“What a privilege it would have been to walk and talk with Jesus, face to face, like those first disciples!” Most Christians have probably indulged in similar sentiments. We just know that our faith would be so much deeper and better if we could only have seen the Lord with our own eyes, heard Him teach with our own ears.
Yet our text for Pentecost Sunday suggests that however sweet may be those dreams of sitting at the feet of Jesus at the very beginning, we may be longing for something which is no better and perhaps not as good as the spiritual blessings we enjoy now. In John 16:4b-15, Jesus talks to the disciples about the gift of the Holy Spirit and says very clearly in verse 7, “it is for your good that I am going away,” speaking not only of His death, but His ascension out of this world.
Jesus goes on to explain, “Unless I go away, the Advocate [Paralete=The Holy Spirit] will not come to you.” In what follows, Jesus obviously regards the gift of the Holy Spirit as a grace which goes beyond Jesus’ own physical presence. Verse 12 talks about what Jesus has to say, but which the disciples cannot bear at the moment. But (in verse 13) the Spirit will guide them into the all the truth. We are better off now, now that Jesus has made it possible for us to receive the Holy Spirit.
The cryptic heart of the text lies in verses 8-11 in which the work of the Spirit is described as “he will prove the world to be in the wrong ["convict," "expose," "convince" are alternate translations] about sin and righteousness and judgment.” Conviction about sin is fairly straightforward, but it is difficult to ascertain the sense of convicting about righteousness or about judgment.”
There are several different interpretations of 8-11, and the discussion is complex. However, the best I can discern is to connect with what is said about the Holy Spirit’s ministry being on behalf of Jesus in verse 14. “He will will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you,” says Jesus about the Spirit.
So the world is to be convicted about its sin in failing to believe in Jesus, about the righteousness of Jesus despite His condemnation on the Cross, and about the world’s own ultimate judgment by Jesus. All this is designed to make manifest and plain who Jesus is as the righteous Son of God and the Savior and judge of the world.
Hence what we have now is the Spirit constantly with us, pointing us toward Christ and revealing His grace and love to us. Without the Spirit’s work we would be left in sin and unbelief, unable to understand who Jesus is and what He has done for us.
So we are better off now, with the Holy Spirit to counsel and guide us, than we would have been otherwise. And that’s true in inumerable other ways, as we consider all that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, does for us in comfort, encouragement, inspiration, direction, warning, etc. So Pentecost should be the reminder for us that it’s better now.