16 June 2019John 16:12-15
'When the Spirt of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.' (v. 13)
Psalm: Psalm 8
Today’s passage comes from the lengthy middle section of John’s Gospel that covers most of chapters 13–17. Often referred to as the “farewell discourses”, the section begins with Jesus washing the disciples’ feet (13:1-20) and concludes with the beautiful prayer for his followers (17:1-26), immediately before his betrayal and arrest. Much of the material in this section is unique to John’s Gospel, and it covers a wide range of topics, including a new commandment to love one another (13:33-34; 15:12) and Jesus’ role as the “true vine” (15:1-11).
In these particular verses, Jesus speaks about the forthcoming gift of the Holy Spirit, as he does elsewhere in this section (14:16-17, 25-26; 15:26; 16:4-11). Immediately beforehand, he promises the disciples that when he returns to the Father, he will send an ‘Advocate’ (or ‘Helper’ or ‘Comforter’) to reveal the truth about himself and the world (16:7). This is the Holy Spirit that would descend upon the apostles at Pentecost (John 7:39; Acts 2:1-4).
Earlier, Jesus has told his disciples that this spirit will “teach you everything” (14:26) and he re-emphasises that here (v. 13), indicating the continuing journey of discipleship that lies ahead for all his followers. There are parallels here to Moses’ farewell speech to the Israelites on the great exodus from Egypt into the Promised Land, where he promises that Joshua will act as their guide when he had gone (Deuteronomy 31:7, 23). In a similar way, the Spirit will take up Christ’s work after he has ascended, leading his followers ever deeper into the revelation of the Kingdom of God.
Jesus also makes clear that the Spirit will only speak as God, the Father, commands, just as he has done in his earthly ministry (8:26-28; 12:49; 14:10; 15:15; 17:7-8). This Spirit is distinct from God the Father and Jesus, but acts only in accordance with their divine nature and will. Although not explicitly mentioned here, the Christian understanding of the Holy Trinity derives from verses such as these.
- In what ways has the Holy Spirit led us further in our understanding of Jesus Christ since his resurrection and ascension?
- How has the Holy Spirit continued to “guide you into all truth” (v. 13) in your own life?
- What significance does the doctrine of the Trinity have for your faith?