The Absenteeism of Christ
John 16:7
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…

1. The words must have been very startling to the apostles. They had doubtless come to consider the personal presence of Christ indispensable. He was the principle of cohesion among them, and His departure would be the signal for the dissolution of the brotherhood. He, moreover, gave them what influence they possessed in the nation; for without Him they were but a band of ignorant fishermen.

2. Now if these words were true in the case of the apostles, they are true for all time. The absenteeism of Christ is a help rather than a hindrance to the religious life.

I. It is, of course, true that THE DEATH OF ANY GOOD MAN IS SO FAR A LOSS TO THE WORLD. It is the withdrawal of a beneficent influence. How grand, then, it would have been, to have had Him, the world's greatest blessing, making one everlasting pilgrimage round the globe. But —

1. Such perpetual residence here would have limited His moral influence. No man is understood till he is dead. Absence is the condition of correct insight. Presence either blinds us to greatness, or produces flattery, or that familiarity which begets indifference. It is to be feared that, had Christ remained for ever on the earth, the blindness of the Jews who saw no beauty in Him to make Him desired, would have been repeated by each succeeding generation. We labour under an incapacity for seeing a hero in the man whose hand we can shake. The fault, no doubt, lies in us who live so much in our senses, and look only on the surface of the life. That the valet cannot see a hero in his master is more likely to be due to the valet's blindness than to the master's defects. We might have gained in physical happiness from Christ's perpetual presence, but that would have been but a poor compensation for the loss of reverence, and the inspiring lift our whole nature has received from the ascended and invisible Christ. Why, the physical boon itself would have been but parochial and temporary. And thereon would have arisen dissatisfactions and jealousies.

2. Christ's perpetual residence here would have been against the growth of the religious life. Instead of living for Christ and God in our hearts, we should have lived for them only in our senses. We should never have hungered for the hour of religious meditation, but rather have complained that He had long delayed to appear in our streets. Newspapers would have been searched to learn His whereabouts; shiploads of the stricken would have travelled the deep, and longed impatiently for the port of their destination; and the rest would have lived on in the restless hope that He would pass their way before they died. Who would have thought of submitting with obedient heart to the afflictions of Providence, of seeking out their Divine purpose when one word from Christ would remove them all at once? Would men ever think of spiritual fellowship with Christ when physical fellowship might be had? Is it not far better that, instead of being the monopoly of a favoured few, He should be ever near to all who call upon Him; that, instead of gazing on Him as a man without, we should feel Him in the background of our hearts?

3. Had Christ dwelt for ever on the earth the good and the bad would have had equal experience and perception of Him. His absence from the earth was indispensable to His manifesting Himself to His people in another way than He could unto the world.

4. Christ's perpetual residence here would have made impossible the expected distribution of His spirit in the hearts and lives of men, and through all the political, moral, and social organizations of the globe.

II. You will see the expediency of Christ's departure from the earth, if you consider that HIS CONTINUED RESIDENCE HERE WOULD HAVE SECURED US NO ADDITIONAL BLESSING, except, indeed, relief from physical ills; and, if you admit that these are productive of moral good, and work in us a recompensing glory, it is questionable if their arbitrary removal would have been an unmixed blessing. All the good Christ could do for the world might be summed up under these points: —

1. In His sacrificing Himself for sin. And here it will be obvious that the satisfactoriness of His death could in but a small measure depend upon any condition of time. As soon as the hour had struck when He would be accepted as our Substitute, it would have availed nothing to have deferred the hour of His triumphal return to God.

2. In impressing on the world's imagination an ideal of saintliness and nobleness of character that would make for righteousness and protest against evil through all generations. Into the doing of this the condition of time, in a greater measure, did enter; but when He had reached the age at which He spoke of the expediency of His departure, this end had been attained. He has left no more precious legacy behind Him than the memory of what He was.

(J. Forfar.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: Nevertheless I tell you the truth: It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I don't go away, the Counselor won't come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday After Easter
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