Date: 23 Jul 2017
Text: John 14:15-31
In the previous two sermons in this series we have considered the new command that Jesus left us with to “love one another”; and then what Jesus had to say about how we as non-believers can come into a right relationship with God. These two thoughts are vital to our lives as Christians and provide us with the basis on how we can live in Christ.
Today’s passage though is multi-faceted and contains a huge amount of information about our lives as Christians, what we should do and consequently how Jesus will help us in the way we live. These verses call upon us to look within ourselves for evidence of the presence of Jesus Christ in our daily lives, and since some of these thoughts are inter-woven throughout the passage, we need to look at it very carefully.
Jesus had just told His faithful disciples that He was about to leave them to go and be with His Father in heaven. They were naturally perplexed and wondered what was likely to happen to them when Jesus their friend did finally leave them. In these verses Jesus does His best to reassure them that they will be well taken care of and have nothing to worry about.
Firstly, He talked of them loving Him. In John 13:34 Jesus had said to them, “A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another”. Love was at the very heart of all that Jesus did and it was because He loved us so much that He came to live amongst us and then to be crucified on that cross at Calvary to pay the price for our sins. That is true love and here Jesus expands on His original command by adding some guidelines on how the love that His disciples had for Him was to be manifested. We need to remember that love means more than words since it requires both commitment and action. True love can be demonstrated in many ways and Jesus wanted, and still wants, His disciples to demonstrate their love for Him by obeying His commands. That may sound easy but as any Christian living in the modern world can affirm it isn’t easy at all. However, Jesus gives further assurance as to what loving Him and keeping His commands will bring. He tells us in 14:21, “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them”. John reminds us again of this in his first Epistle where he says in 1 John 5:2-3, “This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome...” Love should always be a two way street and there can be no doubt that when we love Jesus Christ we will in turn be loved by God our heavenly Father.
Jesus then moves on to add, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching” (14:23a). The disciples had been with Jesus for quite some time and so had had the benefit of hearing His teaching first hand. They had heard about the coming kingdom of heaven; the need for forgiveness; the need to love another, and many other things vital to Christian life. The way that we can be in Jesus’ presence and “hear” His teaching is by reading and obeying the Bible. The New Testament is full of His teaching and should be used and followed by Christians regularly if they are to continue living in Christ. Sadly of course far too many people discredit the Bible as being old, out of date and out of touch. Even members of some Christian churches ignore or twist the teaching contained in God’s Word. That is not how Christians should behave and nor does it demonstrate the love they should have for Jesus Christ.
Jesus had said to His disciples, “I am going away and I am coming back to you” (14:28a). That comment may well have confused the disciples because they couldn’t grasp that Jesus was actually going to leave them but would return at some time in the future. Having said that He was going, Jesus added, “If you loved me, you would be glad I am going to the Father...” (14:28b). If we truly love someone, even if they are leaving us either temporarily or permanently, we should be glad that they are going somewhere where they want to be. In this case, Jesus was going to return to be with His Father; what better place could there be for Him to go; it’s not as if He was going to an evil place or somewhere totally alien to Him. Consequently Jesus wanted His disciples to stay loving Him and be glad for Him. Does that seem too much to ask?
In 14:18b Jesus said to His disciples, “I will come to you”. What do you suppose He meant by that comment? Remember that this passage relates to events just a short time before His arrest and subsequent crucifixion. It seems possible therefore that Jesus knew that He would see His disciples again very soon and they would see Him during a number of post-resurrection appearances and that is what this comment relates to. You may recall that after His resurrection Jesus appeared to different people on a number of occasions starting with His appearance near His tomb shortly after the resurrection and ending with His appearance shortly before His ascension.
On the other hand He may have meant that He would come to them in the form of the Holy Spirit which is where the promise in 14:16 fits in. In that verse Jesus promises to ask His Father to “give you another advocate to be with you for ever”. The original Greek that is used for that word “advocate” can be translated in a variety of ways. I have consulted eight different Bible translations as well as the NIV that we use and have found four different translations of the Greek. The word “advocate” is used in three of those translations; whilst the word “counsellor” is also used. Another common word is “helper” and a fourth, rather descriptive, word is “Comforter”. I have also seen the Holy Spirit described as an Encourager. Take your pick! All of these words do though carry a similar meaning, that of someone to be with the disciples to help and comfort them. Later, in 14:26, we see that this individual will also have a second role in that, “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you”.
The clue as to Who this is comes at the beginning of 14:26 when Jesus calls the Advocate, the Holy Spirit. This is the same Holy Spirit Who Jesus told the disciples to wait for in Jerusalem at the time of His ascension. On that occasion Jesus said to them, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:4-5). He went on to add, “... you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you” (Acts 1:8a). Not only would they be empowered by the Holy Spirit to serve Jesus in so many amazing ways, but He would also be the One to be with them to act as their comforter and advocate for when times got hard. That is still the role of the Holy Spirit today; He is with us to help us, guide us, teach us and generally comfort us when things seem to go against us. He was the gift promised by Jesus in 14:25 and again in Acts 1:4-5 and that promise was kept on the Day of Pentecost, an event that we can read about in Acts 2.
