March 21, 2019

Gone but still here . . .

I’ve moved 32 times. The first was in childhood. We moved from a little house in my grandfather’s yard to a new home my built on their own place four miles away. The last time was from a large house with too much yard to a condo bungalow seven minutes away.

Moving has its perks. Now we enjoy no garden work or snow shoveling. The downside is leaving people. Sometimes our friends had a farewell party for us, but one time, after just arriving, one person introduced us to her friends with, “Don’t get to know these people too well because they will be moving soon.” That hurt.

I can understand how the disciples felt when Jesus told them He was going away. However, He wasn’t leaving with many of the emotions I’ve experienced. He knew He would return and take His friends home with Him.

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also . . . .” (John 14:1–4)

The disciples didn’t understand. Their focus was on Him leaving and not the rest of what He said. He explained further, that the Holy Spirit would be with them . . .

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. (John 14:16–20)

This unity of believers with the Lord God who saved them and lives in them was too much for their minds to grasp. His statements made no sense and seemed impossible. How could He leave and at the same time be with them? How could they see Him but no one else could?

When we moved, some of our friends were glad for us. They realized our move meant a good opportunity and even though we would be missed, they were happy for us. Jesus told the disciples that His move was not a bad thing. He wanted them to rejoice about it and not be taken by surprise when it happened.

You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. (John 14:28–29)

Here is where my moves lose resemblance to what Jesus was doing. He was not moving from Jerusalem to another place; He was moving from this earth to heaven. He would no longer walk with them in person. His route would involve death. A cross and a tomb, a brief time of resurrection and then He would ascend into heaven. No moving van, no suitcases. Death would take Him from where He was to where He was going. For the disciples, this was not good news — until later, after it happened.

I try to imagine what they were going through and how Jesus was thinking. This was traumatic for they had not grasped that He would die much less rise from the tomb and appear to them. His move was not like our relocations. His return was not like ours (we moved to the same place five times). What Jesus told them was impossible in their thinking. Yet it happened. Paul described it in a nutshell:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. (1 Corinthians 15:3–8)

Jesus, I know now what the disciples eventually realized. You left this earth by death but came back to life and are here, never to leave or forsake Your people. You are alive and made real in my heart by the power of the Holy Spirit. I know Your presence. I know Your voice and Your love. I also know that there will be at least one more move for me — from here to there, to be with You forever — a wonderful thought for this sunny spring day!

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