The Speaker behind the Words
15:26 [Jesus said] “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.
16:4b“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 5 But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 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. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. 12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 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. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 15:26,27;16:4b-15 ESV)
If you were to hear the words, ‘Relax, I won’t leave you all alone’, how would you feel? Putting aside volume and intonation, I suspect you’re likely to reply with, ‘Well, it depends on who’s talking’.
‘Relax, I won’t leave you all alone’ can be comforting words of family, parent, spouse to someone who is ill. They can help a person who is facing long term difficulties. They can even be stretched and not mean a physical presence if the speaker is using phone or text or a screen. Such speakers produce relief and support and care and kindness with their words.
However it’s not hard for us to come up with scenarios where those words create fear – even terror, eg. when those words are spoken into a context of domestic violence or an abusive relationship. Think of the horror film nasties saying those words – even kindly or sweetly – and the shiver is still meant to go down your spine.
‘Relax, I won’t leave you all alone’ might be a summary of what Jesus said to his disciples on the night before his crucifixion. John records what Jesus taught and prayed after the institution of his last will and testament – we know it as the Lord’s Supper – and before his arrest later that night. It’s four chapters in John (14-17) and it seems to me that Jesus is reminding them of things he said; it’s like ‘remember this’ and ‘don’t forget that’ – and they’re aware of the tension of those last weeks and particularly with the hostile responses from the religious officials and Jesus’ own mentioning of his death, we can imagine the disciples struggling – what is going on? In all of Jesus’ words that night it seems to me he was helping them, supporting and even comforting them and so ‘Relax, I won’t leave you all alone’ seems apt.
Jesus talked about his presence, about the disciples being joined to him like branches to a vine, and on numerous occasions that he and the Father were sending a helper, a comforter, a counsellor, an advocate – bound up in the word ‘paraclete’ whom we know as the Holy Spirit – the third person of the Trinity. Through the Holy Spirit’s work – he won’t be seen – he’s shy – but his work tools are visible – words, water, bread and wine – and they will keep people focusing where they should – on Jesus.
The Holy Spirit isn’t Jesus reincarnated or anything like that – but is in the mystery of the Trinity (more on that next week!) God whom we don’t see working among us but we can see the effects of his presence. These effects are: repentance for sin, acknowledging rebellion towards God and our culpability and entrapment, and also trusting in the righteousness of someone else – Jesus and his death on the cross is the basis so that the judgement details are already known – justified, not guilty even though we are – all because of Jesus. These effects cannot be produced by us and when we see or sense or hear them in ourselves and in others, there is the Holy Spirit at work.
- John 15:26 - 27
- John 16:4