The promise of the Holy Spirit
At this difficult time, Jesus promises to ask the Father to send the person of the Holy Spirit to be an advocate, teacher and guide. He will help them remember the events of Jesus life to pass on to the Church.
At this difficult time, Jesus promises to ask the Father to send the person of the Holy Spirit to be an advocate, teacher and guide. He will help them remember the events of Jesus life to pass on to the Church.
Hello, welcome to Series 12, Episode 14, entitled ‘The Promise of the Holy Spirit’. We will be reading from the second half of John 14.
Introduction and Recap
We are in the middle of the story of the Last Supper which has been the narrative we have been looking at in the last few episodes. Let us zoom out a little from there and see the wider context again. In every episode I'm always putting the context clearly, especially in these events of the last week of Jesus' life. Many of you will know, in Series 11 we started this last week of Jesus' life when he came into Jerusalem in the Triumphal Entry on the Sunday, which we now call Palm Sunday, and everything followed from there. It is a very dramatic entry which set the tone for the whole week because Jesus was preparing for a major showdown and conflict with the religious authorities who had been plotting against him for some time with the intention of getting rid of him.
We now come to Thursday evening - the events of the Last Supper - but in between, there has been a major confrontation in the Temple on the Monday, when Jesus challenged the traders, the money-changers and those who were buying and selling animals for animal sacrifice because they were making a huge profit in that monopoly situation; all that money was going to the priestly families and the religious rulers.
On Tuesday, there was a very long day of discussion in the Temple compound; arguments and debates between Jesus and the religious authorities, which led eventually to Jesus leaving the city and going to the Mount of Olives, where he spoke extensively to his disciples about the future, warning them that Israel was going to be judged for her rejection of the Messiah within a generation, and telling them more about his Second Coming, his return in glory at an unknown future date. That teaching was something we looked at closely at the beginning of Series 12, and it was taken from Matthew 24 and 25.
Then we move forward to the Wednesday, where almost certainly on that day there was a meal in Bethany, at the home of Simon the Leper, where Mary, one of Jesus' disciples based in Bethany, anointed his feet with oil as a symbolic gesture in preparation for his burial. The drama really increases when Judas Iscariot at that very moment, on that Wednesday, decides that he is going to betray Jesus. He goes to the religious authorities, offering to lead them to Jesus at some future time shortly, when he is out of the public eye in some quiet, private place so they can arrest him without causing a public disturbance and bring him to trial. They offer him money, which was very tempting to Judas because he had an issue with money. He stole money from the common purse that Jesus' disciples used, which he administered, and he was tempted by the offer of money.
He rejoined the group for the events that take place on Thursday evening. That is what we are looking at now. We call this the Last Supper. This is the occasion when Jesus gathered with the Twelve. No-one else was there apart from Jesus and the Twelve in an upper room in Jerusalem. He celebrated the Passover meal with them, which very quickly became filled with tremendous meaning, poignancy and high feeling because many things were going to be happening very soon after. In the Last Supper, as we have told the story, we have the opening events and Jesus gathering the disciples together and being a host. Then we had a look at an amazing thing that Jesus did shortly after that, at the beginning of the meal, which was to wash the feet of the disciples, which is the activity of a servant - not of a teacher, or ruler, or leader. He established what we call the Lord's Supper, or Communion, or Eucharist. He formalised an aspect of this meal, using bread and wine as symbols of his death, in order to help the Church in the future to remember the significance of his death, and to remember that through his death, he established a New Covenant, as we considered when we looked at Luke's account.
Then we went on to look at some teaching about servant leadership. We saw the moment when Judas left, quite suddenly, from the upper room - went out into the darkness of the night in Jerusalem, walked across the streets to meet his contacts amongst the high priests and the religious leaders because he now had enough information to direct them to Jesus so that he could be arrested that evening. This was a very turbulent time emotionally in the meal because Judas had left - it is mysterious to know where he was going. The disciples were not entirely clear whether he was betraying them, or going to do some other errands; Jesus had said some dark things about Judas and it was troubling to the disciples. They knew things were not right with Judas Iscariot but they didn't really know exactly what had happened - they had no idea that he was now actually collaborating with the religious leaders. At that particular point, Jesus had also pointed out that there was a spiritual battle going on concerning the loyalty of the rest of the disciples - the eleven. Would they stick with Jesus through his death and his resurrection? He said that powers of darkness were arrayed against them, seeking to get rid of their discipleship, neutralise them and intimidate them. It was a tricky time and here we are in the middle of the Last Supper with this very tense atmosphere.
