It was 3 a.m., Amsterdam, 1965. I couldn't sleep. I was pacing the floor of our apartment like a caged lion. My body was more than ready for sleep, but my mind refused to shut down.
I had spent that day studying the doctrine of the ascension of Christ, the climactic moment of His departure from this world. One statement of Jesus gripped my mind in a vise. The statement was part of Jesus' farewell discourse to His disciples in the upper room. He said: "Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you" (John 16:7).
I paced the floor mulling over this astonishing statement. How could it possibly be better for the church to experience an absentee Lord? Parting with loved ones is not a "sweet sorrow." One would think that to part with the incarnate Jesus would be an utterly bitter sorrow, a total dissolution to the soul.
Yet Jesus spoke of a certain "expediency" of His departure. The word translated "advantage" or "expedient" in John 16 is the word sumpherei, the same word employed by Caiaphas in his ironic prophecy (John 18:14).
The advantage of Jesus' departure from earth is found partially in answer to Peter's earlier question: "Lord, where are you going?" (Quo vadis?). We might say that the entire farewell discourse of John 14 was given in answer to that question. But equally important is that Jesus answered Peter by telling him not only where He was going but why He was going.
When Jesus left this world, He went to the Father. His ascension was to a certain place for a particular reason. To ascend did not mean merely "to go up." He was being elevated to the right hand of the Father. The seat He occupies since His departure is the royal throne of cosmic authority. It is the office of the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
Rejoice in this fact: The Holy Spirit, the Helper promised by Jesus, stands ready to assist you today.