Once again we are faced with an interesting and difficult passage, especially for a bunch of independent and freedom-minded Americans to hear. My sense is the more evangelical mind will focus on the end of the passage as if it is some sort of conclusion:
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. 29I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. (NIV)
Here Jesus speaks of his going away and tells his disciples they should be glad about that. It is a good entrance to the Good News: Jesus’ suffering on the cross, death and resurrection follows by which we are saved from our sins and reconciled to God. And here he speaks of it in advance! Amen. Okay?
By contrast, the more pastoral mind among us might be tempted to focus on the middle passage as if this is the “heart” of what Jesus is saying:
25“All this I have spoken while still with you. 26But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (NIV)
The more spiritually-pastorally minded will surely focus on the peace God gives. The Holy Spirit, now indwelling Christians, grants peace. Whatever the trouble, difficulty, struggle, God is with us, an unshakeable foundation, supporting us and upholding us in our trials. God, himself, will guide (teach) us in the way we need to go.
Unfortunately, neither approach does justice to the passage for this Sunday. The question unread is “Why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” In response, Jesus explains how disciples can “see” him when the world cannot.
Obedience is the key—a word very hard for independent freedom-minded Americans to hear.
23Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. (NIV)
Jesus is totally clear. He is not just another teacher, prophet, Rabbi, or anything of the sort. That is the way the world sees and hears him; but in truth, His words are God’s words. Period. End of story. No debate. Believers hear his words as God’s words and do them. We do them. We obey Him. We try… The world takes or leaves Jesus’ words as they choose; and these days they appear to be mostly leaving his words. Believers hear and recognize God.
Yes, Jesus is in the process here of preparing to go away. That is a good thing as the evangelical knows. The disciples should not be troubled about this nor afraid for him… And to the evangelical I say it is a good thing to bring others to Christ, but then you must also teach them who Jesus is and why his words are to be followed (obeyed)—and here is your opportunity…
Yes, since Jesus is preparing to go away, he tells his followers that he will not abandon them. The Holy Spirit will come and be with them. But note, pastoral preacher, the description is of a counselor not comforter. The Holy Spirit is to counsel (instruct) believers, to teach (not guide) believers in the Word (not just the way) of God—all the words that Jesus taught. The words of Jesus are the words in which we need to be reminded because they are the words we are supposed to obey
And here is Scripture: God does not bless disobedience and rebellion. God blesses repentance and obedience. What is more, obedience is the means by which we see God. Would you see God?