John 14: 15 – 31 Jesus promises the Holy Spirit
‘If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you for ever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me any more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realise that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.’
Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, ‘But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?’
Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
‘All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
‘You heard me say, “I am going away and I am coming back to you.” If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going back to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.
‘Come now; let us leave.’
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This passage is headed “Jesus promises the Holy Spirit”.
Firstly, what does it teach me about this?
- In verse 16, we are told that Jesus will ask the Father and he will give us another advocate to help us and be with us for ever. The Greek word St John uses for advocate is parakleiton, which has overtones beyond being just a legal advocate; they can be an encourager, an expert you call in for advice, a strengthener.
- This advocate will be the Spirit of truth.
- Jesus says “But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” “He lives with you,” implies that the Holy Spirit is, in some way, Jesus living within us. Jesus also says, “I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you,” which is in some ways the same thing. Does it also imply that human souls somehow become part of God insofar as they follow Jesus?
- Finally, Jesus says “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
Secondly, Judas (not Judas Iscariot) asks Jesus, ‘But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?’
Jesus seems to answer by repeating some of his teaching, that anyone who loves him will obey his teaching. But the context changes the emphasis of this teaching. As an answer to Judas’s question, it seems to say that it’s not God’s intention that the world shall not see him; it’s just the way things are.
Now that seems to me to divide humanity very starkly into two categories; those who follow Jesus and those who don’t. And if you’re a follower of Jesus, you’re where he is, with the poor, the sick and anyone who needs you. There are many Christians who don’t live like that consistently – I’m one of them – and there are many non-Christians whose lives show sacrificial love – I think in particular of those who work for Medecins sans Frontieres.
Thirdly, Jesus says “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
This is one of sentences that resonate, isn’t it? It’s very well-known and very encouraging.
But, hang on; what’s the context here? This is the Last Supper. Shortly, Jesus and the disciples will go to Gethsemane, and Jesus will be very troubled, and even afraid. Look at the following passages:
- And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Luke 22: 44);
- He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,’ he said to them. ‘Stay here and keep watch. (Mark 14: 33 – 34);
- Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’ (Matthew 26: 36 – 38).
And in St John’s gospel? Nothing. As soon as they reach Gethsemane, Jesus is arrested. The synoptic gospels appear to contradict St John’s gospel in the case of teaching specifically attributed to Jesus.
I have to admit that I find this passage difficult to understand, and very challenging. All I can do is put my trust in Jesus without knowing the answers to these doubts, and that feels like a cop-out.
Thank you for calling me to become more aware of Jesus in my life. Please help me to understand these matters, insofar as I need to understand them to do your will.
In Jesus’ name, Amen