John 15:26 – 16:15 The work of the Holy Spirit
‘When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father – the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father – he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.
‘All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them. I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you, but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, “Where are you going?” Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
‘I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.’
* * *
A word of caution to myself before I start. St John’s gospel was written well after the events of Pentecost (see Acts chapter 2), and well after St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians which describes the gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12: 1 – 11). St John would have been an eye witness to the events of Pentecost, as well as to the events he’s describing here in his gospel. He would also, surely, be familiar with the way the Holy Spirit was manifested in the worship of the church.
Although the emphasis in John’s gospel is different from Acts and 1 Corinthians, it doesn’t contradict those accounts; it is more an explanation of the significance of the actions of the Spirit.
So, what will the Spirit do?
The Spirit will testify about Jesus (John 15: 26).
And here St John adds “And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.” (John 15: 27). This is very important. The disciples were eye witnesses of Jesus’ life, his teaching and the signs he worked. Throughout his gospel, St John has been pointing out the human witnesses to Jesus’ work and teaching.
The testimony of human experience is important today as well. Everyone who follows Jesus has a story to tell of their experience of him, and their testimony can change lives. I feel this passage is telling me strongly to be more open about my experience of Jesus.
Jesus then utters prophecy specifically for the disciples: ‘All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them. (John 16: 1 – 4)
Is that prophecy just for the disciples, or does it apply to the present day? While we feel safe enough in the West, there are many places in the world where being a Christian brings persecution and even death; North Korea, for example.
The verses that follow (John 16: 5 – 11) are words of consolation; or, perhaps words of explanation; it is easier to bear suffering if we understand why it’s happening. It’s some help even if all we can do is hold on to the knowledge that the suffering was meant to happen. The disciples are starting to understand that Jesus is about to be killed. They’re grieving, frightened and desperately confused. How can the Messiah die? Shouldn’t he be conquering his enemies?
Finally, Jesus explains how the Spirit of truth will work, and it’s in the same way that Jesus himself did during his earthly life. The Father will make the truth known to the Son, Jesus, who will make it known to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will guide Jesus’ disciples into all the truth.
Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Please open my heart to his guiding so that I may follow Jesus more closely.
In Jesus’ name, Amen