I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.…
I. THE ABSENT CHRIST IS THE PRESENT CHRIST. "Orphans" is rather an unusual form in which to represent the relation between our Lord and His disciples. And so, possibly, our versions are accurate in giving the general idea of desolation. But, still, it is to be remembered that this whole conservation begins with "Little children"; and they would be like fatherless and motherless children in a cold world. And what is to hinder that? One thing only. "I come to you." Now, what is this "coming"? Our Lord says, not "I will," as a future, but "I come," or, "I am coming," as an immediately impending, or present, thing. There can be no reference to the final coming, because it would follow, that, until that period, all that love Him here are to wander about as orphans; and that can never be.
1. We have here a coming which is but the reverse side of His bodily absence. This is the heart of the consolation that, howsoever the "foolish senses" may have to speak of an absent Christ, we may rejoice in the certainty that He is with all those that love Him, and all the more because of the withdrawal of the earthly manifestation Which has served its purpose. Note the manifest implication of absolute Divinity. "I come." "I am present with every single heart." That is equivalent to Omnipresence. I cannot but think that the average Christian life of this day woefully fails in the realization of this great truth, that we are never alone, but have Jesus Christ with each of us more closely, and with more Omnipotence of influence than they had who were nearest Him upon earth. If we really believed this, how all burdens and cares would be lightened, how all perplexities would begin to smooth themselves out, and how sorrows and joys and everything would be changed in their aspect. A present Christ is the Strength, the Righteousness, the Peace, the Joy, the Life of every Christian soul.
2. This coming of our Lord is identified with that of His Divine Spirit. He has been speaking of sending that "other Comforter," who is no gift wafted to us as from the other side of a gulf; but by reason of the unity of the Godhead, Christ and the Spirit whom He sends are, though separate, so indissolubly united that where the Spirit is, there is Christ, and where Christ is, there is the Spirit. "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His."
3. This present Christ is the only Remedy for the orphanhood of the world. We can understand how forlorn and terrified the disciples were, when they looked forward to the things that must come to them, without His presence. Therefore He cheers them with this assurance.
(1) And the promise was fulfilled. How did that dispirited group ever pluck up courage to hold together after the Crucifixion at all? Why was it that they did not follow the example of John's disciples, and dissolve and disappear, and say, "The game is up." If it had not been that He came to them, Christianity would have been one more of the abortive sects forgotten in Judaism. But, as it is, the whole of the New Testament after Pentecost is aflame with the consciousness of a present Christ working amongst His people.
(2) The same conviction you and I must have, if the world is not to be a desert and a dreary place for us. If you take away Christ the elder Brother, who alone reveals the Father, we are all orphans, who look up into an empty heaven and see nothing there. And is not life a desolation without Him? Hollow joys, roses whose thorns last long after the petals have dropped, real sorrow, shows and shams, bitternesses and disappointments — are not these our life, in so far as Christ has been driven out of it?
II. THE UNSEEN CHRIST IS A SEEN CHRIST.
1. That "yet a little while" covers the whole space up to His ascension: and if there be any reference to the forty clays, during which, literally, the world "saw Him no more," but "the apostles saw Him," that reference is only secondary. These transitory appearances are not sufficient to bear the weight of so great a promise as this. The vision, which is the consequence of the coming, is as continuous and permanent as the coming. It is clear, too, that the word "see" is employed in two different senses. In the former it refers only to bodily, in the latter to spiritual perception. For a few short hours still, the ungodly mass of men were to have that outward vision which they had used so badly, that "they seeing saw not." It was to cease, and they who loved Him would not miss it when it did. They, too, had but dimly seen Him while He stood by them; they would gaze on Him with truer insight when He was present though absent. So this is what every Christian life may and should be — the continual sight of a continually present Christ.
2. Faith is the sight of the soul, and it is far better than the sight of the senses.
(1) It is more direct. My eye does not touch what I look at. Gulfs of millions of miles lie between me and it. But my faith is not only eye, but hand, and not only beholds but grasps.
(2) It is far more clear. Senses may deceive; my faith, built upon His Word, cannot deceive. Its information is far more certain, more valid. So that there is no need for men to say, "Oh! if we had only seen Him with our eyes!" You would very likely not have known Him if you had. There is no reason for thinking that the Church has retrograded in its privileges because it has to love instead of beholding, and to believe instead of touching. Sense disturbs, faith alone beholds.
(3) "The world seeth Me no more." Why? Because it is a world. "Ye see Me." Why Because, and in the measure, in which you have "turned away your eyes from seeing vanity." If you want the eye of the soul to be opened, you must shut the eye of sense. And the more we turn away from looking at the dazzling lies which befool and bewilder us, the more shall we see Him whom to see is to live forever.
III. THE PRESENT AND SEEN CHRIST IS LIFE AND LIFE GIVING. Because He comes, His life passes into the hearts of the men to whom He comes, and who gaze upon Him.
1. Mark the majestic "I live" — the timeless present tense, which expresses unbroken, undying and Divine life. It is all but a quotation of the name "Jehovah." The depth and sweep of its meaning are given to us by this Apostle, "the living One," who lived whilst He died, and having died "is alive for evermore."
2. And this Christ is Lifegiver to all that love Him and trust Him.
(1) We live because He lives. In all senses the life of man is derived from the Christ who is the Agent of creation, and is also the one means by whom any of us can ever hope to live the better life that consists in union to God.
(2) We shall live as long as He lives, and His being is the guarantee of the immortal being of all who love Him. Anything is possible, rather than that a soul which has drawn a spiritual life from Christ should ever be rent apart from Him by such a miserable and external trifle as the mere dissolution of the bodily frame. As long as Christ lives your life is secure. If the Head has life the members cannot see corruption. The Church chose for one of its ancient emblems of the Saviour the pelican, which fed its young, according to the fable, with the blood from its own breast. So Christ vitalizes us. He in us is our life.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.