he has died and rose from the dead, now he goes to the Father that he would be with you here. This is the amazing thing. “I don’t know why you say good bye I say hello.” The disciples understood this after the ascension. They understood that now that he was nowhere to be found and seen as the man that walked this earth with him, he is now to be found everywhere as the God who died for their sins. Now he is with you, because you are in the Father and the Father is in you! It is in him that we live and breathe, move and have our being, and Jesus is seated at his right hand, that is Jesus shares everything with the Father, and the Father shares everything with the Son, and together they send the Holy Spirit that we may know the ruler of this world is judged!
Satan has been defeated, the father of our unbelief that would have us look to ourselves rather than to Christ, he is judged! He no longer rules over us. Jesus has defeated him and gone to the Father that you and I would have life in his name, the only name given to men under heaven by which we may be saved. It was for this reason it was necessary for Jesus to say good bye, so that he could say hello. That the Holy Spirit would come and build his church, guide her, and comfort her through all trials and tribulations, even when it is necessary to say good bye to those they love, and it perhaps looks as though there is no future for her. It is his church, he is here. He lives and so do you.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.