THE DEPARTING OF CHRIST, #747
Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you (JOH 16:7).
Our Saviour is telling the advantages His church obtained by His physical departure from their midst. As long as He was present with His church in bodily form they would not have a spiritual religion. They were looking for an earthly kingdom. They did not understand His spiritual kingdom. They did not understand Him ruling on the throne of their hearts.
Sorrow had filled the hearts of His disciples with anxiety about their future. They had left everything to follow the Lord Jesus in hope that they would be part of His kingdom, and He is talking about going away. They felt forsaken. They were anxious about the future. Where do we go from here? This is what distracted them from understanding what He had told them, such as in MAT 16:21. "From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day." He told them exactly what would happen but they did not understand it. They did not even have a physical understanding, much less a spiritual one, of what the atonement was about.
The ignorance of His disciples with regard to His atoning work reveals itself in MAT 16:22-23. "Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offense unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men." Peter was reasoning with human logic. He did not understand the spiritual meaning of the death of Christ. Christ was telling them that after He died and rose again the Holy Spirit would come and they would understand. Just a few verses after praising Peter, Jesus tells him, "Get behind me Satan." He is telling Peter that He is in the spirit of Satan, the spirit of unbelief, that he is reasoning with the flesh.
As Jesus told His disciples that He was departing, he also told them what they could expect from the world. JOH 16:5-6 says, "But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart." They did not ask because they did not understand what Jesus had told them. They did not understand the doctrine of atonement until the day of Pentecost, and then they boldly proclaimed it to those who had gathered in Jerusalem. So often we have sorrow because of present circumstances that we cannot understand what the Lord is doing. They had so much sorrow that He was leaving that they had no conception of what He had told them.
JOH 13:37 says, "Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake." Peter did not understand that Jesus needed to go alone to make atonement for the sins of His church.
Our Saviour told His disciples what you and I, as well as they, must expect from the real world when we live by the Spirit of Christ. JOH 16:1-2 says, "These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service." How often have we been offended when things happen that God said would happen? Then the Holy Spirit opens our understanding and we see Gods hand in it. The professed church, the church leaders, will put you out of the church. By nature this would offend us. They will put you out of the church that you love so dearly and where your family still attends.
The Apostle Paul was brought up at the feet of Gamaliel. He was one of the church dignitaries, and he killed those who served Christ, thinking he was doing God service. The Apostle Paul was not a devil, but he was serving the devil. This is what the Lord Jesus means when He tells us, "I came not to send peace but a sword." This happens because the Lord is going to find out whether you put anything before Him. Can you give up family and everything for the name of Christ?
The Lord Jesus had just told them in JOH 15:26-27, "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning." You will be able to bear witness of being put out of the synagogue and suffering affliction for Christs sake.
The very character the Lord ascribed unto the third person of the Trinity should have arrested their attention. The fact that the Holy Spirit is called the Comforter, means that you can expect a heart filled with sorrow. This showed that they would go through many trials and difficulties, which would crucify the flesh. This should have quieted their fears. This should have helped them go through these difficulties by faith and not by sight.
Then most faithfully the Saviour proceeded to warn His disciples-and us-of the treatment we can expect from the world. Our Saviour has recorded many and rich promises in His Word about entering His kingdom-which His true disciples can look forward to-but with equal plainness He also told us what we will need to forsake. Can you have faith that you will enter His kingdom and also have faith that you will have your flesh crucified? Can you accept it as from the Lord and not have a heart of bitterness and revenge? This should cause us to pray for those who despitefully use us. MAT 19:29 says, "And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my names sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life." In the same promise of the kingdom He forewarns of the trials we will experience along that same path. The rich promise has a thorny path to get there.
In this life we will find what it is to fellowship in our Saviours reproach, which He bore to redeem us from all iniquity. HEB 13:12-13 says, "Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach." Jesus suffered without the gate as an unclean person. He bore our reproach, and we will fellowship in His reproach.
Our Saviour told His disciples that they would be hated by the world, but we must not hold too narrow a view of who that is. To convert the true church the professing church has popularized religion and offered entertainment enough to make religion more palatable, but they are the sworn enemies of any who truly live and walk in the Spirit of Christ. In some church services, after the entertainment, the pastor has only five or ten minutes left. Let those same religious people talk to someone who lives by the Spirit of Christ and desires to exalt Christ, and he will find who his sworn enemies are. When the Lord Jesus is talking about the world, He is talking about religious world.
This is who Jesus spoke of in JOH 16:2. "They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service." The religious world will put you out when you start showing them that the Word of God calls for repentance, turning from sin and becoming a new man. They may not kill you physically but they will try to put your light out. If you show them the authority of the Word of God and how they are making a whole religion out of private interpretations and that they have a religion outside of the Bible, they will treat you as the dust of the street.
