“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 NIV
Since Eden, God has been moving closer.
Things were very close in the garden. Adam and Eve walked with God in the cool of the day. They were close to him and to each other. They felt no guilt and no shame. And then, someone ate an apple. Ok, to be fair, they both ate the apple.
Now there is guilt, now there is shame, and now there is distance. And even though Adam and Eve were banished from Eden, God has been in pursuit of bringing heaven to earth and moving closer to humanity.
For a while, the Ark of the Covenant helped out. Wherever the people went, they took the image of the presence of God with them. And then, when they stopped, they erected the Tabernacle so God could have a home. But this wasn’t good enough.
So finally, the temple was built. Now God wasn’t nomadic and homeless. He had a palace to reside in. The people knew where he was, they could visit him when they wanted, and the Priest could make sacrifices for them in a permanent Holy of Holies—it seemed pretty good. But God wasn’t satisfied. He wanted to get closer.
So he put on skin and walked among us. Jesus, the very presence of God, was now able to give a bear hug, rare back with laughter, look someone in the eyes, eat his mom’s cookies, build a chair with dad, and sing with his friends around a campfire. God in a bod. He was close.
And John thought this must be as good as it gets. His best friend, who loves him, is with him, cares for him, and will never leave him… oh wait, now Jesus just said he’s leaving. Where is He going? And why would He leave them?
It seems like God is going in the opposite direction. He’s moving further.
But Jesus says not further. Closer.
“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” John 16:13-15 NIV
Jesus says if I don’t leave, then I can’t send someone better than me. If I don’t leave, then the Spirit of God can’t come. If I don’t leave, then I can’t get closer.
Some 50 days after the resurrection, that is exactly what happens. God gets closer. Closer than a building, closer than skin, but now within. The Holy Spirit arrives like a rushing wind and takes up residence in them.
John will see evidence of this at every miracle he performs, he will notice the Spirit of Jesus in every message that he preaches. He will sense the comfort of his friend in every lonely night in a prison cell. Jesus loves us by not just coming for us and not just coming back but by residing in us.
God got closer.
Holy Spirit, thank you for getting God closer.