Sunday

15 May 2016

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” (vv. 15-17)

Psalm: Psalm 104


Background

The celebration of Pentecost begins with Jesus' promise in John 14 that the Father will send the Advocate, which is the Spirit of truth. At various points in the Gospel, John refers to the spirit or Holy Spirit using the Greek word 'pneuma', which has multiple meanings - such as breath, wind, or spirit. This rather general term allows Jesus to make pun-like play of words. For example, in the conversation with Nicodemus (John 3:1-9), Jesus says: "What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, 'You must be born from above.' The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." (John 3:6-8)

'Pneuma' is the most-often used term in the Gospels for references to the Holy Spirit, the human spirit, or the energy and life that enlivens all flesh. It is, therefore, striking that John employs an unusual Greek term, 'parakletos', in chapter 14. The NRSV translates this word as Advocate, which tends toward connotations of a legal case or courtroom. Perhaps this relates to the qualifying phrase in which Jesus refers to the 'parakletos'/Advocate as "the Spirit of truth".

The Advocate will teach the disciples and reveal to them what is true. In this sense, the 'parakletos'is a communicator. Communicate literally means to be in union with or to join in unity. The 'parakletos'brings the followers of Christ into union with the ongoing presence and revelation of God. There is an implication that what the Word, incarnate in Jesus Christ, has accomplished in being the sign of God's presence in the world will continue through the coming Advocate/'parakletos'. The community united to God the Father and God the Son through the Spirit continues Christ's work of revealing the love and glory of God in the world.


To Ponder

  • In the 21st century how helpful is it for the Church to talk about speaking the 'truth'? Why?
  • What is the role of the Church as a community in revealing the love of God in the world?


Bible notes author:  The Revd Dr Cindy Wesley 

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