I will not leave your orphans
It had been a wild, unpredictable adventure. Danger, constant travel, mystery and political intrigue were interspersed with victory, breath-taking excitement and surprises. Now, the disciples who had followed Jesus for three and a half years were weary, tense and suspecting that everything they longed for was about to come to pass. Success was out there, just past their finger tips, waiting to be grasped. Then, as was often case, Jesus did and said things that made them know they were as clueless as babes. They had gathered for what should have been a celebration dinner. But, it didn’t turn out that way.
The first thing Jesus did was to kneel and wash their feet, showing in that silent service how real love behaved. Then, He shook them to the core by saying He was going to leave them. He had made statements like these many times before, but this time He said it with a finality that alarmed, confused and saddened.
I can sympathize with those feelings. There have been times when I felt like Jesus was leaving me, too. And, if these feelings quickly followed some foolish vanity on my part, it’s been easy to believe that He is forsaking me because I am unworthy of His attention.
That night, long ago, Jesus looked around Him at sad, confused faces then said emphatically, “I will not leave you orphans!”
There are two ways to become an orphan. Either someone gives you birth and cannot take care of you or they give you birth and choose to abandon you. In the first case, the parent may have love but not enough strength to provide care. In the second, they have plenty of strength, but no love. Neither of those was true of Jesus. He had all the strength of the Creator of the universe and was Himself the source of all love. No, they would never be orphans.
Neither will we.
Yet, His statement must have seemed contradictory to those who first heard it for He had just told them He was going away. How could He both leave them and not leave them? The answer was rooted deep inside the mystery of the triune Godhead: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Son (who was God) would return to heaven but the Holy Spirit (who was God) would come to dwell inside believers and be their Comforter.
I can almost see the confusion on the faces of the disciples. How could this mystery be? Forty days later, they knew. They experienced the reality of the Spirit’s coming with power and joy. They were not orphans. His promise was true. Jesus was no longer physically present, but He had not left them alone!
Like the disciples, I too sometimes wonder about the mystery. How could God be with me if I don’t see Him? That’s when I take a moment to reach inside and feel the Spirit’s presence. I risk believing its true, and suddenly I don’t feel like an orphan at all.