17 May 2020John 14:15-21
'And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever.' (v. 16)
Psalm: Psalm 66
When I was a teenager, and going through all the regular anxieties that the condition of being a teenager brings (worrying that I wasn’t ‘cool’ enough, dread of going to another day working in a Saturday job I loathed, exam stress, etc), I got into the habit of singing the old 1980s chorus "Be Bold, Be Strong" to myself.
It’s a habit I carried with me into adulthood. I still catch myself singing it quietly when I’m about to give a scary presentation or (say) write a devotional passage that I know will be read by many! I was even singing it as I braved the supermarkets last week in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Today's passage drives home that same message for me. The disciples are scared – Jesus has told them that he will soon be leaving them, and probably in a rather violent way that will involve being betrayed by a close friend. They are not just scared for Jesus but also for themselves as they face an uncertain future. But Jesus offers them reassurance; he says, “I will not leave you orphaned” (v. 18). In fact, he promises to ask the Father to give “another Advocate” (v. 16) – meaning the Holy Spirit.
Jesus is offering an amazing, mind-blowing gift. The use of the word 'another' here suggests that this advocate (or helper/counsellor/adviser/encourager could also be translations from the original Greek Paraclete) will take the place of Jesus’ role in the life of the disciples. But the Holy Spirit won’t just be walking alongside them – it will be living in them. So this is great news – we, the believers, can be included in the intimate relationship that exists between Father, Son and Spirit and, because Jesus lives in us through the Holy Spirit, his work is no longer restricted to his locale but is wherever we are too …
This gift comes with a condition though. Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (v. 15) In the Gospel of John the only mention of Jesus commands are the commands to love others as he loved us (John 13:34-35 and 15:12-13). If we are to accept this wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit, then we need to be as Jesus to the world – a lofty aspiration and one that might, perhaps, drive me back to singing "Be Bold, Be Strong".
Lynne Norman, Mission and Community Engagement Development Officer
- What techniques do you use, or could you use, to feel closer to God when going through difficulties, challenges or scary times?
- How have you loved, or how could you love, today? How have others shown love to you?