So why was our Saviour telling His disciples these things as He bid them farewell? JOH 16:1 says, "These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended." He said these things so they would not get offended and apostatize. This word offended comes from the Greek word scandalizo (scan-dal-id-zo, scandalize), which means "to entrap, trip up, stumble, entice to sin, apostasy, to be snared, to offend." The Lord Jesus does not want you to be ensnared in the professing churchs fantasy religion.
The world wants us to accept homosexuals and homosexuality. I am not coming against homosexuals, but I am coming against their doctrine. I find that the Bible says that homosexuality is a judgment sent by God upon those who worship and serve the creature more than the Creator. We must pray for the people who have been ensnared by it. For judgment God also gives people over to a reprobate mind, a mind void of good judgment. The Bible does not give women the freedom to choose whether to have abortions, and those churches who support women doing so are wrong. We must stand on the authority of the Word of God. 1PE 5:6-9 says, "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world." Do not be offended when they put you out of their company. Do not be offended when they will not walk with you. Our consolation is that we are not alone. Other Christians are treated this way too.
The Lord does not allow these afflictions without a purpose. 1PE 5:10 says, "But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you." We have to be settled in what we know so that when the wind blows and the floods come, all the trifles in this life will not shake that foundation.
Our Great Shepherd warned His sheep even as His under-shepherds must constantly instruct in meekness, warning the flock of the snares of the devil. There is no lording in the flock of Christ. There is no one over another. The Lord has a flock and there is one Shepherd, and that Shepherd is Christ. Where there is strife and contention, the Holy Spirit does not dwell. He works where there is love, meekness, joy and temperance. 2TI 2:24-26 says, "And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will." He must teach in the Spirit of Christ. He must not go with an iron hand even to those who are destroying themselves. They have fallen, and we must beseech them in the Spirit of Christ. Repentance is a gift of God.
The disciples of Jesus were human and of like passions even as we are. When Jesus spoke with them about the way of the cross they came up with what seemed to be legitimate concerns about their reward for following Him in the way of the cross. MAT 19:27-29 says, "Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." Jesus is telling them that if they follow Him in this life in the way of the cross they will reign with Him in glory.
Many of the things our Saviours disciples must suffer are much more grievous than what meets the eye. Something that looks so trifling to others, to you it can be like a broken tooth that you have put cold water on. When we are being separating from the church we love so dearly, when we are separated from our friends and associates and often from our own children, it is a pain that words cannot describe. At what point do we become offended? At what point do we give up and want to be part of the popular church? The Lord Jesus is warning us of a grievousness beyond what meets the eye. They do not understand the grief that goes through your soul when you leave the church. The hatred of the world reveals itself in the state of the mental agony they afflict.
When I was en route to Salt Lake City to visit an attorney, a man next to me on the airplane, after I had told him why I was visiting an attorney, told me, "Scientifically you could not have lived through two years of that, and I am fully convinced that when you explain the strategy they used, that they had intended to have you in the grave in two years and that they would take your farm. Those people planned how to bring such mental hell and torture that it would actually cause you to lose your life." He explained how frustration and mental agony would cause cancer or bleeding ulcers, and asked why I had not died from this.
The Lord Jesus was forsaken of His disciples. Can you see how Satan was hanging on the heels of Christ trying to get Him to become discouraged, trying to get Him to be offended, trying to entice Him to forsake His church? Think of the internal pain that our lovely Saviour suffered as He bore our sins upon the tree. Satan and all his host tried to drag Him down from the cross so He would not redeem His church. We will share in that reproach. We are not going to suffer what Christ suffered, but we will have enough of it to be touched by it even as He can be touched with our infirmities. How will we understand that unless we get a taste of it?
JOH 16:2 says, "They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service." As with our Saviour, the most painful persecution for those who are the light of the world comes from the religious world. Can you imagine the pain that our Saviour suffered when He came to His own and His own received Him not? He was a man with feelings. He was created in the likeness of sinful flesh, yet without sin. He had love and He was able to suffer in His soul. We must understand some of this in order to have a glimpse of what Christ suffered in our behalf.
The world is incensed when they see Christ formed in you. JOH 3:19 says, "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." When you truly reflect the Spirit of Christ, that reflection condemns and that is why they hate you.
All these things that we need to expect from the world is what our Saviour told His disciples, to urge upon them how they would be better off by His departure. It was because of their intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus that His disciples had come to think that His personal presence was indispensable. It is just like us. We think that to be part of this religious body is indispensable, and that is why the Lord weans us from it, to show us that only Christ is indispensable. They were still walking by sight, looking for an earthly kingdom with their reward in this life. Therefore, it was expedient for Him to take their eyes off the flesh before they could understand and accept His character and work of redemption by faith.
