It is cold again here in Madison and I understand that the groundhog named Phil has predicted six more weeks of winter. I have to admit that I can't remember a time when the groundhog didn't make this prediction. I vote for a new groundhog. But, then again, if you look on the calendar it says that there will be six more weeks of winter every year. Oh well, it's winter! So, back to our work as we continue searching through the Gospel of John. We are still in Chapter fourteen. John is the only writer who has Jesus actually teaching about the role and work of the Holy Spirit. Yesterday we read where Jesus told his disciples that he was going away. By "going away" Jesus meant that he was going to die, although he doesn't word it that way in John. Jesus promised that it was to their benefit that he did go away.
"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with to be with you forever-the Spirit of truth. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." (John 14:16,18)
The Greek word for "Counselor" is paraclete. It is a legal term and can also be translated "advocate." The Spirt will be sent from God and Jesus, because notice, Jesus said "I will come to you." Jesus has promised that even though he will go away the disciples will not be left alone in the world. But, the Holy Spirit is more than God's presence. "The Holy Spirit...will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." (John 14:26)
I have already mentioned this verse, but I want to look at it again. "It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor, will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you." (John 16:7b) When Jesus was alive and walking with the disciples the Spirit was clearly upon him. Therefore, the Spirit was at one place at one time. In the Old Testament it appeared that the Holy Spirit could only be upon one person. When Saul was king, if you recall, the Spirit left him and then came upon David. It would leave one before entering the other. Jesus is saying, that if he goes away the Spirit will be with each one. Then Jesus, continues describing the work of the Spirit; "he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment," (John 16:8) Again, the world is that which has not yet accepted the light which came from above. The world is made up of those who are not in the community of believers.
"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 truth. He will not speak of his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is to come." (John 16:13)
It is as though Jesus is saying that the Holy Spirit that is within (or will be in this case) the believer will be in constant communication with the Father. Isn't this a neat passage? How true it is that we can look back on our walk with God and realize that along the way more and more has been revealed. Jesus says, there is so much more to learn, but you are not ready for it all. Zander (my 10year old) asks a lot of questions. I try to answer in terms I think he can understand. I tell him the truth, but I leave some for later. (and on some occasions direct him to his mother)
When Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit in John's gospel it is important to realize that he doesn't speak of the Holy Spirit in the same manner that Luke does. Notice, I have never referred to the Holy Spirit as "it." The Holy Spirit is not an "it" because the Holy Spirit is a person. John speaks of the Holy Spirit and the particular work of the Spirit to bring people to the Father, and John speaks of the Spirit in terms of relationship. Luke's approach is to portray the Spirit in terms of power. John, uses the word "peace" on many occasions in reference to the Spirit. For John, the Spirit works from within.
Did the disciples have any idea what Jesus was saying? Umm...nope! "They kept asking, 'What does he mean by 'a little while'? We don't understand what he is saying." (John 16:18) They were confused because Jesus was not speaking in terms they could understand. As I have said, Jesus never just came out and said, "I'm going to die!" No, not in John's gospel. Finally, Jesus said, "I came from the Father and entered the world: now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father." (John 16:28) As you recall there is no birth narrative in John's gospel. John had no intentions of telling how Jesus came into the world. John never even hints to us that Jesus was born. He just mentions Mary as being the mother of Jesus, but in a passive role at that. Mary is even portrayed as being at the mercy of her son in John. (the wedding scene and the final scene at the cross as we will see) John wants us to see that Jesus is just visiting the world. He came and now he is leaving. Oh my!! John's image of Jesus relates to Genesis, chapter one. If you recall, in that chapter God created the world with a word. God is all powerful in that account. God seems to be somewhere else when the world is created. In chapter two, God comes down and gets his hands dirty by molding a person out of dirt. John's gospel is like chapter one. Jesus is really from somewhere else and he is going back there. While here on earth he makes it clear that he is from somewhere else and he will not stay here long.
The disciples finally get it! "This makes us believe that you came from God." (John 16:30b) Well, I have often asked the question: "When was it that the disciples were "saved" or "converted"? If we think of conversion in terms of "going to the altar and confessing your sins and saying the sinner's prayer" then they never did that. None of them really had the conversion experience that Saul/Paul had on the Damascus Road (Acts 9) No, there are only moments such as this one. Jesus said to them: "You believe at last!" (John 16:31) Of course, the story is not over yet. A question: Was Judas one of those who believed? Hmm...
On Monday we will look at the prayer of Jesus found in the seventeenth chapter. You will not want to miss it. I pray you have a great weekend. -Pastor Rick