“From . . . Into . . . Away . . To . . .”

Prepositions are usually small words, but they can be crucial. In one verse, John 16:28, Jesus summarizes his entire work, entering this world to redeem his people and then, having completed that work, returning triumphantly to his Father. Notice the role the prepositions play in the verse.

Jesus came from the Father. That means that he left the position of privilege and glory in order to be your Savior. He came from the Father because he was sent by the Father. He came to do his Father’s will. He came to reveal the Father. He and the Father are so closely connected that, as he told Philip in John 14, “if you have seen me, you have seen the Father. St. Augustine put it beautifully: “In coming to the world He came forth in such a sense from the Father that He did not leave the Father behind.”

He came into the world. “World” here includes the physical world which Jesus entered at his incarnation, and from which he ascended 40 days after his resurrection. But the term also has ethical overtones. It is the world that has rebelled against God and is under a curse. It is a world in which even those who are redeemed go through pain and suffering. Jesus, in verses 20-22, and Isaiah (66:7ff) use the metaphor of labor and childbirth. Jesus tells his disciples that they will go through pain before they experience the joy of his presence. That happens because you are united to him, and he was about to go through the deepest suffering that any human being ever had or will experience. He bore both the guilt and the punishment due his people for their sins. But he did it with an eye to the joy of doing his Father’s will and redeeming you to be his people.

Now, he tells his disciples, he is about to go away from the world. Confident of the success of his mission, sure that he is carrying out his Father’s will, he has his eye, not just on his resurrection, but particularly on his ascension, which would follow 40 days later. Away” is a contrasting parallel with “into,” but it is not an exact parallel. When he came into the world, he did so as the eternal Son of God, who became flesh. But as he goes away he does not cease being the God-Man. The incarnation never works backwards. Your human nature is at the right hand of the Father in the person of his Son! That is one of the things that makes him the perfect intercessor, as the author of Hebrews reminds you.

He goes to his Father. That is a triumphal home coming! He has done his Father’s will and now will sit down at his right hand. But he is not alone as he ascends. The quote from St. Augustine continues perceptively, “and . . . on leaving the world, He goes to the Father in such a sense that He does not actually forsake the world.” He has been busy telling his disciples, “I am in you,” and “you are in me.” In a real sense your life is hidden away in Christ as goes to his Father. He continues to rule over the world and especially over his body, the church.

Because he ascends triumphantly he never abandons the world. He goes to the Father, but he will return to judge, redeem, and restore his creation.

Because Jesus came from the Father into your world, he carries those who trust in him with him as he moves away from the world to his and your Father.

About jwm

I serve as pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Newberg, Oregon.
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