The Fourth Sunday of Easter - Reflection

 ‘[Jesus said]’It is for your good that I am going away. If I go,I will send [the Spirit] to you.’ John 16:7

Brothers and sisters, over the past few Sundays we have been focussing on a whole variety of different things. Today, though, I want us to dive back into the greatest story ever told a story which really happened and focus again on the time immediately after the first Easter, and if it helps think about traffic lights! First, the disciples were told by Jesus to stop to wait in Jerusalem… red light. Don’t go anywhere. As they waited perhaps they remembered the conversation which Jesus had had with them on the Thursday before His death. In John’s Gospel the author records 3 chapters of what Jesus told His disciples on the night before His death…and we have some of that in front of us as our Gospel reading today (John 16:5-15). Jesus had basically said that His disciples were better off without Jesus with them! I imagine they were stunned! From conversations I’ve had, many new Christians, and many Christians who are going through difficult times are tempted to think ‘If only Jesus was actually here; if only I could touch Him, and see Him, and listen to His actual voice; well surely that would be better’. However, Jesus makes it very clear that this isn’t the case. ‘It is better,’ says Jesus ‘that I go’. Verse 7: ‘very truly I tell you, [says Jesus] 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.’ Here Jesus is talking about the Holy Spirit, and Jesus says the only way which Christians will receive the Holy Spirit is if He—if Jesus—returns to the Father and sends the Spirit to them.

Now think for a moment, if Jesus was on earth now—as He was in the first 33 years of His life—He would be in only one place. Maybe He would have stayed in Jerusalem…which I guess is great news for those living in that city, but it’s no use for those living anywhere else. It’s no use to us, those of us living in Chorley if Jesus is in Jerusalem, even with Zoom calls and FaceTime. Jesus being present—as He was before His crucifixion—-isn’t actually that great after all! Jesus knows this, of course, and He promises something far, far better. Jesus promises to live inside each Christian. Jesus promises by His Spirit to enter into every Christian’s heart, and stay with each and every Christian for the rest of their lives. Wherever a Christian goes, whatever a Christian goes through, Jesus by His Spirit will be closer than close; He will be right there with them. This is what the disciples didn’t at first understand and this is what Jesus means when He says: ‘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.’ And so the disciples are to stop, red light, in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit comes. There are other benefits, Jesus tells His disciples, to the Sprit coming. Verse 12: ‘I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.’ In other words, Jesus says: ‘Peter,  Thomas, John, and the rest I’ve been teaching you for three years and I’ve barely scratched the surface; but when you receive the Spirit He will teach you everything you need to know and I will guide you through Him’. This promise is absolutely critical for us, for it is the apostles who will write the New Testament and it is through their words used by the same Spirit which will enable others to become Christians. As we read and hear the Gospel today, these words of Truth are only available because the Holy Spirit guided and helped John—one of the eye-witnesses and disciples of Jesus—to remember them and write them down. Do you see it really is better that Jesus leaves? Better for the disciples, and better for us? So the disciples are told to wait, to stop in Jerusalem…the disciples are at a red light.

Well the disciples have been waiting at the lights, they have been waiting in Jerusalem, and it’s been ok. However, the disciples have a job to do, and it’s no use if they stay stopped at the lights forever. So forty days after Jesus’ resurrection it finally came time for Jesus to properly leave them as He ascended to heaven. We celebrate His ascension a week on Thursday, and celebrate it we shall, for today we have been reminded why it is good that He went. The Ascension, then, was the Amber light, it was telling the disciples to ‘get ready,’ and ‘get ready’ to do what…well to go! To go into all the world and tell everyone they met about Jesus. They had a mission to complete, a mission to the ends of the earth, but they couldn’t complete it without the Spirit. Now today isn’t Ascension, and today isn’t Pentecost (the day when the Spirit was given) so we won’t go into too much detail, but merely to say that Ascension was the amber light, and the giving of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost was the green light, the signal to go. And go the disciples did, and through them—with the help of the Holy Spirit—many millions, if not billions of people, have chosen to follow Jesus. However, what does this mean for us? Perhaps, it is the comfort of knowing that if you follow Jesus He will always be with you by His Spirit! Maybe you’re facing a difficult time right now and perhaps that truth is the one you need to hear right now. Perhaps, it is the hope you get from knowing that the Holy Spirit will lead you as you study God’s word and as you seek to explain it to your unbelieving family; your efforts to tell them about Jesus isn’t just down to you and your strength alone. Perhaps for others it is the strength we will be given by the Holy Spirit as we battle those sins and temptations which we seem to be always struggling with! With such a diverse group of people, there will be no one simple take away point, except perhaps this: you do not need to wait at the stop sign. Jesus is calling you to follow Him now, you have a green light! So with the help of the Holy Spirit: go in peace to love and serve the Lord. In the name of Christ. Amen. (from Fr Mike).