I have often wondered what it would have been like to have been one of Jesus’ original 12 disciples… to have experienced all that they experienced during their three years with Jesus. Even though the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the 4 books in the Bible that tell us about the life of Jesus, only record about a couple of weeks’ worth of actual events, what we do have is enough to let us know that those three years must have been amazing. One of Jesus’ disciples, the disciple named John, who wrote the book we call the Gospel of John, went so far at the very end of his book to say this: Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. John 21:25 How amazing is that? I can’t imagine what it would have been like to have been one of Jesus’ 12 disciples and seen all of those ‘other things’… not to mention to have had three years living alongside Jesus: 3 years eating your meals with him; 3 years traveling with him from town to town; three years listening to him teach, seeing him heal the sick and giving sight to the blind. It must have been wonderful! But all of this ‘wonderful’ for Jesus’ disciples came to a screeching halt one evening when Jesus and his disciples were celebrating a Passover meal together... they had finished their meal and Jesus suddenly said this… well, let’s turn to the passage together so you can follow along: (John 13:31 page 763 Fishers) A lot had been going on that evening and it had been, for the most part, a good evening… and then Jesus said this in Verse 31, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.” I’m sure most of the disciples thought something like, “I’m not sure exactly what he means but it sounds good! Something big is up and Jesus says it’s going to happen immediately!” I can see them waiting expectantly for Jesus’ next words, but look at what Jesus said next, ‘My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.’ Now, I’m sure that all of the disciples were more than a little startled by this. And I’m also pretty sure that Peter was talking for the whole group when he interrupted Jesus in verse 36, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ And Jesus repeats, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” And Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? And thinking that Jesus might be going someplace dangerous and need protection Peter added, “I will lay down my life for you.” Clearly, Peter, along with the rest of the disciples, was upset! Now, from what we can tell Jesus had some significant things he wanted to share with his disciples that evening… especially things about how important it would be that they love one another once he was gone. But the disciples were stuck on one subject: Jesus was leaving them and they couldn’t come with him. Yes, they’d heard Jesus say, ‘I am going where you can’t come’ to the religious leaders a number of times, but the disciples clearly had never thought he meant that they wouldn’t be able to come with him. But that is exactly what Jesus had just said. And suddenly they were sad and confused, disoriented and filled with fear. I can hear them thinking, ‘If Jesus leaves us, who is going to teach us? He is our teacher! If Jesus leaves us how will we know where to go next? He’s been leading us for 3 years! And who is going to give us the right words for talking about the things of God? And who is going to challenge the religious leaders? We can’t do that, at least not like Jesus! And if he leaves us who is going to be the one who heals the sick and gives sight to the blind? Who’s going to feed the hungry crowds and drive away the evil spirits? Three years of him doing all of this and now he’s leaving us? This can’t be!’ From what John tells us, Jesus realized immediately that they needed some answers…and in the first 15 verses of John 14 Jesus begins to address their fears. He says comforting things like, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me… I am the way the truth and the life… if you know me you know my Father and you do know me…” And to really try and ease their minds Jesus says this in verse 12, ‘Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me… Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.’ I have no idea how much these kinds of words helped the disciples in the moment. I’m really glad that John remembered them and recorded them for us, but I don’t think they could think about much other than that Jesus had said he was going to leave them and they couldn’t imagine facing the world alone. But then, in verse 16 Jesus spoke directly to this fear. He says, ‘I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 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.’ Jesus promises ‘The Spirit of Truth’ someone he refers to as ‘another advocate’ or as the Greek says Paracletos. Maybe you’ve heard this term before: Paraklete: it’s a compound word that literally means ‘one called to stand beside.’ It was actually a legal term for someone who stood alongside someone during a court case giving wisdom and advice… a paraklete was a counselor and an advocate. And Jesus told his disciples straight up that an advocate was coming who would take care of all of their fears of not having Jesus present with them…. a counselor who would not only be with them but who would be present within them. And this was possibly the most important thing that Jesus could have said in that moment, ‘The Holy Spirit is with you and will be IN you… forever.’ You see, one of the great desires of Jewish people for centuries was for God to be present with them… physically present in some way. The Jewish people knew that God had been overwhelmingly physically present as fire in the tabernacle during the 40 years that the Jews wandered in the wilderness following their exodus from slavery in Egypt. But that had been a long time ago. And they also knew that he’d also been physically present in the temple on occasions, but that had been a long time ago, too. It had been a long time since the Jewish people could see the actual, physical presence of God in their midst… and they longed to know in a tangible way that God was present with them. And when Jesus said the Holy Spirit, someone that had come upon people in the past but was known for coming for a season of specific work and then leaving, would not only be with them but in them… forever… this was huge! Jesus had promised God’s presence… physically in them… forever! This sounded like a game changer!
