Think about how the apostles must’ve felt when Jesus told them that He would need to leave them soon to return to His Father. They had been living with Jesus for three years and had grown close to Him through all the things they had experienced together. He was not just their teacher and leader; He was their friend. Not only were their lives with Him happier and more meaningful than ever before, but He was also changing the lives of so many people around them. Jesus knew that it would be disheartening for His apostles to hear that He would be leaving them, because they had grown dependent on having His human presence with them.
Prior to His crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus encouraged His apostles by telling them:
John 14:26 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 things that I said to you.
Jesus wanted His disciples to know that even though He wouldn’t be with them in the flesh, He would still be with them in spirit.—And not just with them, but in them.
Jesus knew that His disciples would need God’s guidance through the Holy Spirit to bring them into an even closer relationship with Him. They would also need the help of the Holy Spirit to remember all that Jesus had taught them while He was with them, so that they could share His teachings with others.
It is easy to understand why the apostles needed some persuasion in order to believe that it was actually a good thing that Jesus was going away. In John 16:7 we find Jesus telling them, “I tell you the truth; it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I go not away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.”
So not only did Jesus tell them that it was not a bad thing that He would soon be leaving, but He also told them that it had to happen so that the Holy Spirit could come to them. He wanted them to really get the point that the Holy Spirit coming to them was a big deal! Jesus knew that there was some pretty thrilling stuff in store for His disciples, and that once they were filled with the Holy Spirit they would be used by God in ways that they had never experienced before. He didn’t want them to mourn His leaving, because they had a job to do.—A job that would not only change their lives, but also change the lives of all generations to come!
When Jesus told them that those who believed in Him would do greater works than He did because He went to His Father , His disciples must have wondered exactly what that meant and how it would actually play out. So in John 16 He tells them that it would be through the power of the Holy Spirit that they would fulfill the greatest mission of their lives—to free the souls of men by telling them about a living Jesus who could forgive their sins and give them eternal life!
After Jesus’ death and resurrection, Jesus was with His disciples off and on for forty days before He ascended to heaven. During this time Jesus gave them vital instructions on what they should do once He left them. He told them to wait until they received the power of the Holy Spirit before embarking on the commission He had given them—to “make disciples of all nations”
Acts 1:4-5, 8 And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit. … You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me.”
He knew that their witness would be so much more powerful once they received the Holy Spirit. The disciples did what Jesus said. They waited in Jerusalem, and they weren’t disappointed!