In the last episode, we looked at the beginning of John 14, and we noted that John adds a lot of teaching that Jesus gives to his disciples which is not referred to in the other Gospels. It is a wonderful addition, to help us understand the things that went on behind closed doors in this last opportunity that Jesus had to instruct and equip his disciples. He said in John 14, as we saw last time,
‘Do not let your hearts be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in me’John 14:1, NIV
He is trying to bolster their faith and he speaks to them about the way of salvation,
‘I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’John 14:6, NIV
He speaks a lot in that passage about Jesus revealing God the Father, ‘If you've seen me, you've seen the Father’. He talks to them about God the Father and that is an important teaching.
Interestingly enough, he immediately goes on to talk to them about the Holy Spirit. One of the themes that we are going to discuss today is the nature of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I'll be concluding this episode with a few reflections on that from Jesus' teaching here. We already know in the Gospels, long before this moment, that Jesus comes as the Son of God. God is in heaven. God is our Father spiritually. We know the Holy Spirit is operating through Jesus and we know that he is a person; he is God himself in the form of the Holy Spirit. We know that God is three persons but one God. We know these things but they are going to come together in much sharper focus as we look at these particular passages. Here, Jesus is helping his disciples very strategically because, as they are beginning to anticipate the fact that he is not going to be with them, there is an obvious anxiety. They have spent all their ministry with him. The only time they have been separated is the brief moments when they have gone off on missionary trips that he has sent them on, knowing that they were going to come back and see him within a few days or weeks. They have been together for at least three years and they have seen the incredible power and authority of Jesus, and the thought that somehow or other he is going away from them; he is going to die; he is going to go to heaven which is this idea which Jesus introduced to them. That is a worrying idea for them; they are anxious, they are troubled and so Jesus now brings a very crucial teaching to them, explaining to them much more fully than ever before that when he goes, the Holy Spirit will come in his place. Let's read the first half of this passage John 14: 15 - 26.
‘“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he'll 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 the 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 of 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.”’John 14:15-26, NIV
This is an intricate passage, with lots of themes mixed together. Jesus speaks in a very organic language about the relationship between the disciples and God, and between the persons of the godhead, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We are just going to pick out some of the highlights and key points.
Holy Spirit to be Sent
verses 15 - 17,
“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.”John 14:15-17, NIV
This is the central thing that Jesus is teaching them here. He is going to ask God the Father to send them the Holy Spirit, who is described here by two particular names - the Advocate and the Spirit of truth. Before we get to those names, and their significance, we need to think more generally about what is being expressed here. Very simply put, Jesus will leave the disciples. We know, because we know the rest of the story - after his death, he is raised again on the third day - dies on the Friday, and he is raised again on the Sunday morning. We know from the accounts of the Gospels and the book of Acts that Jesus appeared in a resurrection body on a number of occasions over a period of about six weeks and then we know that he ascended into glory permanently. We know that after then, the Holy Spirit was given.
We are going to read a couple of passages and verses in the beginning of Acts which describe this. First of all, Acts 1: 8 is the final statement that Jesus made to his disciples before he ascended. This is after his resurrection, after those 40 days - right at the end of those 40 days in Acts 1: 8 - 9
‘“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes and a cloud hid him from their sight.’Acts 1:8-9, NIV
That is a description of the Ascension - the return to glory permanently. The very last thing Jesus did was to promise them again, as he had done in the upper room, the Holy Spirit is coming. When we turn over to Acts 2: 1 - 4, we see that the disciples are gathered in Jerusalem. They have stayed in Jerusalem and they have a wide number of other followers of Jesus with the twelve; Judas Iscariot having been replaced by a disciple called Matthias. In the first four verses it says this,
‘When the day of Pentecost came they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit enabled them.’Acts 2:1-4, NIV
This is the famous description of the beginning of the Church when the Holy Spirit came in miraculous, supernatural power and filled every one of the Apostles, and the other gathered disciples, with tremendous power and conviction that really launched the early Church. Peter preached on that day and thousands of people responded to his message. One thing he said is interesting concerning our passage; Acts 2: 33
‘“Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.”’Acts 2:33, NIV
Once Jesus had been exalted into heaven, he and the Father had a dialogue, an agreement, that between them they would pour out the Holy Spirit. They would send the Spirit in miraculous power on the disciples. This is exactly what Jesus is referring to in John 14: 16 ‘And I will ask the Father and he'll give you another advocate.’