We have not lost our Lord by His departure from this world. The Holy Spirit comes, and now we have a spiritual kingdom. With the Holy Spirit in us we can crucify the flesh. Our Lord tells us how this Third Person of the Trinity will Comfort His people. He comforts us by lifting up Jesus before the eye of faith. JOH 16:13-14 says, "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you."
When we think that all hope is lost, right in those footprints the Holy Spirit will lift Christ up and show us that we are nothing but walking in His footsteps, and we will see such beauty in the Lord Jesus Christ because we see what He went through in our behalf. That makes Christ so precious and the cross so light and it makes His yoke so easy because we come to delight to walk in His footsteps knowing that we are following the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls.
It was expedient, or for our advantage, that He should go away, for it was part of the work the Father had given Him to do to taste of death for His church. JOH 17:4 says, "I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." This work of our Saviour ever goes on as long as the world is in existence.
ROM 8:34 shows us why it was expedient that Christ went away. "Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." That is the role that He took, to come to that place. None of our prayers would ever get above the ceiling if it were not for the intercession of Christ. Christ takes those prayers and brings them before the Father on the basis of His merit. He is there to take every groan, to take every cry, to save every tear that we shed and to place it before His Father. Because He does it in His own merit, justice demands that the Father forgive and acquit us because His justice has been satisfied.
Christs personal relationship to us is wholly independent of His physical presence. Some teach that in the communion service we have His physical presence, and that is not true. He has ascended into heaven and will remain there until He returns in the clouds. 1PE 1:7-9 says, "That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls." The Holy Spirit, the Comforter, takes those things of Christ, and reveals them to us, and we learn to love Him. We learn to have a relationship with Christ in a spiritual sense. It was necessary for Him to leave, because if He were still here in His physical presence, people would look at His physical presence and not have any understanding of His spiritual kingdom that dwells in the heart. That kingdom comes with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and that is why it was expedient that He go away.
As our Intercessor, our Saviour is ever more ready to hear than we are to pray. How often we mope and grope and sorrow and we forget to pray. When we live in the Spirit, when anything troubles us, our hearts immediately go out to Christ because He is ever attentive and ready to intercede. As this chapter reveals, He is intimately aware of our every pain and affliction. The Lord Jesus knows before we ask what we stand in need of.
Jesus was thinking more of the suffering of His loved ones than of the horrible death and agony He was about to suffer in their behalf, but He was not complaining to them and asking for their sympathy. He was sympathizing with their sorrow. Rather than dwell upon the agony He was about to suffer, Jesus speaks of their advantage, which they would obtain by His departure. He told them what they would gain by His suffering and death even though they did not understand what He was saying.
This is the same word in the Greek that is translated as expedient, which we find in JOH 11:50. The high priest of the nation of Israel said: "Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not." The high priest spoke of a far greater benefit than he understood. His main concern was that the Romans would come and take his place, but the great benefit was that our Great High Priest took his place. HEB 7:23-24 says, "And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood." What a beautiful demonstration that the ways of God are higher than our ways. In order to save his position as high priest he brought about the Lord Jesus Christ taking his position and that his priesthood was abolished.
Think of the profit we have from His going away. How was His going away for our gain? What is our Lord doing now? Look at HEB 7:25. "Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them." The high priest was to take the sacrifice, to confess the sins, and put the sacrifice on the altar and make an atonement. That is what Christ has done. He entered once with the sacrifice of His own body to make atonement, putting His own blood on the mercy seat, and makes continual intercession for us on the basis that the atonement has been made and thereby the sins are forgiven. Sins are forgiven by the atoning blood, which was signified by all the burnt offerings, which was signified in the Aaronic priesthood. Aarons priesthood signified the priesthood of Christ. That is why it was abolished.
At His ascension our Saviour "sat down at the right hand of God." This is the posture of our Great High Priest. He does not prostrate Himself as a beggar but He sits side by side with the Father, pleading His wounded-but-glorified humanity as our sacrifice for sin. He comes to plead His finished work.
1JO 2:1-2 says, "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." An advocate is the attorney who represents your case before the court. You and I cannot plead our own case. We need the advocacy of the Lord Jesus Christ because He pleads His own righteousness, His own finished work. This uninterrupted intercession of our Heavenly High Priest is the advantage we have by our Saviours leaving this world with His physical presence.
So often we may think "all these things are against us," as Jacob said in GEN 42:36, but it is because we are walking by sight and not by faith when we feel this way.
His disciples were saddened by the departure of the Lord Jesus, but His going away was needful. Jesus said, "I tell you the truth." That personal pronoun I is emphatic in the Greek. I who love you. I who am about to lay down my life for you. Therefore you must believe what I am saying. "I tell you the truth." Jesus was telling them unless He went away, unless He died, nothing would change. You will continue in your sin. You will remain under the ceremonial law. The heathen will remain in their blindness. Therefore Jesus said to them in JOH 16:6-7, "But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you." Amen.
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