And then Jesus began telling his disciples what the Holy Spirit would do in their lives as he lived in them… and we firmly believe that what he says in these verses is still absolutely true for all disciples of Jesus today.
The first thing Jesus addresses is who will continue to teach the disciples once he is gone. And his answer is very straight forward. In verse 26 of Chapter 14 Jesus says, ‘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.’ The Holy Spirit will not only continue teaching us about all of the things of God but he will also bring to mind the things that Jesus said. I certainly understand this. I can’t tell you how many times I have been overcome by the clarity of something the Spirit has taught me. I’ll be studying or meditating or listening to someone teaching or preaching… or just having a conversation with someone and suddenly there is a clear understanding of something about God that changes my life. This is the Holy Spirit teaching! And people tell me all of the time about times when they were talking to someone about things related to faith and Jesus’ words will just pop into their minds right at the moment! I am absolutely certain this is the work of the Holy Spirit…The Holy Spirit doing exactly what Jesus said he would send Him to do.
And then Jesus addressed who would be speaking to the world about him. Look at what Jesus said in verse 26 of Chapter 15. “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.” Jesus’ answer is that you and I will be the ones who tell the world about him… but the Holy Spirit will be right there with us and in us empowering us to do this with confidence. The truth is, the disciples were timid fellows. They were not known for being particularly brave when it came to speaking publically about Jesus. When we get to our coming study on the Book of Acts you will see how much the Holy Spirit’s presence in the disciples changed all of that… and He still does. If we let him, the Holy Spirit will make us brave witnesses for the truth about Jesus. A number of years ago Jennifer and I were sent to be street evangelists to motorcycle gang members and punk rock kids who had gathered on a particular beach in Portrush, Northern Ireland during a holiday week. Can I just say that neither of us were cut out for that? I wish I had the time to tell the story of that week… it did involve one of us throwing a punk rocker down a flight of stairs to knock some sense into him... but what I can say is that the Holy Spirit was powerfully present with us and in both of us during those days and the result was that there was a great harvest for Jesus in Portrush that week. Again, the Holy Spirit was doing exactly what Jesus said he would send Him to do… empower us to speak boldly about Jesus.
And Jesus then said this starting in verse 7 of John 16, 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 know this is a somewhat confusing passage… and to be honest it would take a long time to ferret out all that Jesus said here. But I want to get to the bottom line. Jesus is telling us that not only will the Holy Spirit be present in us and with us but He is also at work moving the hearts of those who do not yet believe… and he is busy doing three really important things: convicting people of sin, defining genuine righteousness and warning people that there is a judgement coming. I could talk a long time about the ‘whys’ and the ‘hows’ and the ‘what fores’ of this… in fact, I have included fairly detailed exegetical notes in the Grace app on this passage, but the bottom line for us… we should all be thankful that we can count on the Holy Spirit to be doing exactly what Jesus said he would send Him to do: working alongside of us to prove to the world the truth about the vast scope of the world’s brokenness and everyone’s need to surrender their life to Jesus!
And then in verse 12 of chapter 16 Jesus said, ‘I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.’ He knew the disciples were overwhelmed! In fact, some translators call the Holy Spirit ‘the Comforter’ in this passage because comfort was exactly what the disciples needed in that moment of confusion and fear. But Jesus went on with these words of encouragement. 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.’ This is a very mystical aspect of the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is saying that The Holy Spirit, who is with us and in us forever is also, at the same time spanning the space between the heavens and the earth and sharing with us the things that Jesus is telling him to share with us. Do I fully understand this? No! But I am thankful we can still hear from Jesus through the Holy Spirit today. I am thankful that the Holy Spirit is doing exactly what Jesus said he would send Him to do: making known to us Truth that Jesus wants us to know.
