Believing Jesus' Promise

Reading: John 14.15-31
What is the shortest distance between two fixed points? A line? What kind of line? A straight line? But if the two fixed points are in two suburbs on different sides of Townsville, what then? That's not quite so easy! We take out the street directory - and look at the big picture first. What are the major routes linking these suburbs? Then we go back to the map numbers at each end of this route. How do we get onto our major route? and how do we got off at the other end? That's right! What street or road do we need to be looking out for? Perhaps we draw ourselves a "mud map" with some map references and pass it across to our navigator...

Do you ever get lost and have to go back to the original map to figure it all out again? Are you a good navigator? Do you ever tell the driver to turn left when the car should be going right?

Sometimes we can have a problem because the street directory doesn't include some new estate we are visiting. It may not have information about a road that is closed, a one-way street or a new road opened. It certainly cannot warn us about road works and detours.

All of these things are simple enough if you happen to be a local. But if you are a newcomer or visitor...In the larger cities, you may need to call the RACQ for a Pilot. Do they still offer that service? With the numbered route systems, such a service is not as necessary as it used to be. A good map with route numbers is supposed to get us through.

The Paraclete

Jesus seemed to be talking a lot about leaving them - about his death. The disciples were rather anxious about where they would go when that happened. How could they live? How could they carry on the work of the Kingdom?

They had heard his teaching. How could they remember it all? How could they do it? How could they live in the close relationship with the Father that Jesus obviously had?

The answer is in the promised coming of the Holy Spirit. In John's gospel, we hear Jesus using an interesting word to describe this third Person of the Trinity. He is called the parakletos - the "Paraclete" in some of the old hymns. The Greek word simply means someone who is called alongside. Our English translations understand this in a number of ways. He is the Comforter bringing us encouragement and healing. He is the Advocate who pleads our cause with the Father. He is the Counselor, bringing us advice and guidance. He is the Helper who comes to our aid. Thinking of our earlier analogy, why not our Pilot/Navigator too?

Jesus calls him "another Paraclete" (14.16) because, as someone has put it, he "was destined to take the place of Christ with the apostles (after his ascension to the Father), to lead them to a deeper knowledge of the gospel truth, and give them divine strength needed to enable them to undergo trials and persecutions on behalf of the divine kingdom."

The point is that the one God - from all eternity - has made himself known to us in three Persons - the Father, who is the Creator and Sustainer of all things, the Son, by whom all things were made and who came and lived and taught and healed and died and rose again and ascended to the Father and who is Saviour and Lord, and the Holy Spirit, through whom God works in the life of the believer applying the finished work of the Son to our lives, bringing about the character of Christ in our lives and fulfilling the mission of Christ through our lives.

In what Jesus says here, we notice a sort of hierarchy within the Godhead. The Son speaks from the Father (v.24). The Father is greater than the Son (v.28) The Spirit will remind them of the Son's words (v.26). He will testify about the Son (15.26). He will tell us only what he hears (16.13). He will take what comes from the Son and make it known to us (16.15).

It is important to grasp this three-in-oneness by which God is revealed to us if his work in us is to become complete. The Christian life is impossible without the work of the Spirit within us. But the Spirit focuses on the words and work of the Son. If we talk about the Spirit with little reference to the Son, we have gone off on a "spirit-trip" that is less than Christian.

The guidance of our Navigator/Pilot will always be in accordance with the road map - the Bible. Contrary to some opinion, the road map isn't out of date! The roads through haven't changed, even though there are some new dead-ends that don't have a specific mention - and new developments and diversions that the sign-posts direct us away from anyway!

Three Promises

In today's reading, Jesus gives us three promises which are all essential if we are to stay "on track".

The first promise is the divine indwelling. Listen to what Jesus says - "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and reveal myself to him."

Notice that obedience is the sign of love. The Lord is observing, not so much the loud professions of love, as the reality of our obedience. As a result we are loved by the Father and the Son and the Son will reveal himself to us.

Wait a moment, Lord! says the other Judas (not Judas Iscariot), "why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?" Quite simple, Jesus says, because "my Father will love him and we will come to him and make our home with him" (vv.21-24). If we backtrack to what Jesus said in vv.15-17, "If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever - the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, because he lives with you and will be in you."

God loves us - so much that he gave his only Son... And as we respond to God's love, our love leads us into obedience and to God himself living within us by the Holy Spirit.

The second promise is that the Holy Spirit will be our teacher. Jesus has spoken about the importance of obeying his own teaching - teaching which he says "belongs to the Father who sent me" (vv.23-24). But when he goes from them the Holy Spirit will be our teacher, reminding us of the things Jesus has told us and enabling us to understand it.

This promise had special importance for those first disciples. They had to record faithfully the words and works of Jesus - and to set out their significance for believers and for the whole world. But at that stage - before cross and resurrection - there were many things that were still a puzzle to them. So now the Spirit who inspired the writing of the Old Testament will guarantee that the New faithfully records the Word of God.

For us there is now no new "revelation" to be given, but the Spirit is still our teacher giving us understanding of the things of Christ and applying the teaching of Christ to our present situation and to our lives today. The road map hasn't changed, but we still need the Spirit's guidance in avoiding today's new set of side tracks and dead-ends!

The third is the promise of peace. "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world does. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid" (v.27).

We are not living in a very peaceful world at present. Troubles in the Middle East, in Africa, Indonesia, some of the Pacific nations... have claimed our attention. But industrial disputes in our own country and the increase of crimes of violence bring the grim reality that the problem is not just "out there" but here as well.

We note the warnings of Jesus in chapter 16, "A time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. [That certainly happened in the Garden of Gethsemane when they all ran away.] Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. [Hence the awfulness of his experience on the cross when he called out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Mt. 27.46]. I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!" (16.32-33)

We are not promised an easy path. We will be "insulted and persecuted and have all kinds of evil told falsely against us because of Christ" (Mt. 5.11). Yet we are to "love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us" (Mt. 5.44). The path that leads to life is narrow and hard. Most of those about us are on a different road, broad and easy, but leading to hell (Mt. 7.13-14).

But Jesus promises peace. Not the peace given by the world - a peace achieved by compromises and maintained by denials, a peace dependent on outward circumstance. Jesus promises a peace that is deep and enduring, a peace at the centre of our being that no outward circumstance can take away. Jesus could promise peace because he was about to die for the sins of the world. Forgiveness is possible. There can be lasting peace with God and there need be no more conflict within ourselves. And we need not be afraid - the prince of the world has no power over Jesus - he has overcome the world!

Where are you going in life? How are you going to get there? Don't forget to read your road map! Don't ignore your Navigator!

We need peace. That is a point of felt need with most of us. If we admit it, we also need wisdom, guidance, teaching. But we cannot live the Christian life without God himself living within us. The recurring theme of Capernwray speakers is that the Christian life isn't difficult - it is impossible! Only Christ can live the Christian life! That is why we need to welcome him, by the Holy Spirit, to live his life through us!

© Peter J. Blackburn, Home Hill and Ayr Uniting Churches, 20 May 2001
Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, © International Bible Society, 1984.

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