When I was a young Christian, I often wondered about the special advantage the disciples had when facing tough times. They endured hatred, rejection, and persecution, but they also had the incredible privilege of having Jesus physically with them during it all.
It’s reassuring to think that in the midst of challenges, they could find comfort in the Lord, who was physically present on Earth. I used to imagine that just a word of encouragement from Him would take away all fears and doubts. A simple nod of approval would give them the courage to face the world’s challenges.
This thought isn’t entirely unreasonable. Surely, the disciples must have felt the same way when they learned that Jesus would be leaving. Having Jesus on Earth to lead the way seemed more advantageous, right? After all, what good is an army without its captain?
But when Jesus left to be with His Father, He wasn’t abandoning His people. Instead, He was strengthening them. In John 16, Jesus reassured His disciples, saying, “I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away” (John 16:7).
According to Jesus, His ascension to the Father would benefit the church. He went on to explain why in the same verse: “Because if I do not go away, the Helper [the Holy Spirit] will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.”
John Calvin explains:
“That they may no longer wish to have him present before their eyes, he testifies that his absence will be advantageous, and makes use of a sort of oath; for we are carnal, and consequently nothing is more difficult than to tear from our minds this foolish inclination, by which we attempt to draw down Christ from heaven to us. He explains where the advantage lies, by saying that the Holy Spirit could not be given to them, if he did not leave the world. But far more advantageous and far more desirable is that presence of Christ, by which he communicates himself to us through the grace and power of his Spirit, than if he were present before our eyes.”
We shouldn’t see Christ’s ascension to the Father as a disadvantage. He assured His disciples of the opposite—it’s for our benefit. Our struggle to understand this often comes from relying on our sight more than our faith. Trusting in the Lord should be our priority.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus left His disciples with a final promise: “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Do you believe that? I didn’t, especially when I wished for the same direct, physical access to Christ as the disciples had before His death and resurrection. At times, it seemed like they had an advantage over us.
The Apostle Thomas once said he needed to see Jesus raised from the dead to believe. In response, Jesus said, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
Christian, we don’t need to fear Christ’s physical absence. He has promised to be with His church until the end of the age. Do you believe this? If so, you are blessed, as Jesus Himself proclaimed. So, what do we have to fear? As Paul asked, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
Certainly, the world may stand against us, as Paul understood. However, what he meant was, who in opposition can compare with the power of God? No one. This is why God often commands us to “fear not.” The One who is greater than all our adversaries is with us, seeking our best.
Robert Murray McCheyne once beautifully stated, “If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me.”
Do you believe this? Blessed are you if you have not heard or seen it and yet have believed.