By porthkerryandrhoose, Nov 20 2018 10:12AM
November is Will Aid month. If you've not heard of it, it's an initiative by a large number of solicitors to encourage people to write wills by not taking a fee, but instead taking a donation for a charity of the will writer's choice. I think it's a wonderful idea, as writing a will is so important, yet many of us put it off. We don't want to think about death, or perhaps we're afraid about how much it will cost or we just never quite get round to doing it. Darren and I made our wills in Will Aid month a number of years ago, and we were really pleased that our money went to Christian Aid. We were sorting things out for our own future and helping others in the process. So I commend it to you. Google Will Aid, or speak to me afterwards and I can point you in the right direction.
As far as we know, Jesus didn't write a will. I'm not sure there were even such things in the first century. Nevertheless, today's passage of John is a bit like a will. Jesus was telling his disciples what he was leaving them when he had gone.
If you've been following John with us, you will know that Jesus was getting very close to the time of his crucifixion. He'd had the last supper with his disciples and was now teaching them everything they would need to know to cope when he had gone. He would be back, but in the mean time they needed to know how to live effectively as his people, and how to cope without him physically there. Much of what he told them is relevant to us too, who still have to live without him physically alongside. So let's look at what Jesus was leaving his disciples. In our verses he mentions 2 things: the Holy Spirit and Peace. Let's look at them in turn.
v26 "But 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." He promises the Holy Spirit. This isn't the first mention of the Holy Spirit. Jesus also promises him in v16 and 17 and we need to glance back to those verses to really understand his importance. Jesus said "I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever." Jesus was going away and the disciples couldn't go with him, but he promised 'another advocate'. The word 'advocate' here doesn't really get to the heart of what Jesus was saying. The word in the Greek is paraclete, which means 'one who draws alongside', someone who is with you, fighting in your corner, speaking when you feel weak, keeping you strong against the enemy. Jesus had been doing these things for the disciples and when he had gone there would be another one just like him to be with them, the Holy Spirit. It's vital that we get this straight in our minds. The Holy Spirit isn't a force within us, like in Star Wars, he is a person like Jesus who draws alongside of us. Another Jesus. Not in a human incarnation, not to die in our place, that's the role of Jesus the Son, but to be with us in a very special way, to teach, to lead, to challenge, to comfort, to speak when we cannot. The Holy Spirit, God's gift every Christian.
For the apostles, the Holy Spirit also had a very specific role. v26 "the Advocate . . will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." Once Jesus had died and rose again and ascended, the apostles would need to be able to remember accurately the things Jesus had said and done. 3 of them would write, or be instrumental in writing, 3 of the gospels and all of them would have a teaching ministry. While Jesus was with them, they were often confused, or only partially understood things, so they would need help from God. And the Holy spirit did just what Jesus had promised. We see it right back in John 2:22 "After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken." The Holy Spirit had reminded them. That can give us great confidence as we read our New Testaments. What we have isn't just the memoirs of some of Jesus' disciples, but an accurate account put together with the help of the Holy Spirit. We can trust what we read. How important is that for us to remember, especially in this day and age when the Bible is being sidelined, not just by secular authorities, but often by the church leadership too. God's Holy Spirit was the teacher of the apostles and their memory prompt for all that happened.
Of course, the Holy Spirit teaches us too. Not in the same way, as we weren't around when Jesus walked the earth. The apostles had a very privileged and special role in recording everything and passing it on. But the Holy Spirit is the one who makes the apostles' teaching clear to us. That's why I always pray before I read the Bible and before I preach. God's Holy Spirit can make clear to us the things our sinful human hearts would miss or block out. If you're struggling when you're reading the Bible, stop and pray and ask for God's help. It's a prayer he delights to answer.
So Jesus promises the Holy Spirit. He also promises peace. v27 "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid." We have to be careful with what we mean here. Jesus promises peace, but a different sort of peace from the one the world offers. In the first century, the peace people were familiar with was the Pax Romana, the peace that the Roman Empire brought. But it was a peace enforced by the boots of the Roman Legions. The peace we celebrated last week was one which followed massive bloodshed and only lasted a short while. We send in peacekeeping troops to war torn areas. Jesus says his peace is different. We might also think of peace as an esoteric calm, something we might get if we meditate on a beach or in a forest. This isn't what Jesus is meaning either. The peace he gives is the peace won at the cross. Peace between us and God. The barrier of sin broken forever. A true relationship with God. And then, because of that, peace between one another as brothers and sisters. The world can't do either of these things authentically. But Jesus did it at the cross. That's why we don't need to be troubled or afraid. If we trust in Jesus, God is truly our Father, we are truly his precious children, bought at a price by Jesus and we have the Holy Spirit alongside to help and guide us.
What a wonderful last will and testament to us from Jesus! And it's even better, because unlike anyone else who writes a will, he's coming back. (v28). We are doubly beneficiaries.
The last few verses of our passage are almost a footnote. Those who are eagle eyed will have spotted the topping and tailing by John of v1 and v27 "Do not let your hearts be troubled" and "Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." It shows that the verses in between are a whole piece. There are just a few points Jesus adds on. As he looks forward to the next few days, he sees not the agony in store for him, but the impact on the disciples. Though he's told them over and over that he's going to be killed, he knows they haven't got it yet and they'll be upset, even thinking the devil has won and there's no hope. So he adds some more words of encouragement. v28 "If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I." He doesn't mean that the Trinity isn't true and there's a hierarchy in the godhead, he means that in his incarnated form he is weaker and he is limited. As Paul puts it in Philippians 2:7 'he made himself nothing'. The disciples should be pleased that he will be away from all the restrictions of being human as well as being God, if they love him. How plain that will be when he hangs on the cross. The weakness of Jesus in that moment will be so great it will look like evil has won and God is dead. Except he isn't and the devil hasn't won. Jesus is showing ultimate obedience to the plan of God. Phil 2:8 "And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death - even death on a cross." Obedience to God, being modelled for them, who are also called to be obedient to God, just as we are. It will be hard for Jesus, so hard, but for the ultimate benefit of each and every one of us who believes.
So, words of farewell from Jesus, and two great things left to his people: the Holy Spirit and Peace. May we be encouraged, that just like the first disciples we haven't been left as orphans by Jesus, but have another one just like him with us day by day, and the peace of reconciliation with God and one another.