18 “No, I will not abandon you as orphans — I will come to you. 19 Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live. 20 When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”
22 Judas (not Judas Iscariot, but the other disciple with that name) said to him, “Lord, why are you going to reveal yourself only to us and not to the world at large?”
23 Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. 24 Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me. 25 I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. 26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative — that is, the Holy Spirit — he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.
27 I am leaving you with a gift — peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. 28 Remember what I told you: I am going away, but I will come back to you again. If you really loved me, you would be happy that I am going to the Father, who is greater than I am. 29 I have told you these things before they happen so that when they do happen, you will trust.
30 I don’t have much more time to talk to you, because the ruler of this world approaches. He has no power over me, 31 but I will do what the Father requires of me, so that the world will know that I love the Father. Come, let’s be going.”
I’m not sure what I can say that expounds at all on the beauty of this passage. One theme here is the promised presence of Jesus. Seven times in this short passage Jesus promises that he will be with his followers, that he will return to be with them/us, that he and the Father will make their home with us, that the Spirit will come as the continuing presence of God who leads us into the presence of God.
Then Judas asked why we would have direct access to God but the world would not. And the answer is so simple and yet so hard – the presence of God remains with us (directly) and we (the church) are to be the presence of God to the world (indirectly). How does the church serve as the presence of God to the world? By obeying Jesus, by learning from the Holy Spirit, by receiving and reciprocating the love of the Father, by living in the peace of Christ, unafraid and untroubled. The world sees and comes to know Jesus, not when the church proclaims Jesus, but when we demonstrate Jesus.
Of course, this only works to the extent that we are committed to following as the Holy Spirit directs us in acting on what Jesus taught and doing the same works Jesus did (and greater!). The church is not usually all that committed to this. It happens in fits and spurts until the ruler of this world reasserts the controls and limitations indicative of its rule, which are not compatible with the freedom the Spirit brings. That’s right, obedience to the Spirit and growing into freedom are the same thing. Controls, power consolidation, manipulation – all these are characteristics of the ruler of this world and altogether incompatible with the church’s mission to be the presence of God in and to the world.
Jesus promises us his presence and he calls us to practice being his presence to the world. This should en-courage us, give us courage, and inspire us to embrace this incredibly responsibility. As Brother Lawrence wrote: “I cannot imagine how religious persons can live satisfied without the practice of the presence of GOD. For my part I keep myself retired with Him in the depth of centre of my soul as much as I can; and while I am so with Him I fear nothing; but the least turning from Him is insupportable.”
― Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale HousePublishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.