This was originally published in the "Salt & Light" column of the Intertown Record.
Naturally they were upset. The one that they had placed their trust in, the one that they called Rabbi and had given up everything to follow had just announced that he would be leaving them. And not only would he be leaving them, but he also told them of the difficult times that they would face when he was gone.
But then he spoke words that must have been even more confusing to them. He said, “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7). I can imagine what they must have been thinking – “How can anything be better than having you with us, Rabbi? You are ‘Immanuel’ – literally God with us. What could be better than having God right there with us?”
Those first disciples were about to learn what a difference a change in prepositions can make. When describing the Advocate that they were to expect when he left, Jesus said “But you know him., for he lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:17). Did you see the difference? Jesus was God “with” them, but the Advocate would be God “in” them. The word “advocate” here is from a Greek word that istranslated elsewhere as “comforter”, “counselor”, “helper”, and “encourager”. The one being spoken of here is more commonly called the Holy Spirit. When Jesus said that “he lives with you,” he was referring to the reality that the Holy Spirit was intimately involved throughout the life of Jesus. Jesus was said to be full of the Spirit and to cast out demons by the power of the Spirit. And now that same Spirit would be coming to live “in” the disciples of Jesus. Read the book of Acts to get a taste of the phenomenal difference he made in the lives of Peter and the other early believers.
And that same Holy Spirit still delights to live in the followers of Jesus today. Those who choose to rely on the Spirit and who follow his leading find tremendous strength and resources to meet the challenges and difficult times that are thrust upon us. What difference could God living “in” you make?