The Holy Spirit is a Person
From verse 17, we see the end - Jesus says, talking of the Holy Spirit, ‘For he lives with you but will be in you.’ They knew the presence of the Holy Spirit, and from time to time they had known his power enabling them as disciples to do miracles. We see this on their missionary journeys and we see that they are performing miracles in the name of Jesus, There is a greater reality being promised - he will be in you. That is like a permanent indwelling in power. The other thing we need to say about the Holy Spirit is, the Holy Spirit is described always here in personal terms. It is ‘he’ not ‘it’. The amazing reality that the Holy Spirit is a person, like you and I are people, like Jesus is a person, like the Father is a personal God. That reality is very clear in this passage and of course in many other places but it is worth reflecting on this reality, because many people easily think that the Holy Spirit is some kind of a force of God, an impersonal force perhaps like electricity: electricity is unseen, like the Holy Spirit; electricity is powerful like the Holy Spirit. But electricity is impersonal - it is a force. It does n ot have a will of its own, so to speak. It is part of the physical laws of this world. It does not distinguish between good and evil; it does not have any personal relationships. It is just a powerful force in the physical world which we have to harness and use for the good. The Holy Spirit is not an impersonal force. The Holy Spirit is a person; he is God himself. The astonishing reality of Christianity is that the person of the Holy Spirit comes and lives within the Christian in a unique way when we are born again, and fills us with the power to live the Christian life. We are in a personal relationship with the living God through the Holy Spirit's personal presence within us. We can talk to him; he can communicate to us in a personal way. We can learn from this passage something about the Holy Spirit as a person and some functions of the Holy Spirit are indicated.
The Holy Spirit is the Advocate
He is described as the advocate and the spirit of truth in those early verses, verses 16 - 17. ‘Spirit of truth’ is interesting because later on we see the Holy Spirit revealing the truth. This word ‘advocate’ is a very interesting word, hard to translate from the Greek - sometimes translated ‘comforter’ or ‘helper’. The Greek word has three essential meanings all of which describe the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. The first is a helper. The Holy Spirit comes and lives within us, and he helps us to live the Christian life. Isn't that wonderful? The second is an encourager - someone who comforts or encourages us on the journey. The third meaning is advocate or a mediator, someone who is speaking on our behalf to the living God, the Father. This is a word with a very rich meaning. We can only touch on it very briefly in this context but it is interesting that Jesus, in explaining the work of the Holy Spirit, speaks in this terminology. The advocate, or the helper, the encourager and the mediator. I want to encourage you to think of the Holy Spirit in very personal terms. If you are a believer in Jesus, the Holy Spirit is living within you: he wants to communicate with you; he wants to empower you; he wants to guide you and help you; he wants to encourage you; and he wants to speak on your behalf to our heavenly Father.
The Holy Spirit is the Teacher
Verse 26 is also very significant,
‘“But the advocate, the Holy Spirit ,whom God the Father will send in my name will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”’
John 14:26, NIV
To the Apostles is given a unique authority at this point. They are going to receive revelation from the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, that we mentioned earlier on, who is going to teach them all things. In other words, everything they need to know in order to conduct their ministry for the future, and also remind them of everything that Jesus has said. Their memory, which is then subsequently going to be translated into writing the Gospels, is going to be stimulated and protected and made accurate by the supernatural activity of the Holy Spirit in their lives uniquely. That same reality does not apply to you and me, or other believers in other generations. This is a reality that is specific to the apostles and is a foundational reality that guarantees the authority and truthfulness of the Scriptures, that the Holy Spirit is supervising the process of the remembrance of things that Jesus said and did, which is recorded in the Gospels. I find this very thrilling and very exciting - there is a supernatural foundation to these books. The writers gave a lot of effort to collect eyewitnesses to remember things the best they could but the Holy Spirit helps them along the way in a supernatural manner, which is why so many people find these books absolutely electrifying and exciting to read. In a strange sort of way, God has inspired them in a direct way.
