In a world where modern technology simultaneously exalts and undermines intimate relationships, I’m told that being single means I’m missing something – that I’m lacking the most significant relationship.
So far in John 16…
And of course, for Christians, that will be felt even more keenly when we recognise that our deepest relationship is fractured: Jesus isn’t with us anymore. 2000 years ago He ascended into heaven and we’re still waiting for Him to come back. It has seemed ludicrous to think that Jesus’ departure would be good news for Christians. And yet, as we’ve been seeing in John 16, that’s exactly what Jesus Himself claimed.
As He explained to His disciples the remarkable implications of the coming of the Holy Spirit, He showed that His coming would bring conviction as He solves the world’s spiritual blindness. But He would also bring revelation as a letter from Jesus from beyond the grave.
The Spirit brings intimacy
Finally we get an extraordinary extended description of the great privilege we enjoy as Christians – one which I fear we often take for granted: an intimate relationship with the Father.
Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. (vv20-23)
Jesus said that a little while will come before He died, and then there would be legitimate sorrow. His death, rightly referred to as “Good Friday” for all of the glorious purposes that it achieved1, was also an occasion of immense sorrow as the glorious Creator of the Universe was executed by His own people. But then, after another little while, the sorrow would turn to joy, as He was seen again. He was speaking about the coming of the Spirit2, whose coming enabled them to speak directly to the Father3.
Some people consider that this period of joy is referring to a later time – to the time when Jesus returns. But Jesus has been describing the advantage of His departure; He isn’t undermining everything He has said by implying extensive sorrow before His return. Rather, His death has won for us the most amazing relationship – a relationship that we have now, as Christians. There was sorrow after Jesus’ death; but then came joy at the arrival of the Holy Spirit.
This new relationship is one where we can address Almighty God – to speak to Him directly! In a context that simply assumes relationship with God (‘Of course He loves me…’) we take prayer for granted; but the idea that we could have direct access to the Father is simply astonishing. So many before us couldn’t even dream of such an opportunity!
Another pet hate about dating sites…
Which is one of many reasons why I get slightly fed up with dating sites, especially Christian dating sites, which so heavily imply that singleness confers some degree of deficiency upon the believer. There is, of course, something wonderful about the gift of marriage – not least the beautiful picture it paints of the relationship between Christ and the church4! But that’s the very point – the picture it paints shows the relationship we were actually created for, the purpose for which we exist. To build anything that implies Christianity is about finding a mate focuses our attention on the picture instead of the glorious reality of the relationship we have had restored with our Creator!
Whatever I miss by being single is nothing compared to what someone misses by lacking a relationship with Almighty God! And Jesus says that this relationship has been opened by His death and resurrection, as the Holy Spirit comes and makes that relationship possible for those who put their trust in Jesus…
So maybe I should update my relationship status on Facebook. Because while I skim through the delighted posts of wedding photography and ultrasound scans of friends delighting in these great blessings, I don’t want to give anyone the impression I’m missing out. While some are dismissively divided into “pairs and spares”, maybe my status should better reflect the brilliant relationship I get to enjoy.
We’re in a better position.
Which would you prefer?
I wonder, as we reflect on John 16, which we would actually prefer. Would we rather be where we are now, or step back 2000 years to be with Jesus back then?
I suspect that most of us would prefer to step back in time…
- We’d like to sit on that mountainside and listen to Jesus preach to – and feed – the 50005.
- We’d like to be a fly on the wall of the Upper Room and hear Jesus’ departing words to His disciples6.
- We’d like to have seen the nativity happen in real life7, or to witness Jesus turning the tables of the temple8.
- We’d like to hear Him say to Martha that her sister had chosen the good portion when she sat at His feet9, or His promise at her brother’s funeral that He is the resurrection and the life10.
But Jesus says we’re in a better position. We have been convicted, we’ve enjoyed the fullness of His revelation in Jesus’ complete words, and we now enjoy an intimate relationship that we otherwise couldn’t have hoped for.
The Spirit brings conviction.
The Spirit brings revelation.
The Spirit brings intimacy.
So let us enjoy this blessed position, until the day comes when we get to be with Jesus forever, in even greater intimacy. Whether we’re married or single, we’re engaged, enjoying a relationship now which anticipates a wedding in the future. As Jesus Himself says in His later words11 – that is, the words of Paul12:
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
- Read John 19 and look out for the language of ‘fulfilment’! ↩
- Compare also John 14:15-20, when He spoke of the same intimate relationship ↩
- See John 16:24 ↩
- Eph 5:31-32 ↩
- John 6 ↩
- John 13-17 ↩
- Luke 2 ↩
- John 2:13-22 ↩
- Luke 10:42 ↩
- John 11:25-26 ↩
- As alluded to in John 16:12-15; see an earlier post ↩
- 1 Corinthians 13:12 ↩