Text: John 14:16 “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever.”
It is difficult for us to imagine the emotional turmoil of Jesus’ disciples at the time that these words were uttered. Impressed by his wonderful teaching and amazing miracles, they had concluded that their beloved Master was indeed the longed-for Messiah, and he would sit on David’s throne, restore the kingdom to Israel, deliver God’s people from all their troubles, and subdue all nations. In this hope they had left everything – their homes, their families, their friends, their jobs – and followed him.
But now he has told them that very soon he must leave them, that he would be put to death as a common criminal. All their hopes crash to the ground. They had abandoned everything for him; now he was abandoning them, leaving them helpless and comfortless in a hostile world.
It was into this mood of sorrow, distress and bewilderment that our Lord spoke these words of unspeakable comfort on the night before he was nailed to a cross.
The word translated ‘Counselor’ is also rendered ‘Comforter’, ‘Helper’, ‘Advocate’, ‘Friend’. The Greek word is ‘paraklete‘, which literally means, ‘one who is called alongside to help’. A paraklete might be a person summoned to give witness in a court of law in someone’s favour; he might be an expert who is asked to give advice in some difficult situation; he might be a person called in when a company of soldiers were depressed and dispirited to put new courage into their minds and hearts. A ‘paraklete’ is someone called in to help in time of trouble or need.
Jesus says that he is going to ask the Father to send ‘another paraklete.’ The Greek has two words for ‘another’. Suppose you were to go into Marks and Spencer in Athens or any other Greek-speaking city in the ancient world. You might say, “I bought this jacket here the other day, but the style and colour really don’t suit me. I would like to change it for another one.” You would have used the word, ‘heteros‘ – another but different. But suppose you liked your jacket so much that you wanted another one, identical to it?” Then, you would have used the word, ‘allos‘ – another just the same. Jesus uses the second word, ‘allos‘, here. “I will ask the Father, and he will give you ‘allos paracletos‘ – another paraklete, just like the first.”
The disciples’ first paraclete had, of course, been Jesus himself. He had been their counselor, comforter, helper, advocate, and friend. He had drawn alongside them. He had taken up their cause. He had taught them how to pray, and had prayed for them. He had instructed them what to say, and how to act. He had given them miraculous powers, and taught them how to use them.
And now he is leaving he promises to ask his Father to send another paraclete, one just like himself. It soon becomes clear that he is talking about the Holy Spirit. This would be no loss to them, but rather great gain. What Jesus in the days of his flesh had done for a few, the Holy Spirit would do for many. What Jesus had done locally, temporarily, the Holy Spirit would do universally, permanently. Though the first paraclete must leave them, this other paraclete would remain with them for ever.
He would teach them and empower them as long as they lived.
He would equip them with wisdom, knowledge, faith, gifts of healings, miraculous powers, prophecy, tongues and all the other manifestations of the Spirit.
And, working by and with the apostolic writings he would continue to instruct, support and guide us, and all God’s people till the end of all things.
It is he who gives us new birth when we believe in Jesus
- It is he who brings to maturity in us Christlike graces such as love, faith and hope
- It is he who gives us a role within the body of Christ and equips us for ministry
- It is he who enables us to understand and believe the Scriptures, which testify to Christ
- It is he who prays for us when we do not know how to pray, just as Jesus prayed for his disciples
- It is he who will give life to our mortal bodies at the last day, just as Jesus was raised victoriously from his grave.
How then should we live, since the Spirit of Jesus is with us? As if Jesus himself were with us. What difference would it make if Jesus himself were sitting here with us in church. What difference would it make if he were to come back home with us and join us for lunch. What difference would it make he were to get in the car with us tomorrow morning and accompany us to work. What difference would it make if he were actually to stand beside us as we attempted to share the gospel with an unbeliever? What difference would it make he Jesus himself were to put his arm round your shoulder when you felt at your wit’s end? What inner thoughts, doubts, anxieties, fears, delights, you would either want to hide from him, or share with him? And yet Jesus is as present with us by his Spirit now as he was when he washed his disciples’ feet and shared bread and wine with them.
The entire Godhead, Father, Son and Holy Spirit agree and co-operate in this gift of another paraclete. The Son is pleased to ask. The Father is pleased to give. The Spirit is pleased to come. The gift of the Holy Spirit was the first thing that Christ asked for when he returned to his Father’s home. No sooner had he entered heaven, than he secured the outpouring of this other paraclete, who would be with us for ever. Since the Spirit is the first-born of mercies, let us give him the first place in our hearts, and love him, esteem him, honour him, just like Jesus.