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Better Off With(out) Jesus

No one likes to be abandoned. It’s a helpless, hopeless experience. Yet that’s exactly what the disciples of Jesus were feeling on the night he was betrayed.

They were gathered in a private room, Jesus and his 12 closest followers, having dinner. First Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, something that made them more than a little uncomfortable but spoke volumes about how much he loved them. Next Jesus predicted that one of his close followers would betray him, while yet another would deny him three times.

Picture yourself in that room, surprised to hear that any of you would betray and deny Jesus. This is your friend and teacher, someone you have come to love and respect, a spiritual leader you have watched perform miracles. Why would he think any of you would turn your back on him, especially after he washed your feet?

And then, Jesus says something that shakes you to your core: “I am going to leave you.”

In the moments after Jesus said these startling words, there must have been a sense of abandonment. Why would you leave us? What will we do? Where will we go? Such feelings and questions are common. We all fear abandonment because we know how it feels. Sometimes we feel abandoned by God when we don’t sense his presence, when his voice seems silent.

Later that night Judas would betray Jesus. Peter would deny Jesus not once, but three times. The next day Jesus would be crucified and buried, only to rise again. Forty days later, he would leave the earth, but not before telling those who were watching, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.”

It was a staggering promise, one the disciples may not have fully grasped. But if they were paying attention, his words would have reminded them of something he said at dinner on that fateful evening six weeks earlier:

But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7)

So this is what Jesus meant when he said, “I am going to leave you.” It was never about abandonment. It was about fulfilling a promise. Jesus had to leave so the promised Holy Spirit—the Advocate, Comforter, Intercessor, and Counselor—could come.

Jesus left his disciples physically, and in doing so he left them and all who would follow him from that day forward something far greater than his physical presence. He left the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity who is called “the Spirit of Christ,” because it is the work of the Holy Spirit to reveal Christ to us.

Jesus spoke to his followers from outside their human bodies; the Holy Spirit is a spiritual presence who speaks to us from within our very beings. Jesus was a great teacher and leader; the Holy Spirit is our supernatural Helper and Guide who gives us strength and joy. Jesus could only be at one place at one time; the Holy Spirit is everywhere in the hearts of all believers.

Jesus paid the ultimate price of dying for us so our sins could be forgiven. The Holy Spirit brings the past sacrifice of Jesus into the present by his presence in us. As Oswald Chambers wrote,

The Holy Spirit alone makes Jesus real

The Holy Spirit alone expounds His cross

The Holy Spirit along convicts of sin

The Holy Spirit does in us what Jesus did for us

Jesus is everything, but we are better off without His physical presence. Because of the promise Jesus gave us, we have the Spirit of Christ in us and with us—guiding, helping, counseling and convicting us even as He reveals deeper spiritual realities to us, always directing our hearts and our minds to Jesus.

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Stan's entire life has been wrapped in content: selling, writing and publishing books and resources that help ordinary people capture a glimpse of extraordinary things.