Read John 15:26-16:4a
This short introduction to the power of the Holy Spirit is offered here to comfort, warn, and encourage the disciples. We could include the rest of chapter 16, but I think I’d rather have a short post with a focused topic. Maybe you’ll appreciate the break!
One of the odd things about the compilation of stories we call the Bible is the divisions by chapter and verse. Some modern writers have published the Bible in magazine format, narrative form, no break form, etc., to get beyond these somewhat arbitrary boundaries. I only point this out because the reading I suggest today starts at the end of chapter 15 and goes to the middles of John 16:4. Weird, right?
I’m not criticizing King James and his successors, not really. It’s very important to have a baseline source we all refer to and a common lexicon that is offered by our modern Bible translations. What I am suggesting is that the divisions of the Bible are just that, a foundation for us to use for consistent reference. Don’t get tripped up by reading to the end of a chapter or paragraph as divided by Bible publishers. Look for the rest of the thought, even when that spans chapters or when the thought changes in the middle of what’s tagged as a verse. Enough of Dave’s format lesson. Let’s look at the text.
The Promise with a Requirement
The promise of the Holy Spirit is huge! This is all new information for the disciples hearing Jesus speak and it’s completely new for those of us we talk to about our faith. I might even go out on a limb and suggest it’s new information for a lot of people who show up consistently on Sunday morning, you know, the church people.
Jesus begins by using the word “when” or “hotan” in the original Greek. The word provides a promise. The disciples don’t have to do anything for the Advocate to come, He’s coming whether you’re ready or not! And He’s coming with a purpose that we must respond to.
When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning. John 15:26-27
The Advocate, that is the Holy Spirit, is coming to equip us to testify about Jesus. For those who love etymology, check out this link for “Advocate” and the previous one I provided for “hotan”:
one who pleads another’s cause before a judge, a pleader, counsel for defense, legal assistant; an advocate Strong’s Concordance
This is what I really want, someone to plead my cause before God!
This advocate, however, is much more than the simple definition provided. The Advocate is one of the three persons wrapped up in the Trinity. He comes from the Father because He is the Father (and the Son). It’s complicated. But He comes with a purpose and He comes to equip us. That’s truly reassuring.
Jesus picks this time for this conversation because the disciples are ready for the lesson.
16:1 All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. 3 They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. 4 I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them. I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you… John 16:1-4a
One of the side lessons to learn from this text is that timing matters. In the previous post, I suggested we might not tell someone about all the troubles that will likely follow when they are considering committing their lives to Christ. Actually, I probably would, but that’s me. What I wouldn’t do is try to explain the entire Old Testament or jump into some deep apologetic argument.
Anyway, Jesus explains His rationale for providing this information at this time. In short, He says: Hey guys, it’s about to get really hard and I don’t want you to run away when these things extreme things happen:
- kicked out of the synagogue, and
- those will kill you thinking their doing God’s work
We might not think #1 is a big deal, but for those raised in the Jewish culture, this is a HUGE deal. Getting kicked out of the synagogue is the last thing you would want to have happen in that culture. Well, compared to #2 I guess it’s not the last thing, but you get my point.
Interestingly, for those who are from the Muslim faith, getting kicked out of the Mosque is just the beginning. When a Muslim crosses the line of faith in Christ, they are removed from the family, they are forgotten. When we offer Christ as the savior to our Muslim friends, we have to weigh the cost.
Truthfully, we should all learn from the Muslim community. We should take our faith as seriously as they do, as seriously as our Jewish brothers and sisters do. We can learn a lot from their perspective. When we ask someone to invite Jesus into their lives, it should radically alter every aspect of their existence! It should because it must. And as Jesus told His disciples, and therefore instructs us, we must testify that He is the Lord of all.
Lord Jesus, thank you for telling us about the Holy Spirit and for showing us how to disciple others by Your amazing example. God help us to be strong and Spirit give us the right words to testify to those we meet every day. May we point others to Christ and be willing to walk with them across the line of faith, even when it’s harder they we can imagine.