I love this time of year. I am writing this on the day when we remember the Ascension; Jesus leaving the disciples and going back to heaven. In ten days’ time, we will remember the in-pouring of the Holy Spirit - Pentecost - that great fact of history. Then, the Spirit given by God that meant that twelve men spoke the name of Jesus with such power that, 2,000 years later, Christianity is a worldwide movement. Jesus is the source of hope in a world of uncertainties.
This time of year is exciting because I imagine the first disciples, who had been through a rollercoaster of emotions, realising that faith is lifelong learning. They had gone from the confusion of Jesus’ arrest, their sense of shame at deserting him (most acutely, Peter), their fearful wonder and incredulity when he reappears, and their growing confidence that he really is true, to their last days with him when he has told them that will have power. They will have work to do, but they must wait for the Holy Spirit. They will know when He comes.
Look at this passage from John:
23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
28 “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. (John 14: 23-29)
Because of what the disciples said at Pentecost, we have this source of hope now. These seven verses from John’s Gospel are packed densely with meaning. They talk clearly about the three persons of God, and how they interact with each other and with us as people who believe.
I like to think that as the disciples waited, they would remember that Jesus said that, if they obey his teaching, his Father will love them and he and his Father will come and make their home with them. The Holy Spirit will come and remind them and guide them. They will receive peace. And finally, lifelong learning - how Jesus tells them that he is saying this now so that when it happens, they will believe. Isn’t Jesus affirming to them that faith is lifelong learning? So, as we imagine this time, as we learn new things about the love of God in Christ’s name, we are also following in the footsteps of the disciples.