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Promised Presence

In today’s technological age, family members can now easily stay in touch with each other even when they are separated by thousands of miles. Through WhatsApp, Skype, iMessage, and more, distance no longer needs to keep people from talking and seeing one another.

When Jesus announced to His disciples that He would be departing from Earth, He offered something far better than a video chat to stay in touch. His bodily presence would be replaced with the coming of “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit” (14:26). The name itself, Advocate, means “one who comes alongside.” With Christ’s departure, we now have one who remains with us. Our hearts should not be troubled, for Jesus has left us His peace (14:27).

The Holy Spirit brings us more than merely a sense of comfort and security. Jesus promised that He would “teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (14:26). The Spirit’s presence in the world opens our eyes to the truth of sin, the reality of Christ’s identity, and the assurance of a coming judgment in the world. In short, the Spirit makes it possible for us to know the truth (16:13). Far from God being absent, the Spirit is continually at work, making the gospel known in our own hearts and around the world.

As Jesus prepared to depart, He promised His presence in a new way. The Holy Spirit does not bring a different truth but the very same truth that belongs to the Father and the Son. As Christ said, “It is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine” (16:14–15). Thanks be to God, we are not left as orphans in the world.

Apply the Word

During the holidays, many people struggle with depression and loneliness. Are there those in your church or neighborhood who might be alone—perhaps international students or the elderly? Invite them to share in your holiday celebrations. Sharing the gift of presence with them reflects God’s promise of presence with us through the Holy Spirit.

BY Bryan Stewart

Bryan A. Stewart is associate professor of religion at McMurry University in Abilene, Texas. His particular interests are the history of Christian thought and the way that early Christians interpreted the biblical canon. He is the editor of a volume on the Gospel of John in The Church’s Bible series (Eerdmans), and he has done extensive research on the ways that the early Church preached on this Gospel. He is an ordained minister. 

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