Jesus knew that His disciples were worried at the prospect of His departure and that they may have felt abandoned or left bereft by this news. Consequently Jesus promised to help them by sending the Holy Spirit to be by their side to be their advocate and comforter. That same promise applies just as much to us today as it did to the disciples in the first century when Jesus walked the earth.
Notice in 14:16 that John refers to another Advocate, someone we have now identified as the Holy Spirit. However, what did Jesus mean when He used that word “another”? Quite simply, He was the first Advocate whilst the Holy Spirit was the second, or another, Advocate. John reminds us of this in his first Epistle when he tells us in 1 John 2:1, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” The Holy Spirit is our Advocate here on earth whilst Jesus is our Advocate with the Father in heaven.
We next need to consider our new relationship with the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ, something which Jesus touched on in 14:17b when He said, “But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” This may seem to be a rather complex relationship which The Message puts this way, “I’m in my Father, and you’re in me, and I’m in you”, although whether or not that helps to explain it I’m not totally sure! However, it is worth remembering that when we come to faith in Jesus we are united with and in Him; that is how close our relationship with Him truly is.
Earlier Jesus had said that the world wouldn’t know the Holy Spirit simply because they couldn’t see Him nor could they accept that He existed. To non-believers the Holy Spirit is some mystical being Who Christians talk about but find difficult to explain. It is only when someone comes to faith in Jesus Christ that they discover the reality of knowing the Holy Spirit. He comes to be with us and live in us at the very moment that we come to faith. He remains with us during our earthly lives and will only ever leave us when Jesus returns or we go to be with Him in heaven. The relationship that we have with the Holy Spirit is a supernatural one where He exists alongside us and within us; a situation that many fail to grasp or understand. Many new Christians frequently feel that they are unable to serve Christ because of their own shortcomings. What they fail to accept or understand is that promise that Jesus made in Acts 1:8a which I quoted earlier, the Holy Spirit will give us the power and ability that we need to serve Christ in whatever way He calls us. The Holy Spirit is not an optional extra Who is given to some Christians and not others, nor does He manifest Himself in someone’s life only in specific ways. He is given to all Christians and gives gifts to each Christian that are to be used to serve Christ and for no other purpose.
The final point from this passage that I want to discuss is the peace that Jesus talks of in 14:27a where He said to His disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you”. I truly believe that love is at the very heart of gospel; all that Jesus did for us was because of His love for us. We have already seen that there are a lot of references to love in these verses and what it should cause us to do; I’ve counted ten uses of the word “love” and its derivatives. However, Jesus was also concerned about peace; after all He had come in part to bring peace between ourselves and our heavenly Father. Jesus though came to bring a different kind of peace to that which the world understands, and He actually said, “I do not give you as the world gives” (14:27b). Jesus left His peace with His disciples, and us, so that we would not “...let our hearts be troubled and ... not be afraid” (14:27c). Paul talked of a similar kind of peace in his Epistle to the Philippians. In Philippians 4:9 he urged those in the church to learn from what they had received or heard from him, or seen in him and then put it into practice. If they did that then, “...the God of peace will be with you.” This peace is an inner peace that is almost impossible to define since it has to be experienced before it can be fully understood. Paul made that clear in Philippians 4:7 when he said, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
This is the peace that Jesus left us with and it is the peace in our hearts that He wants us to experience throughout our lives walking with Him. It is a peace that will never leave us provided we stay faithful in that walk and have the Holy Spirit working in and with us.
As I said at the outset, this is a multi-faceted passage that contains a lot for us to take in. However, when we break it down and look at it carefully we can see that there are a number of discrete and distinct lines of teaching for us to follow if we are truly living in Christ.
Jesus gives us guidance on how we are to demonstrate the love that we have for Him. We are to keep His commands. We are to love Him and in return our Father in heaven will love us. We are to obey His teaching which the disciples received first hand and which we receive from reading God’s Word regularly. Finally, He particularly urged the disciples to show their love for Him by being glad that He had returned to be with His Father, something which surely was a gladsome moment for Him.
Having upset His disciples by telling them that He was leaving, Jesus promised to send them an advocate, someone to be with them, help them, comfort them, teach them, encourage them and empower them to serve Him. This advocate was none other than the Holy Spirit and He is still with each and every Christian today.
Jesus went on to explain that the world would neither know nor accept the existence of the Holy Spirit since they couldn’t see Him nor have any experience of Him; He was a gift to believers only. When the Holy Spirit did come He was to abide within the disciples and subsequently all believers and be with them 24/7.
Finally, Jesus spoke of the peace that He was going to leave with them. This is no ordinary peace but a peace that Paul describes as transcending all understanding. It is an inner peace that comes only from God through knowing His Son Jesus Christ.
Each of these facets of our lives is intended to help us in our daily walk with Christ. If we truly are living in Christ then we should follow and experience each one of these. If we do that then there can be little doubt that our lives will be greatly enhanced.