Finally, Jesus had spoken so plainly that the disciples felt they could understand Him. But in response to their confidence, He said: “The hour is coming …… when you will be scattered …… and will leave Me alone” (John 16:32). How could this be? One would think that after three years with Him, the disciples would be so loyal that they would never abandon Him. But that’s just it – without the Holy Spirit we can know everything there is to know and still not be able to embrace God’s plan fully.
In his commentary on John’s Gospel, St. Cyril of Alexandria (+ 444 A.D.) explained the work of the Holy Spirit in this way: “Does this not show that the Spirit changes those in whom He comes to dwell and alters the whole pattern of their lives? With the Spirit within them it is quite natural for people who had been absorbed by the things of this world to become entirely other-worldly in outlook, and for cowards to become men of great courage. There can be no doubt that this is what happened to the disciples.”
The disciples had become accustomed to walking with Jesus in the flesh and hearing His words. They couldn’t imagine that anything could possibly be better. But God’s plans always surpass our expectations. Instead of just walking beside us, Jesus would “live inside” of us through the Holy Spirit. As Cyril added: “Only by His own presence within us in this way could He give us confidence to cry out, ‘Abba, Father,’ … and, through our possession of the all-powerful Spirit, fortify us invincibly against the wiles of the devil and the assaults of men.”
Being scattered for awhile, and having all their preconceptions challenged by Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, His death and resurrection – these became the groundwork for the disciples to experience Jesus in the closest way possible – within their hearts. May we too receive this same blessing: Jesus present in our hearts, filling us with His love and power.