Our Identity: Temples of the Spirit, Part 1
Which of the three persons of the Trinity do you identify most with? God the Father, Jesus (who is God the Son), or the Spirit of God?
My guess is that for many (most?) the Spirit is in third place. Why? Because God the father is God. As our heavenly father, many feel close to him. Then there is Jesus who we can read about and feel close to because we know so many of his stories. Jesus becomes present to us, not to mention the fact that he is human like us.
But the Spirit? I have heard some say “How are we to feel close to what can seem like an invisible, silent, mysterious, spirit?” It can seem impossible to have a relationship with the Holy Spirit, or to identify with the Spirit.
And yet, the three persons of the Trinity are equally important. Though they are equal, Jesus once said something very surprising about the Spirit in John 16. In John chapters 13-17, Jesus is spending a final few hours with his disciples before he is arrested and taken away from them, and eventually crucified. So he is giving them some last minute teaching to help carry them through what will be an awful time for him and for them. What he says in numerous places in John chapters 13-17 is that he about to leave them. You can read how he prepares them for this momentous event that is about to happen. Then we come to John 16:7 where Jesus tells his disciples not only the alarming news that he is about to leave them, but also that it is good for them that he is leaving them.
Many of us read that and think, “Really, Jesus? It is for our good that you left and the Spirit comes?” How many of us would rather have Jesus? There’s even a song about it. “I’d rather have Jesus than anything…” Why? Jesus was so amazing. If I were the disciples hearing this, I’d be thinking about all his miracles, all his amazing teaching, and how incredible it was to be his friend. There is no doubt that he was an astounding person. It seems to me like Jesus is wrong here, that it would be obviously better for Jesus to stay.
Yet Jesus himself said it was for our good that he would leave, and that the Spirit would come be with us. If Jesus said it, then it is absolutely better, and it is for our best. He never lies, so he is telling the truth that it will be good that he leaves. Even if we don’t understand, or even if we disagree, it is good for us that he leaves them. Remember that Jesus has a perspective that we don’t have. Imagine being Jesus’ disciples hearing him say that it is good for him to leave them. How must they have felt? As they think about him leaving, they are likely very self-focused, thinking about how great it is for Jesus to be physically present with them. Maybe they are also thinking about some larger goals, such as the restoration of Israel. It could be that they think that Jesus is the political Messiah who will rise up and fight their Roman occupiers, defeat the Romans, and free Israel. If he leaves, they’ll be stuck under the Romans’ thumb. Maybe they are not thinking just about themselves, but about the freedom of their whole nation. So maybe the disciples’ concern is not altogether selfish. No matter what they were thinking, it must have been shocking or at least disappointing when Jesus says it is good that he leaves them. But how is it good?
It is good because unless Jesus goes the Spirit will not come. So whatever the Spirit is, whatever the Spirit does, it is good that Jesus leaves and the Spirit comes. It is good compared to Jesus himself being physically present in human form on the earth, because then the Spirit will come!
What that means for us is that it is quite important for us to identify with the Spirit and have a close relationship with him.
So what is the Holy Spirit? If we are to have a growing relationship with the Spirit, it is important first to learn who or what he or it is. Check back in to our next post as we’ll seek to find out.