The Offer of Peace
Let us read the concluding verses, verses 27 - 31.
‘“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'm going away and I'm coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I'm going 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.”’John 14:27-31, NIV
In these final verses, Jesus offers and promises peace - I think that's wonderful - an inner peace and security he is going to give to the disciples that will help them deal with the traumatic events that are about to unfold. This is a peace that people who do not have Christ cannot experience - a confidence in God, whatever is going on in life. We can have that peace as well.
The Prince of the World is Coming
He says he will return to his disciples briefly after his death and he says he is going to not be able to say much more to them - verse 30 - because the time is coming where the 'prince of this world' is going to come. 'The prince of this world' is a title for Satan, which Jesus has already used in John 12: 31. Satan is on the move; the powers of darkness are on the move. They are gathering their forces - spiritual forces of evil - but the human agents are getting into place at this very minute as Jesus speaks. Judas Iscariot is on the way to, or maybe has arrived at, the religious leaders' place of contact. He has either started, or just about to start, giving them the crucial information that will lead them to be able to arrest Jesus very shortly, when he moves to the Garden of Gethsemane. Judas Iscariot is aligning himself with the religious opposition. The religious opposition, the Sanhedrin, are already no doubt in touch with the Roman governor, who is in residence in the city and controls the military forces, and who makes legal decisions, and deals with issues amongst the Jewish community. The links are all together. The Prince of this world is coming; he is gathering his human agents - people willing to work with him in order to move forward to try and eliminate Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ's time with his disciples is literally coming to an end very shortly.
Jesus is leaving them with tremendous promises: promises of his return from death; promises of salvation being assured; and promises of a place in heaven being assured. We saw that in the last episode and now here in this episode, an overwhelmingly powerful promise that he and the Father are going to send the Holy Spirit to be with them and to live with them permanently - to empower them, to guide them, to lead them, to comfort them, to encourage them and to be their mediator and advocate. What an incredible thing to say to the disciples at this critical moment!
Let me give you some concluding reflections as we bring this episode to an end. There is a lot of wonderful truth in John 14, about God as Trinity, three in one, one in three. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are clearly described in this episode and in the last episode. When we talk about the three persons of God we are essentially saying three things. First of all we are saying God is three persons; both the Father, the Son and the Spirit are personal beings, and we have emphasised the personality. The personhood of the Holy Spirit in this talk is made very clear, by pointing out that the personal pronoun ‘he’ is used. It is ‘he’ not ‘it’. He is a person - God is three persons - we must affirm that, and each person is fully God. Jesus is fully divine, not partly divine, not a flawed human who is semi-divine. not just a prophet. He is in his eternal nature utterly divine; his divinity and his humanity came together through his birth. The Holy Spirit is fully divine. He is fully God, not just a force, not just a representative, not just an agent, not just an ambassador. He is God himself in the earth today.
Jesus is preparing his disciples very carefully for a very different future. He is also preparing them for their responsibility in transmitting the truth to a much wider group of people who will become the Church. The truth about Jesus they will be able through the Holy Spirit to remember accurately the things that Jesus said and did, and also the truth about how to build the Church and on what principles to build it. They are going to be given phenomenal insight, wisdom, memory and power to give us the books of the New Testament which were written either by the Apostles or by the delegated representatives to give us those books and then also to lead the Church. This is a wonderful passage to illustrate the vital and significant work of the Holy Spirit, right at the heart of the Church from the very beginning. Thanks for listening and l look forward to us continuing in John 15 with this great teaching that Jesus gives to his disciples, just before he heads off to Gethsemane and to his arrest.
The following questions have been provided to facilitate discussion or further reflection. Please feel free to answer any, or all the questions. Each question has been assigned a category to help guide you.
- What were the disciples feeling at this time?
- The Holy Spirit is referred to as 'he' not 'it'. How significant is this?
- List the facts Jesus teaches about the Holy Spirit and his role here.
- Using tagging, to explore the nature of God as being three persons, the trinity