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Christian Biblical Studies
JESUS IS GOING AWAY : REJOICE
Scripture citations are to the New International Version, UK edition
Jesus says to His disciples in John 14: 28:
You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.
Question: Why should the fact that the Father is greater than I be a cause for gladness?
Answer: This fourteenth chapter of John records Jesus’ farewell speech to His closest disciples. He knew that the time for His arrest and crucifixion was close. By His ‘going away’ He seems to refer, not to His death (which lasted not more than three days), but to His eventual joyful ascension to the Father’s presence. His ‘coming back’ then would seem to mean His Second Advent, when He would gather the entire Church to glory to be with Him in His ‘Father’s house’ (vs. 1, 2):
1 Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.
To inure them against the sorrow He knew must wash over them, Jesus assures the disciples that though physically absent He would nonetheless be watching over them and leading them. In verses 16 and 17, Jesus says He will ask the Father to send them ‘another’ [allos] – a ‘proxy’ Counsellor, the ‘Spirit of truth’, which would be with them ‘for ever’ [aion] – the finite ages-long duration of His absence.
The necessity of His ‘going away’ suggests that there were aspects of the atonement work yet to be accomplished; aspects which Jesus was not competent nor authorised to complete alone. Principally, this was the selecting and perfecting of the Church (the Elect, the Royal Priesthood) by their sacrificial sufferings throughout the Gospel Age, a period then under way. That process would last for almost two thousand years – certainly a discouragingly long ‘absence’ from the disciples’ point of view.
The calling of the Church was the plan and work of God (1 Corinthians 1: 30; Ephesians 1: 3-10; 1 Peter 2: 9, 10). And so Jesus notes that the Father is ‘greater than I’ – not merely in relative status, but in the absolute sense of the expression. Only God is omnipotent. Indeed, on the subsequent occasion, when Jesus appeared after His resurrection in gardener’s guise to Mary, He referred to His Father as ‘my God’ (John 20: 17).
To sum up John 14: 28 in paraphrase: Jesus exhorts the disciples to cheer up. Rejoice that I am off to see my Father. For not only will My own joy be great because I am with Him, but He can now complete the work which He began in Me regarding your salvation.
Copyright March 2012 ukbiblestudents.co.uk
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