Introducing the TGC commentaries

Editors’ note: 

This excerpt is taken from Chapter Six: “The Gift of the Spirit” in God So Loved He Gave: Entering the Movement of Divine Generosity (Zondervan, 2010), by Kelly Kapic with Justin Borger. Find out more by visiting the book’s official website.

They were spent. The disciples had followed Jesus the Messiah, putting their hope in him, only to see him die a bloody death. Then, in just a matter of days, as they faced the darkness of disillusionment, they encounter the resurrected Jesus, alive! Touch, see, and believe. Jesus was now recognized as the crucified and resurrected Lord, the Son given from the Father for the sake of the world. But what does this mean? Surely now Jesus will stay with them!

With the resurrection the disciples, though tired and confused, have Jesus with them again. A new age was dawning where the risen Messiah would, by his glorious presence, change the world. This must be the end.

But before long the resurrected Jesus tells the disciples it is time for him to go. He will now return to his Father. Can you imagine the disciples looking at one another, wondering what this all means? Doesn’t it seem like God gives a gift, only to take it away the moment people begin to realize its value and significance? How can Jesus’ ascension be good for the disciples? How can his “departing” be good for the world?

Jesus anticipated just how difficult his departure would be for the disciples and tried to prepare them for it. This is why he spent so much time during the last supper focusing on the future. In a room full of people who had sacrificed much to follow him, Jesus reveals that he will be going away, but he gives them this encouragement: “Let not your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1). Urging them to believe in God and trust in him despite what is about to occur—the late night arrest and bloody crucifixion—Jesus holds out the promise of resurrection. There will be much to fear, but they should turn to God.

During the last supper Jesus tells the disciples, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18). When children lose both parents, they lose the comfort of belonging and are left vulnerable and alone. Knowing that the disciples have this growing fear of abandonment, Jesus promises not to desert them. Paradoxically, he will continue to give, even as he is taken away. Unimaginable as it may seem, Jesus tells the disciples that it is to their “advantage” for him to go away; “for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7). Elsewhere the New Testament tells us that God was pleased to have “all [his] fullness” dwell in Jesus (Col. 1:19), who is the “radiance of the glory of God” (Heb. 1:3). But according to Jesus, we are to consider ourselves even more blessed than his disciples were when he was physically with them. How is this possible? Who is this Helper? How can it be to our advantage for Jesus to leave?

‘The Gift of God’

When God gives, he gives nothing short of himself. As the one who alone is called “the gift of God” (John 4:10; Acts 2:38; 8:20; 10:45; 11:17; Eph. 4:7; Heb. 6:4), the Spirit is given by all three persons of the Trinity, not only proceeding to us from the Father and the Son (John 14:26; 15:26;16:7), but also freely giving himself and distributing his gifts as he wills (Heb. 2:4). When the Father gave the Son, this was not his final gift. In his Triune generosity, God continues to give in ways that his disciples could not have asked or imagined. Encountering the resurrected Jesus confirmed the reality of God’s presence with the disciples through the Son. Receiving “the gift of God” meant the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—the Triune God—now abides within all who believe. By the Spirit, God gives himself in such a way that he is not only with us but in us.