Until Jesus came along, figures who moved in the power of the Spirit were not exactly plentiful. In fact, in Samuel’s time the Spirit seemed so infrequently found that it’s mentioned that the “word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision” (1 Sa 3:1).
But under the new covenant of the New Testament, Christians receive the Holy Spirit en masse. John the Baptist prophesied it when he said that Jesus “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Mt 3:11). Of course, we don’t have to take John’s word for it, because Jesus Himself explicitly said it as well.
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (Jn 16:7-15)
Did you catch that at the beginning? As Chuck Bomar points out in the title of one of his books, we are in some weird way, Better Off Without Jesus. This kind of title is of course meant to get your attention, but it is technically Biblical. Jesus understood from a spiritual perspective that His believers would be in a much better place if they all had the Holy Spirit—a presence that could only be granted to us by His petition to the Father. But in order to make that request, Jesus had to go directly to the Father and ask.
We’ve probably all asked God at some point to clearly tell us what to do with our lives. “Just say it audibly and we’ll do it!” we cry. For that reason, many of us would have preferred that Jesus just stuck around so that we could walk right up to God-in-flesh and get some answers. But while Jesus could do a lot of good by being here with us in the flesh and directing us as to where to go, He knew that was not the right solution. As Bomar says,
He had to leave. Every one of His followers was better off without Him. His departure meant the Holy Spirit was now going to come. Why was this better? Well, one reason is that the Holy Spirit is not limited by having a fleshly body. He can be in every location at any given time (see Ps. 139:7). Jesus walked alongside a few followers, but the Holy Spirit could dwell inside and comfort, guide, help and work through many (see Rom. 8:11). All at the same time.
One man with one anointing was not enough to reach the masses—it was enough to save them, but not to reach them. So Jesus took a course of action that would propel Christianity ever forward by sending the same Spirit that was on Him to all of His followers. They would not just be people with talents and skills like all human beings, but they would be people with spiritual talents and spiritual skills and be capable of walking in the power and direction of the Holy Spirit—something that was reserved for only a select few in ages past.
It’s not that there was a metaphysical problem at the time with the Holy Spirit being on more than one person (for example, he was on both Jesus and John the Baptist and empowered the disciples to do supernatural ministry)—but Jesus still said his departure was necessary for us to receive the Spirit.