Having been with Jesus Christ throughout His ministry, His original 12 apostles became deeply saddened when He told them He would be going away. But what awesome event turned their sorrow into joy? And what should that singular occurrence mean for us today?
When I was a child, a special family lived next door whom my family could truly depend upon. If my mother needed to borrow a cup of flour, she would always ask Mrs. Swartz. If my father needed a little assistance with a home project, he could call upon Mr. Swartz. The Swartzes assisted us, and we did the same when they needed help. Our warm, neighborly relationship was mutually beneficial and greatly appreciated.
Perhaps you have such fine neighbors now as we did then. But let’s take it a step further. Imagine for a moment that Jesus Christ was still on earth and lived next door to you! If you had a problem, you could ring His doorbell and He would listen and miraculously help. If you were ill, He would come to your house and heal you instantly. If you needed advice, He would counsel you perfectly. Of course, this is merely a fanciful notion because Jesus left the earth long ago. Near the end of His ministry He announced to His disciples, “I leave the world and go to the Father” (John 16:28).
He has gone away to heaven for now. Today we worship and pray to our great Creator we cannot physically see. Even though we may have a close relationship with Him, we may at times have to wait for the fulfillment of our prayerful needs and requests (Psalm 27:14). Then, on some occasions, we may begin to wonder if He really hears our prayers or even cares about us. Of course, this tests our faith and patience, especially when we are undergoing pain, distress and sorrow (James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6).
Jesus declared, “I go to My Father and you see Me no more” (John 16:10). When Jesus’ apostles heard these words they felt terribly distraught (verse 6). But Christ also told them that they would benefit enormously by His leaving. He said, “I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away . . .” (verse 7, emphasis added throughout). But how could it be helpful to them or us today if He went away to be with His Father? He went on to explain that if He did not go away the Helper, the Holy Spirit, would not come, but that if He departed He would send it to them (same verse).
The promise of the Father
Immediately before Jesus ascended to heaven He told His disciples “not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father” to endue them with “power from on high” (Acts 1:4, 11; Luke 24:49). This is the most marvelous blessing of comfort and support that Christ’s followers could have ever heard! It far outpaces any human-made promise. It encompasses the unparalleled gift of God’s very own Spirit, which Jesus would go to heaven to receive from His Father to send to His steadfast disciples (Acts 2:33).
This priceless promise was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost 10 days later, when 120 disciples were infused with the Holy Spirit (verse 4). For the first time in world history, the very essence of God’s divine nature was made available to more than a tiny number of people. Accompanied by extraordinary, miraculous signs, including a rushing mighty wind and tongues of fire, the bestowing of the Holy Spirit to those disciples marked the very beginning of the New Testament Church (verses 1-4).
So when Jesus ascended to be with His Father, He certainly didn’t desert His disciples. It was completely the opposite! He would actually be with them in a dramatically more powerful and vibrant manner. To be sure, this fulfilled Jesus’ earlier statement that their sorrow would be “turned into joy” (John 16:20). He exclaimed, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
Furthermore, He said, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me” (John 14:18-19). How would He come to them so they could effectively see Him? Not only in the resurrection at His second coming but in their daily lives through the essence of God’s boundless power, guidance and wisdom dwelling in them—just as it did in Christ Himself (Romans 8:11; John 14:10).
Confirmation of this awesome miracle was seen on that Pentecost morning in the lives of Peter and the other apostles. In fact, Peter exclaimed to an assembled crowd in Jerusalem that Jesus “. . . being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear” (Acts 2:33). Indeed, by means of Peter’s passionate, God-inspired preaching, 3,000 people repented, were baptized and received God’s Spirit on that very day (verses 40-41).
So, the magnificent fulfillment of “the promise of the Father” occurred at that time, but it didn’t stop there! That was only the beginning. It has continued down through the centuries in all people who answer God’s call, are baptized, receive the amazing gift of His perfect Spirit and are diligently producing spiritual fruit throughout their lives (John 15:4-5).
Greater works will be accomplished
As we remember the giving of the Holy Spirit each year on God’s Holy Day of Pentecost, we can be more than confident that the words of support and well-being Jesus expressed to His original disciples apply to us today. He declared, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father” (John 14:12).
Those “greater works” could only have been demonstrated by converted men and women after Christ joined His Father on His throne. It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that He works mightily in and through converted people (Romans 8:11). As His dedicated disciples today, we have access to all the spiritual energy and faith we need to fully pursue His way of life (Matthew 4:4; Romans 12:1-2). We are incredibly blessed to have the very mind of Christ so we can love God, overcome sin, build holy, righteous character and serve others (Philippians 2:5; Romans 8:28; James 1:21-22; 1 Peter 4:10).
While having a warm and mutually beneficial relationship with a wonderful human next-door neighbor is certainly excellent, isn’t what we have with Jesus Christ far beyond any comparison? He said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). Also, Jesus understands our needs and requests as we prayerfully and patiently wait for His ideal timing in response (Isaiah 65:24; Psalm 27:14).
With the tremendous power of God’s Holy Spirit working in us, we have the perfect assurance of help today and a wonderful and exciting future in God’s coming Kingdom (2 Corinthians 4:16-17). Therefore, let us appreciate more than ever the wonderful fulfillment of the promise of the Father commencing on that amazing New Testament Pentecost.