God is making his home with us. It’s the good news we hear at the end of the book of Revelation and it’s the good news Jesus shares with us in John 14. The promise from Jesus is that God will be with us and in and in us forever. This is no hollow promise. Jesus doesn’t give as the world gives. There are no strings attached. This presence with us and in us comes by way of what Jesus calls the Advocate (or Helper or Comforter, depending on one’s Bible translation), which he quickly clarifies is the Holy Spirit, come to be in our corner, to teach us, to comfort us. This is what will come make its home with us and in us in the physical absence of Jesus. Somehow, the going away of Jesus and the coming of Jesus are the same thing. Somehow, the sudden absence of Jesus comes with a new knowledge of God’s presence.
Jesus says all this to reassure his disciples before his imminent death, resurrection, and eventual ascension (John 14-17 is often referred to as the “farewell discourses”). It reassures us today, too. What does it mean to be disciples of someone who walked the earth 2,000 years ago, someone whose voice we can’t hear with our ears, whose physical appearance we can’t see with our eyes? So Jesus promises what seems like it shouldn’t be possible: that in his physical absence, his disciples would know his presence even more powerfully, that he would be even further revealed to us. How is this possible? asks one disciple. How can Jesus be any more revealed to us than he already is?
God is making his home with us and in us and in us forever. God is making his home in the human heart, in the human bloodstream, in human work and sweat, in human sleeping and waking. That’s how Jesus is even further revealed to us. The going away of Jesus is cause for joy, Jesus claims, because it comes with the promise that Jesus and the Father, perfectly united, are coming to be perfectly united to the believer’s heart. Where God ends and we begin will become harder and harder to see. While it might seem counterintuitive at first, the going away of Jesus means his presence in our lives and hearts will be even more unmistakable.
In John 14, Jesus is promising to be present with us, to give us the Advocate. He’s promising that we will fully experience being in him just as he is in us. He promises we will always be loved, that the Advocate will continue to teach us and remind us of what Jesus has already taught us. He’s promising to give us his peace, a gift that he won’t ever take back from us. All these promises are fulfilled in the gift of the Holy Spirit, the continuation of Jesus Christ’s own presence. In the Holy Spirit, Jesus is as close to us as the breath in our lungs. If we were to come to really know and trust this with our whole being, what would change about us? What would we stop being afraid of? What would we stop worrying about? What wounds might begin to heal? What journeys might we gain the courage to begin? Who might we finally decide to forgive? What joy might we begin to experience? What mercy? What compassion? What intimacy?