I know Good Friday (along with Easter) has come and gone, but my mind has been milling over something I picked up from watching Passion of the Christ. Scott, our pastor from Emmaus Life, encouraged us to watch the movie to help get a sense of Good Friday’s significance – to sense the depth of what happened, but, more importantly, why it happened. I’ve seen it several times before and every time its brutality simply makes me squirm.
What has been stuck in my mind since watching the movie has little to do with Jesus’s brutal death. Instead, it is something His death led to; it is something He says in John 14, but is said in a particular way in the movie.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you…. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” – John 14:15-17, 26
In the movie this verse is modified to help speed the movie along (because Jesus can sure be chatty…), but there’s a way in which Jesus says it in the movie that stands out to me. Right before this passage, Jesus is talking about His departure, which quite obviously saddened His disciples. Yet when He talks about the Holy Spirit’s pending arrival, He seems to counter their sadness with overwhelming excitement at the Spirit’s coming. In fact, He was borderline giddy – like a kid on Christmas Eve.
In our Christian subculture, much of our language and literature is devoted to God or to Jesus, which is not a bad thing at all. But the One Whom resides in us, the One Whom Jesus was eager to see, is the Holy Spirit. We pray over and over and over about Jesus’s return, but yet how often do we remember the Helper has already arrived? How often do we take courage in God’s presence through the Spirit?
In Rob Bell’s latest book, What We Talk About When We Talk About God, he raises this very issue – discussing God as though He were distant. Bell highlights the way in which we describe God’s presence, saying, “It was a God-thing,” or “That’s when God showed up.” Yet if we believe what Jesus says in John 14, that the Spirit will be with us forever, then shouldn’t we believe that God is always with us? Isn’t that the meaning to “Immanuel”? And if that is the case, which I strongly believe it is, then shouldn’t we be a little less worried and a little more confident?
Jesus’s excitement in Passion of the Christ has challenged me. I think Bell puts my challenge beautifully:
“The question, then, the art, the task, the search, the challenge, the invitation is for you and me to become more and more the kind of people who are aware of the divine presence, attuned to the ruach (essentially the substance of life in a living being; “spirit,” “wind,” “breath,” etc.), present to the depths of each and every moment, seeing God in more and more and more people, places, and events, each and every day,” Pg. 110
Christ was excited about God’s ruach coming into the world, into His church, His creation, for eternity. Such a presence, such a life force, will never leave us – not even at our own biddings:
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39
Easter weekend wasn’t about getting our church fix until Christmas. It wasn’t about having the largest, most extravagant church service in the history of church services. And it wasn’t about buying a whole bunch of candy (that’s what the day after is for). Easter is about the entire event of Jesus’s torture, crucifixion, death, three-day burial, and decisive victory over sin and death by resurrecting from the grave. This is what Paul meant when he said, “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us,” (Romans 8:37, but 8:31-39 for full context).
Easter means that if we love and trust God through His Son Jesus, then we’ve received the promise and seal of the Holy Spirit – forever marking ourselves that we belong to God. God and God alone has the power to give life, which means that even if we die in this world, we will rise in the next, following Jesus’s example. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).
God is with us in the exciting moments and the boring, the good and the bad, the rich and the poor. He shares in our joy and in our pain. He weeps with us, laughs with us, cries with us, and rejoices with us. Since His Spirit resides in us, He knows what we think and feel. Therefore there is never not someone who can relate to us; we are never alone. Even if everything we ever had and everyone we knew and loved was all taken away from us, we’d still have God. We’d still have more than enough.
That is why Jesus was excited.