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…
(text, and Philippians 1:24): — Jesus thought that His disciples would gain by losing Him, and Paul thought that his friends could not do without him. A singular contrast — reverses what might have been expected. How strange it must have seemed to them that they, poor sheep in the midst of wolves, would be better without the Shepherd! And the strangeness is brought more home to us by that word of Paul's in which we recognize the familiar tone of love that cannot face the thought of leaving a life's work half done and dear ones unhelped. The contrast rests on the absolute difference between the work of Christ and that of all other teachers, friends, and guides, and so may help us to grasp the unique relation which He and it sustain to the world. It was expedient that Christ should go away, for —
I. CHRIST'S DEATH IS HIS WORK. It was needful that Paul should abide, for Paul's death was the end of his. Paul's words show us how those speak who know that their departure will do nothing to advance the purposes to which they have given themselves. Christ's are intelligible only in the light of the great truth that He came to give His life a ransom for the many, and that His death has a substantive value all its own.
II. HIS WORK GOES ON AFTER HIS DEATH, WHILE THAT OF OTHERS CEASES. When Paul dies he can no more help his brethren. True, he may leave a holy memory. The great personalities of the world may, in a certain figurative sense, be said to "rule the nations from their urns." But that reverberation from the past prolonged into the present is but a poor shadowy thing. Christ's work to-day is no mere influence flowing from activities long since terminated. It is real and continuous — a present putting forth of present power.
III. CHRIST'S PERSONAL RELATION TO US IS WHOLLY INDEPENDENT OF HIS BODILY PRESENCE. His departure aided in the apprehension of His true character and nature. Like some star, that, as long as it is low on the horizon and shrouded by mist, may be mistaken for some earthborn light, but is known for what it is as it climbs the sky, He was discerned when unseen far better than when here. When He ascended to the Father, that withdrawal from the touch of sense gave Him to the touch of faith, and these desolate disciples were nearer Him when the cloud received Him out of their sight. The true personal bond that knits men to Christ is actually helped by His absence. "Jesus Christ, whom having not seen ye love," is held in the inmost hearts of millions. That is a phenomenon in the history of human affections altogether unique, and standing in the strongest contrast to the feelings with which the most enthusiastic admirers regard the mightiest among the dead. For love, there must be, or must have been, personal intercourse. With earthly teachers and guides that is only possible whilst they live; so their abiding in the flesh is needful for us. With Jesus Christ, who died — yea, rather, who is risen again — it is possible now for us all; therefore it was our gain that He went away, "departing for a season, that we might receive Him for ever."
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
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.