If I were a cinematographer, I would have had sad cellos playing, underneath Jesus’ teaching, or maybe something from Mozart’s Requiem. What Jesus was saying could not have been heavier or more sad for his beloved friends arrayed around him. Though Jesus did not use the word “die,” he was using the language common in their day which euphemistically pointed towards death.

He was departing. He was leaving them in a permanent way. Certainly, he was coming back, at some distant and undisclosed time. But in the interim, they would be apart. Normally, a rabbi spent many years teaching his talmidim how to wear his mantle, how to bind and loose with his authority. But they had only had—at best—three years with their rabbi.

Now, Jesus was saying, I am sending you another who will teach you in my place, one who is like me. But this one is Spirit.

Jesus Promises a Counselor

Jesus had just finished telling them that not only would he be leaving them for a place they could not follow, but they would be hated, persecuted and even killed when he was gone. He understood their deep feelings of loss and reminded them that he would be sending them someone who would come alongside them and console them

And so, in a little [while] you will no longer be seeing me, then again a little [while] and you will see me.

Jesus, John 16:7

It was a cryptic saying.

But even as they responded with worried and puzzled looks, Jesus kept explaining. He began to tell them about the plan he had in mind for them, and for the world.

For this one who comes will expose and convict the world (cosmos) concerning sin, then concerning righteousness and justice, then concerning judgment.

So then, concerning sin, because they do not believe in me.

And concerning righteousness and justice, because I am withdrawing to the Father, so you all no longer see me.

And concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.

Jesus, John 16:8-11

Concerning Sin

Notice Jesus did not say “sins,” but sin, the fundamental offense. Ultimately, sin is not a matter of good deeds, or good character, or abiding by universal law.

Sin is a matter of not believing in Jesus.

Worldly wisdom says sin is something you and I do. But The Holy Spirit has come to expose the truth about sin. It is a simple truth.  

Because of God’s great love for the world, it is the Lord’s purpose to convict people of refusing to accept God’s love, of insisting on getting away from God, wrongly thinking that God is about limiting people’s freedoms.

Ultimately, this human resistance refuses God, a refusal that comes in the form of not believing in Jesus, and it is that unbelief that Jesus says will be judged, not the committing of individual sins.

Think of it this way: A person could decide to do good to all, protect the earth, give away all their material goods, sacrifice everything for the betterment of humankind and the planet. This person could have every admirable quality and be uniformly honored and admired by all. And still insist on rejecting God. That is unbelief, it is the bottom line of sin.

What God truly wants for every person is to experience wholeness, to be who God made us to be.

Right now, at least according to what the apostles wrote, the world is being twisted and ultimately destroyed by sin. Many Bible passages portray the world as lost, filled with darkness, under the rulership of an evil being, the devil, with people’s minds so under this dark influence that the light of the gospel simply cannot penetrate without the Holy Spirit’s help.

Exposure seems like a terrible thing, but it seems terrible because of what we humans do to each other. It is Genesis 3 all over again, realizing we are vulnerable, and fearing our nakedness is shameful.

The whole plan of salvation is aimed at rescuing people from this condition. It is God’s purpose to restore.

Concerning Justice and Righteousness

If sin were going to be redefined, then sin’s opposite, righteousness, would need to be redefined as well. Righteousness and justice are not about keeping rules. If they were, then which culture would we, as a globe, choose as the arbiter? Which culture has the purest and best laws for righteousness and justice?

Instead, justice and righteousness are about wholeness, what the Bible calls “the beauty of holiness.”

To be a whole person means to be balanced and complete, to be fully self-aware and other aware, and most importantly, God-aware, and care.

According to Jesus, in this Gospel, there is no way to get from here to there without being spiritually transformed. Maybe some of us are farther along than others, but none of us are able to to be whole in our current condition. The only way to be whole, to understand and live out -true- justice and righteousness, is to be made whole by Jesus.

This is the thrust of all four gospels, and the apostles’ teaching.  

The only way to become whole is to receive forgiveness of sin, cleansing from sin and to take Jesus’ righteousness, his wholeness, for oneself by the Holy Spirit coming to take up residence in our inner beings.

This kind of intimate relationship with God is only possible for those who have been made whole.

That is why Jesus said, in verse 9, that his going back to the Father was proof of righteousness, because Jesus was the only man, at that time, who was able to be with the Father. But because of what Jesus would accomplish at the cross, being fully man, and what he would accomplish in his resurrection, being fully God, he would be able to give his righteousness to every person who is willing to put their faith in him.

That is the Holy Spirit’s first work in every believer’s life—giving you and me what we could never gain for ourselves, this transformed inner life. Truly beautiful people, despite their failures and flaws, are people who have faith in Jesus and are allowing the Holy Spirit to transform them and bring about inner wholeness and Christlikeness.

New definitions for sin and righteousness mean a new definition of judgment.

This is good news for humankind, for we have been trying to appease angry gods for all of our recorded history.

[Faith | Pixabay]

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