Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come to you…
1. He did go, and He did send, and on this day, so between the text and our feast there is the reciprocation that is between "the promise of the sending" and the "sending of the promise."
2. There seems to be a question here, whether best the Comforter come or not come? This question grew out of whether Christ best go or not. But Christ resolves this: if they were against the Ascension they were also against a feast which they might not miss out of their calendar, and persuades them to accept the Ascension in hope of Whitsun-tide: one to make amends for the other. This is usual. After Christmas, the poor estate of Christ's birth, there comes Epiphany with a star and great men's oblations as by way of compensation; after Good Friday Easter, &c.
3. But Ascension Day, though to Christ a day of glory, could not but be a day of sorrow for the disciples. For —
(1) To part with any friend is a grief — even though he be a Demas.
(2) And if any friend, how much more such a one as Christ!
(3) And if such a friend at any time, much more now (ver. 2)!
4. Men often grieve, however, at what is for their good. Therefore Christ says, "I tell you the truth." Your hearts are full of sorrow because your heads are full of error. Your loss will be your gain.
I. THE INCONVENIENCE OF THE SPIRIT NOT COMING.
1. The absolute necessity for His advent. In both the main works of the Deity all three Persons co-operate. As in creation not only the Word of God was required, but the motion of the Spirit to give life; and as in the genesis so in the palingenesis. It was necessary not only that the Word should take flesh, but flesh also receive the Spirit to give the life of grace to the new creature. So we baptize into all Three.
2. Most expedient is it that the work of our salvation should be brought to full perfection. If the Holy Ghost came not, Christ's coming can do us no good. Christ said "It is finished," but only in respect of the work itself. In regard of us and making it ours it is not finished if the Spirit come not too. For —
(1) A word is of no force, though written, (i.e., a deed) till the seal be added: that makes it authentic. Christ is the Word, the Spirit, the Seal.
(2) The will of the testator even when sealed is still in suspense till administration be granted. Christ is the Testator of the New Testament; "the administration is the Spirit."(3) The purchase is made, the price paid, yet is not the state perfect unless there be investiture. Christ has purchased, but the investiture is by the Spirit.
3. As nothing is done for us, so nothing is done by us if He come not. The means avail nothing.
(1) Not baptism; no "laver of regeneration," without renewing of the Holy Ghost.
(2) No preaching neither; for that is but a letter that killeth, "except the Spirit come and quicken it."(3) No Lord's Supper; for "the flesh profiteth nothing," if the Lord and Giver of Life be away.
(4) No prayer; for unless the Spirit helps our infirmity and make intercession within us, we neither know how nor what to pray.
II. THE NECESSITY OF CHRIST'S GOING. But why not Christ stay and the Holy Spirit come? Or if He go, come again with Him. Surely He and Christ are not incompatible. Christ was conceived by the Holy Ghost. At His baptism the Spirit rested upon Him. We shall enjoy both together by and by: Why not now? It was necessary that Christ should go.
1. On the Holy Ghost's part. Otherwise He could not come as He should. The stay of Christ would have been a hindrance of the manifestation of His Godhead. His signs and wonders would not well have been distinguished from Christ's, and would probably have been ascribed to Christ.
2. On Christ's part. Otherwise it had been an impeachment to Christ's equality with the Father. For He not going to send Him, but staying here, the sending of the Spirit would have. been ascribed to the Father alone.
3. On the apostles' part.
(1) For His bodily presence. It is often good for some that their meat be taken, and yet meat is the stay of their life; or for their blood to be taken, yet blood is nature's treasure and holds us in life; or for light to be taken, in some disease of the eyes, yet light is the comfort of life. The loving mother withdraws herself from her child when the child grows foolishly fond of her. For the same reason Christ withdrew. So strangely fond the disciples grew of Him that nothing but His carnal presence would quiet them (John 11:21). And "a tabernacle" they must needs build Him to keep Him on earth still; and ever and anon they dreamed of a temporal kingdom and chief seats there. These feelings were by no means to be cherished. They were not to continue children but to grow to man's estate, and so they had to be weaned from the presence of Christ's flesh, and to say, "If we have known Christ after the flesh," &c. (2 Corinthians 5:16).
(2) For His spiritual presence. This is expedient —
(a) When men grow faint in seeking, and careless in keeping Him (Song of Solomon 3:1). It was meet that Christ should go to teach them to rise and seek, to watch and keep Him better.
(b) When men grow conceited and overweening of themselves and their own strength, and say with David, "I shall never be moved," as if they had Christ pinned to them; and with Peter (Matthew 26:33). Christ goes to teach them to see and know themselves better, that we may be humble, and being humble receive the Holy Ghost who comes to give grace to none but the humble
Parallel VersesKJV: Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.