And I want to quickly go back to ‘the greater things’ that Jesus talked about in verse 12 of Chapter 14… the ‘greater things’ Jesus said we would do if we have faith in him. Some say that the word that gives us greater means ‘more’ as in ‘more numerous’ and others say it means ‘bigger’ as in ‘more amazing’… it doesn’t really matter to me because the greater point is that the only way that the things that Jesus did can be present in our lives is through the presence of the same power that was at work in Jesus… the power of the Holy Spirit. And once again we can be confident that the Holy Spirit is now doing exactly what Jesus said he would send Him to do… the Holy Spirit is empowering us to do the works of Jesus… even greater works!
The disciples had wondered, ‘Who will teach us? Who will lead us?’ Who will speak for us? Who will bring the power of God into the broken world? And the answer to all of their questions and fears was the Holy Spirit. And I have no doubt we were given this passage in John’s gospel to answer our questions and calm our fears as well. Who doesn’t from time to time feel alone? Who doesn’t wonder, ‘Where should I be going?’ or ‘What am I supposed to be doing?’ Who doesn’t feel nervous about talking to others about things related to faith and who doesn’t wish there was some way to get people to see sin as sin and realize that someday everyone will stand before God in judgment. I know I do… and I also often wish that God’s power would break into the mess and the pain of the broken lives I see all around me. And Jesus is telling us that he sent the Holy Spirit to calm these fears and empower us to break through the mess and the pain of our broken world. If you have surrendered your life to Jesus you are not alone. The advocate, the counselor, the comforter, The Holy Spirit is with you and IN you! Again, you are not alone… and he is not distant from you nor is he distant from the throne room of the heavens. You do not have to go to great lengths to try and get the attention of a God who is out there somewhere. He has already moved in… into your very being; you are not alone. I’m going to say it again so you know I’m serious about this: if you have surrendered your life to Jesus you are not alone. The Holy Spirit, the paraclete, the counselor of heaven is with you to calm your fears, to teach you truth, to remind you of Jesus’ words, to lead you in God’s pathways and to empower you to be a witness of God’s love through both your words and through powerful actions.
So, if you are dealing with the fear that you are alone in the world… to quote Jesus, ‘The Holy Spirit is with you and lives in you. You are not alone. You carry the actual presence of God in your very being’ If you are dealing with confusion and you are searching for the truth… to quote Jesus, ‘The Holy Spirit is with you and lives in you; you are not alone. You have a Teacher!’ If you are dealing with deep grief… to quote Jesus, ‘The Holy Spirit is with you and lives in you; you are not alone. You have a Comforter.’ If you are dealing with pain and physical suffering… to quote Jesus, ‘The Holy Spirit is with you and lives in you; you are not alone. You have a Physician.’ If you feel overwhelmed by life’s circumstances… to quote Jesus, ‘The Holy Spirit is with you and lives in you; you are not alone. You have a Counselor.’ If you have been falsely accused by others or find yourself in the midst of a deep trial… to quote Jesus, ‘The Holy Spirit is with you and lives in you; you are not alone. You have an advocate.’ If you have surrendered your life to Jesus you have his gracious gift, someone that binds you to all of the power of heaven… the Holy Spirit. And as I must say again, the Holy Spirit comes into your life in all of his power when you surrender to Jesus. Some of you need to stop fighting with God and through whatever amount of faith you can muster simply say, ‘I surrender my life to you.’ And once you do the promise is this: the very presence of God will be with you and in you in all of His power… forever!
I started today by talking about that it would be like to have been one of the original 12 disciples… to have seen Jesus. But Jesus had an interesting take on this. In John 20 after Jesus had risen from the dead, one of Jesus’ disciples named Thomas who hadn’t yet seen the risen Jesus said unless he saw Jesus in the flesh and touched him he wouldn’t believe that Jesus was alive. Well, when Jesus showed himself to Thomas he immediately proclaimed that he now believed with all of his being. But Jesus response is interesting. In John 20:29, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” We are those people, you and I, brothers and sisters. We are blessed because we believe even though we haven’t yet physically seen Jesus. But can I tell you that we can see the power and the presence of God all around us because the Holy Spirit is present with us and in us… and I don’t mean in some metaphorical or symbolic way, but God the Holy Spirit is physically present with us and in us forever! Teaching us the Truth… Comforting us in our times of sorrow… and Empowering us to do the work of the Kingdom of God. And He, the God who is the Holy Spirit, longs to unleash the power of the heavens into and through our lives for 2 grand purposes: first, to bring healing to this broken world and second, to bring honor to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So, do not let your hearts be troubled. We are not alone! The Holy Spirit is with us and in us… and will be for eternity.