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And his faith included a biessed reunion with his friends in the future. There is large room in' the Father's house. Jesus does not expect the divine home-coming only for himself. “Where I am,' he assures his disciples, “ye shall be also."
But we do not sufficiently interpret the great comfort of the Master's words, if we understand them only of a reunion in the future. There is another note that sounds in all this farewell conversation. It is the promise of a personal spiritual presence.
In many forms Jesus utters this sacred mystery. He promises another Comforter, or Strengthener, even the Spirit of Truth. All that he has been to the disciples of guidance and of help shall be continued. And the new Presence shall not be liable to physical limitations. The Holy Spirit shall be with you for ever. He shall teach all things. He shall revivify the remembrance of Jesus' words. He shall guide progressively into all the truth. Jesus had been the revelation of God to these men. Very gradually they were coming to understand God's thoughts and God's ways. Jesus could say to them, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.' And now he insists that the revelation shall not cease. There will be no visible Friend, but there will be a spiritual Comforter.
But the disciples have depended so utterly on Jesus. No promised presence can take his place. It is as if a father were leaving his children. So he gives them the assurance in a more definite form, “I will not leave you orphans: I come unto you. Yet a little while and the world behoideth me no more, but behold me: because I live, ye shall live also.” But the disciples were Jews and they desired a manifestation of their Lord that should be noteworthy to the world. Puzzled, they ask him how such manifestation to them
alone can be. He answers that it must be a spiritual manifestation, and can only be for those who are prepared—for his own. As Bernard has beautifully expressed it, “It contemplates not a public discovery of power, but a sort of domestic visitation of love." It is God with men. Jesus unites himself with the Father in the promise, “We will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” Again and again, that they may not be disappointed because he speaks of a spiritual rather than a physical presence, Jesus urgeş upon them that he is going away in order to come nearer to them.
And still in another form, in beautiful allegory, he bids them draw their life from him, living nobly in his strength. He is the Vine, they are the branches, the Father is the husbandman. The object to be sought is fruit. And the condition of fruitage is abiding in the Vine.
Some people are offended by these mystical words of Jesus. They will accept his ethical precepts, but they do not understand a spiritual presence. They say the memory of Jesus remained, his influence was potent, and the disciples felt the continued inspiration as they thought of him. The disciples themselves thought otherwise. With the same equivalence that Jesus had used they spoke of the presence of the Spirit and the presence of the Christ. They were sure that he was with them in all their struggles. They felt that he led them in their victorious testimony to the world.
When the church began to formulate her creeds there was hot dispute regarding the interpretation of this religious experience of a divine fellowship. And there have been great divisions upon the matter of the relations of Father, Son and Spirit. But still the holy
experience of the Spiritual Presence was the blessing of earnest men and the inspiration of missionary endeavor. And “the practice of the presence of God” was the note of the saint.
The celebration of the Lord's Supper has come to be a communion with the Living Christ. All Christians who come to the holy table know the experience of the Real Presence. Jesus, whose fellowship blessed the disciples long ago, says ever to us, “I come unto you."
This is fundamental in religion. There can be ethical stimulus of a certain kind without this sense of a divine Presence, but there cannot be the life that Jesus lived. Our practical age with its programs of reform and its social panaceas must come back to the Upper Room if it would gain power. A good world cannot be made, it must grow, it must be the fruitage of true life. The branches must abide in the Vine, if they would bear fruit. The life that would be noble and achieving must be hid with Christ in God. The civilization that we seek the brotherhood of man-can come only from that apprehension of God and life in his presence, into which Jesus leads us.
Therefore Jesus is the hope of the future. That last night he looked beyond the cross and saw the sure blessedness of the future. He would be with his disciples in spiritual power, and they would fulfil his mission. He foresaw difficulties and dangers, the world would hate and persecute them as it had hated and persecuted him, but in his strength they would conquer. He closed his conversation with the triumphant note: “In the world ye have tribulation: be of good cheer: I have overcome the world.” The disciples had no such courage.
They were troubled and dismayed, but Jesus spoke to them with noble confidence and assured them of victory.
It would seem that the departure of the Master would be the end of the kingdom which he had sought to establish. But he had no doubt that the work he had begun would be enlarged. He gave to the disciples the amazing promise, “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also: and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto the Father." And more amazing, the event justified his words. The world saw a new experience: the conversion of men. There had never been anything like it. The heathen came out of darkness into a marvellous light. From the slave populations of Antioch, Corinth, Rome, came new men and women in Christ Jesus. A new swept the world,
It is the standing miracle of history. And the miracle has been repeated before our eyes.
The world, the flesh and the devil would overcome men, but a greater power is here. The weak and sinful live new lives in Christ; the ignorant, who have grown up without hope and without God in the world, are lighted with a blessed hope and rejoice in a divine salvation; savages in the hills of Asia and in the islands of the Pacific are transformed; and, greater than all, our children, ten thousands and thousands, grow up as disciples of Jesus and come simply, beautifully to God by him.
No doubt, the world is not overcome. Evil holds its baneful sway. Was Jesus then mistaken in his triumphant word? Wendell Phillips has written an account of the Battle of Bunker Hill. The embattled farmers had assembled to meet the foreign troops. They held the ground and withstood the enemy while an ounce of powder and a bullet was left. Then they retreated from their position. The British troops occupied the heights. The American patriots had withdrawn and the British flag was flying in triumph. But what says Wendell Phillips? “That night George III ceased to reign in New England.” Ceased to reign, when his troops had won the day? Yes, ceased to reign, for a power, a determination, a spirit had been manifested that could not be defeated, whose victory at last was sure. And we have built a noble shaft on Bunker Hill to commemorate American independence. There are actual victories, and there are potential victories. Jesus, standing alone, facing certain death, looks with perfect confidence to the future and declares the victory surely won.
It is our shame that we do not share his confidence and trust his promise. Every institution of vice and villainy believes itself secure. Every vested interest of injustice feels safe in its entrenchment. But the church of the living God trembles. The promoters of the missionary enterprise sometimes wonder if their work is vain. Christians too often reverse the grand declaration of prophetic faith and weakly murnur, “They that are with them are more than they that are with us.
In the contest with the sin of the world and with the sin of our own hearts, we are predestined to victory. The power of him that holdeth the stars in their courses and taketh up the isles as a very little thing is pledged to every earnest soul that is seeking righteousness.
Jesus promised his presence as leader in this mighty undertaking, and the apostles, when they realized that he was with them, never doubted of success. How greatly we need a like confidence! Is the contest for personal righteousness a hard one, as the sins do easily beset us, and the good that we would we do not, and the evil that we would not we do? The issue of the contest is not in doubt. He is able to guard us from stumbling and to set us before the presence of