January 17, 2015 | text: John 14:15-26
Things Change After Jesus:
Part 3, The Comforter Will Come
Under the Old Covenant, people were separated from God. Much of the history in the Old Testament and the Hebrews’ practice of Judaism give us symbols and imagery that help us understand our relationship to God. The original fellowship Adam and Eve enjoyed with God in the garden was affected by sin and the curse. The Law was given to Moses at Sinai to demonstrate what is required to please God, which is no less than sinless perfection. God does not sin and is not tempted to sin. He is holy and only what is holy can come into his presence. God had the plan of salvation in mind but everything that happened between Genesis 3 and the birth of Messiah was a learning experience for mankind. The design of the tabernacle, and later the Jerusalem temple, offers visual tools to illustrate our separation. The veil of separation hung between the holy place and the Most Holy place, or Holy of Holies, where the Spirit of God dwelt. The people assembled in the court of the tabernacle and the priests entered the holy place to offer sacrifice on their behalf. That system was a picture of what was to come. It helps us better understand who Jesus is and what he does for us. The priests offered the blood of bulls, sheep and turtledoves on the altar and once a year the high priest passed through the veil into the Most Holy Place in order to sprinkle the blood of atonement on the mercy seat. Jesus is a more excellent High Priest and offers a perfect sacrifice. Our natural condition is to be separated from God, but because of Jesus we do not have to stay separated. Things change after Jesus.
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. There had been prophets and priests in the Old Testament but Jesus was Emmanuel, God with us. He was nearer to his children than the flame of fire on Mount Sinai or the tabernacle in the center of their camp. You could speak to him, listen to him, even touch him in a physical way. During the earthly life and ministry of Jesus, God walked the face of the earth robed in flesh. During the incarnation, Jesus accepted certain limitations. While certainly an extraordinary individual, there were some things the Son of God could not do as a man. As far as we know, because the scripture does not indicate otherwise, he could only be in one place at a time. While Jesus was on earth, for instance, he was not also in heaven. He regularly prayed to his Father in heaven because he was not in heaven with him. Think about the day he went home with Zacchaeus; there was a multitude of other followers Jesus did not go home with that day. At times Jesus seemed to disappear completely; people would search for him but not find him as he and the disciples would retreat for a period of rest. In the Old Testament people were separated from God. In the Gospels he was near, available to those that would receive him, but limited by geography and the laws of physical science.
Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would come. John 14 calls him another Helper, the Spirit of Truth and the Holy Spirit. After the resurrection and the ascension, the disciples had to wait for the promise. We are blessed to live in the Age of Grace, a time when Jesus ever lives to make intercession and the Holy Spirit is among us. That’s what changes immediately in a very personal way when Jesus comes into our lives. We don’t have to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem once a year because that’s where the temple is. Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well “the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.” “the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth…” (See John 4) We don’t have to wait for the Holy Spirit as the Apostles did. He draws people to Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He lives in the heart of every believer from the moment we are saved. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians “we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7) He goes on to say that while the outer self is wasting away the inner self is renewed day by day. Our source of strength is within us. He blesses us with spiritual gifts by the measure of each one’s faith and he leads, guides and directs us to use those gifts. The use of those spiritual gifts benefits one another and brings glory to God the Father. Jesus told his followers he was the light of the world while he was in the world; that light has shined in our hearts and we are the ones who now shine that same light into a spiritually dark, lost and dying world.
Humanity was separated from God by sin, but he was never far removed. Men and women could call out to him and be heard, and he sent messengers in the form of prophets and sometimes angels to do his work. Jesus walked among men as a man, incarnate deity in a body of flesh and blood, but he only be so close to so many. The indwelling Holy Spirit, which only came after Jesus was here for a little while and then returned to the Father, lives within us. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19). Someday Jesus will come again, take us to the place prepared for us, then all the saints of all the ages will be together in the presence of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As my dad used to say, if that don’t light your fire your wood is wet!