Connections 06.12.2022: The Spirit of Unfinished Business

John 16:1-15

There are times in our lives when we feel the despair of the psalmist crying “How long, O Lord?” (Ps 13:1) and the urgency of the visionary praying “Come quickly, Lord Jesus” (Rev 22:20). We look around at all that is broken, all that is wrong, all that is unjust and unholy, and we think, “How long, O Lord? If only you would hurry back to repair, to right, to justify and sanctify! Come quickly, Lord Jesus!”

In John 16, Jesus is preparing his disciples for the day when he will no longer be with them. We yearn for his return; they dread his going away. It’s easy to imagine them looking around at the state of their world and saying, “How can you leave us in the middle of all this?” because we look around at the state of ours and say, “Surely you’ll come back soon and do something about all this!” But his response to his followers’ concerns is not exactly the pep talk they may have wanted. It is certainly not the encouraging word most of us look for from motivational speakers and share-worthy memes. This isn’t a warm, fuzzy, feel-good moment between him and his disciples. Jesus sees clearly what danger they are in, and where the danger is coming from. (Spoiler: the danger is not from the scary world out there, but from the self-appointed guardians of the religious tradition. Some things, apparently, never change.)

Jesus is preparing them for what they will face; he says, “I have said these things to you to keep you from falling away” (v. 1), “so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them” (v. 4). None of this is a surprise. He’s giving them a heads up.

He is personally invested in their understanding of the truth; he says, “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you” (v. 4). They learned from watching him, from being in his presence.

He is not finished teaching them; he says, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now” (v. 12). He gets it: they are overwhelmed. Sad. Scared. It is all too much.

Some things, apparently, never change.

But he tells them a surprising truth: “it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate cannot come to you, but if I go, I will send him to you” (v. 8). Jesus’ business is unfinished and he knows it, and he also knows that his mission is not to finish it. It seems unreal that Jesus going away is “to your advantage”—how can it be better for Jesus to be gone? But, he promises, another one will come who is just as trustworthy, just as truthful, just as committed to God’s glory. Another one will come to take up the work of discipling Jesus’ followers, declaring God’s ways, and delivering God’s messages. Another one will come to meet the disciples’ need for comfort and guidance.

The Spirit is still at work, comforting and guiding Jesus’ disciples. When we ask, “How long?” the Spirit speaks now. When we pray, “Come quickly,” the Spirit is here.

Discussion

  • When have you felt the kind of despair that led you to think, “How long, O Lord?” When have you felt a strong sense of yearning for Jesus’ return, causing you to pray, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus”?
  • How do you understand the relationship between Jesus and the Holy Spirit? How does the Spirit continue the work Jesus started? When have you witnessed the Spirit’s work and come to know Christ better?
  • How can you seek the Spirit’s guidance? How can you experience the Spirit’s comfort? How does the Spirit help you to hear God’s voice and understand Jesus’ teachings?
  • Does the presence of the Spirit help you to feel reassurance as you wait for and work toward the coming of God’s kingdom?

Nikki Finkelstein-Blair is the lead editor of Connections. She is a graduate of Samford University and Central Baptist Theological Seminary, and as a military spouse has had nine (at last count) different hometowns in the past 20 years. She and her husband Scott and sons Sam and Levi live in the Washington D.C. area. In recent years, Nikki has written Smyth & Helwys curricula as well as devotionals for d365.org and Baptist Women in Ministry. She weaves clergy stoles, knits almost anything, and dreams of making her dreadful novel drafts into readable books. She blogs about faith and making things at amovingyarn.com.

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