Jesus didn't leave his disciples on their own
Jesus didn't leave his disciples on their own
By Robert Creech
University Baptist Church-Clearlake, Houston
"How will Jesus' disciples survive in his absence?
That question troubled them as Jesus announced his imminent departure. Their anxious glances and serious expressions conveyed the emotional darkness engulfing them. Jesus countered that gloomy atmosphere with his teaching. He left them with a legacy of instruction that would enable them to live successfully as his followers, even after his departure.
This legacy included teaching about prayer, obedience, peace, experiencing the Father's love, abiding in Christ and living in community with other believers. In addition, he taught them about living in relationship with the Holy Spirit, who would continue to provide an experience of Jesus' own presence with his friends.
He described the Spirit with three titles. In 14:26, Jesus simply calls ..."the Holy Sprit."This title appears again in 20:22. Three times in Jesus' final discourse he identifies ... as"The Spirit of Truth" (14:17; 15:26; 16:13), a title that occurs outside the fourth gospel only in 1 John 4:6. Four times Jesus uses the distinctive title"parakletos"to describe the Spirit (14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7). This word also occurs elsewhere only in 1 John (2:1), where it refers to Jesus.
"Parakletos," often printed in English as"Paraclete," challenges the translator of John's gospel. Major translations render it as"Comforter" (KJV)," Helper" (NASB)," Advocate" (NRSV) and"Counselor" (NIV). The Greek word itself contains all those meanings, describing one who is summoned to the aid of another."Helper"may be the better translation, allowing the context to describe the specific kind of help being offered (advocacy, comfort or counsel). Some commentators do not translate the word at all, simply bringing it into English as Paraclete, as we do with other Greek words like"baptism"or"deacon."
In many ways, the role of the Paraclete is to continue the ministry of Jesus to his disciples. Jesus introduces the Spirit as"Another" Paraclete, implying he himself had been the first (14:16). As Jesus is the Truth (14:6) and bears witness to the Truth (18:37), the Paraclete is"The Spirit of Truth" (14:17) who testifies as well (15:26-27). Just as Jesus is"The Holy One of God" (6:69), the Spirit is"The Holy Spirit" (14:26).
Jesus has"come into the world" (5:43), and now promises the Paraclete will come as well (16:8). The Spirit"comes forth"from the Father (15:26), just as Jesus has come forth from the Father. The Father gives the Paraclete at Jesus' request (14:16), just as the Father has given his Son (3:16). The Father who sent Jesus (3:17) will send the Spirit as well (14:26). Jesus came in the Father's name (5:43) and the Paraclete comes in Jesus' name (14:26). As Jesus spoke only what the Father told him (14:10), so the Spirit would reveal Jesus' words (16:13). Jesus glorified the Father (14:13; 17:4), and the Paraclete will glorify Jesus (16:14). In many ways, the Paraclete is to Jesus as Jesus is to the Father.
The Paraclete will play a significant role in the lives of Jesus' followers. They will be privileged to know the Paraclete, as they have known Jesus (14:7, 9, 17). The Spirit will be within the disciples and will remain with them, as Jesus remains in and with his friends (14:20, 23; 15:4-5; 17:23, 26). The Spirit will guide the disciples along the way of truth (16:13), even as Jesus is the Way and the Truth (14:6). Jesus has taught those who would listen (6:59; 7:14, 18; 8:20), and now the Paraclete will do the teaching (16:12- 15). The Spirit will empower disciples to testify to Jesus (15:26-27; 20:21-23).
The Spirit also has an important role to play in relation to the world. The world that did not accept Jesus will not accept the Paraclete (5:43; 12:48; 14:17). The world that did not recognize Jesus (7:28; 8:14, 19; 14:7; 16:3) will not recognize his Spirit either (14:17). Like Jesus, the Paraclete will bear witness in the context of the world's hatred (7:7; 15:26-27). And the Paraclete ultimately proves the world wrong concerning its verdict on Jesus (16:8-11). Jesus'"Advocate"Will become the prosecuting attorney bringing the world to trial before the bar of Truth.
Living as Jesus' disciple while he was on earth required knowing him, loving him, trusting him, obeying him and learning from him. We now experience his presence with us through knowing, loving, trusting, obeying, and learning from the Paraclete, the Spirit of Truth.
Jesus describes the Paraclete almost entirely in functional terms. He tells us what the Spirit will do with and for us...; is God's presence among us (14:16-17)...; is our personal teacher (14:26; 15:13)...; brings thing to our minds and helps us understand them (14:26)...; is the source of our peace (14:27)...; empowers our ministry and witness (15:26-27)...; comes to us in our sorrow (16:5-7)...; convicts the world of sin (16:8-11)...; focuses our attention on Jesus, glorifying him (16:13-14)...; makes spiritual truth clear to us (16:13-15)."
University Baptist Church-Clearlake, Houston, Texas, USA
December 16, 2002
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