The Helper – Part Four

“But these things I have spoken to you, that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them.  And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.  But now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are you going?’  But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.  But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you” (Jn 16:4-7).

Jesus has been sharing many new insights with His disciples here in the upper room just prior to His betrayal and arrest.  And the reason these truths were not explained earlier is because it was not necessary.  The disciples had Jesus with them, “from the beginning” as Jesus states, and they could question Him or explore any topic at any time.

But now Jesus is filling the disciples minds with many new things so that when He is gone – and His departure is imminent – they will be able to remember what Jesus said and taught.  Here, on the very doorstep of Jesus going back to “Him who sent Me”, He recognizes a sense of sadness coming upon His followers.  He sees the “sorrow that fills their hearts”.

So Jesus comes back to a topic meant to spark hope around His departure; the coming of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus returns now to the person of the Helper, the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit.  Jesus not only promises to send the Holy Spirit, but speaks as if it will even be better that Jesus goes away and the Spirit comes.  Jesus says that it will actually be “to their advantage” that He goes away.

Wow!  “To their advantage” is an awfully bold statement.  There is something better than the physical presence of Jesus?  Something better than Jesus in the flesh?  In my sacred imagination, I am not sure if that is even possible.  But I believe it because Jesus said it, and He emphasizes that He is telling the truth.  “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away” (Jn 16:7).

How can Jesus going away be “to their advantage”?  How is this to our advantage?  The short answer is that the Holy Spirit can only come to us if Jesus goes away.  They are trading places in an incredible way.  And Jesus is making quite clear that the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts is more advantageous to us than Jesus’ physical presence.

The long answer is the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the world and our lives.  We will learn more about this next time.

Do You “Know” the Father and the Son?

“These things I have spoken to you, that you may be kept from stumbling.  They will make you outcasts from the synagogue; but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God.  And these things they will do, because they have not known the Father, or Me.  But these things I have spoken to you, that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them” (Jn 16:1-4).

Jesus’ words about the hateful response of the world to us and our gospel message is a “heads up” to His followers.  By letting the disciples in on what is coming their way, Jesus is preparing His friends so they will not shrink back or be fearful.  He goes so far as to prophesy that those who seek to kill the disciples will think they are offering a service to God.

We see this come true in the early life of the church.  In Acts chapter 7, the bold witness of Stephen is met with death at the hands of the people, incited by the Jewish leaders.  Saul, later to become the apostle Paul, who witnessed this execution clearly fit the prediction of one who persecuted the church thinking he was serving God.  “And Saul was in hearty agreement with putting Stephen to death” (Acts 8:1).

But God rescued Saul from that path and, as the apostle Paul, he went on to a life of fruitful ministry.  What Satan, the force behind the hatred of the world, meant for evil, God turned into good.  Paul later wrote, “Christ Jesus considered me faithful, putting me into service; even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor.  And yet I was shown mercy, because I acted ignorantly in unbelief” (I Tim 1:12-13).

Paul acted ignorantly in unbelief because he did not know the true Jesus.  Why is it that the world will hate Jesus and His followers?  “Because they have not known the Father or Me” (Jn 16:3).  We have seen before throughout the book of John that when it comes to knowledge of, love for, honor to, and abiding in, there is no separation between the Father and the Son.

If you have seen the Son, you have seen the Father.  If you love the Son, you love the Father who sent Him.  If you show honor to the Son, you are honoring God, the Father.  If you abide in Christ, you are abiding in the Father’s loving hand.  What separates the world that hates the Father and the Son and those of us who love the Father and the Son is … “Do you ‘know’ the Father and the Son?”

To “know” is to believe.  To “know” is to embrace the gospel message of Jesus.  To “know” is to accept Jesus’ free gift of eternal life and become a child of God.  That “know” separates the world who hates and the children of God who love the Father and the Son.

When Jesus warns the disciples that they will be expelled from the synagogue, they have no idea that the synagogue will take on less and less importance as the church develops.  The synagogue will stand as a center of the fading Jewish religion, and the presence of God will soon be evident in His church and in His people.  Outcasts from the synagogue will actually become the ultimate insiders; beloved children of the God Most High.

The Helper – Part Three

“When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me, and you will bear witness also, because you have been with Me from the beginning.” (Jn 15:26-27). 

Here is the third reference – in Jesus’ upper room message – to the Helper, the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit.  And He is again called “the Spirit of truth” (See Jn 14:17).  The Spirit’s witness concerning Jesus the Christ is going to be completely true.  It is going to be completely correct.  And it is to be completely believed.

The message here is that the witness that Jesus gave during His time on the earth through His words and works would not come to an end when He is no longer here.  Jesus has been preparing His disciples for His departure throughout these chapters in John’s gospel.  The Spirit is here identified as the one who will take up this ministry of witness (“He will bear witness of Me”) and carry it on.  And He will carry it on through Christ’s disciples (“and you will bear witness also”).

It is not surprising that this revelation about the Spirit’s role comes at the end of this passage about Christ and His followers being hated and persecuted by the world.  If you look back to Mark chapter 13, Jesus made a similar statement about the connection between persecution and the witness of the Spirit though the disciples.  “And when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not be anxious beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit” (Mk 13:11).

Wow!  What a promise!  The Holy Spirit will speak through you.  How comforting.  How empowering!

We see this exact fulfillment in the book of Acts.  When the apostle Peter and his friends, brought before the high priest and council, proclaim the certainty and the power of the resurrection of Jesus, Peter concludes his remarks with, “And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him” (Acts 5:32).

Of course, it required the Holy Spirit coming on the Day of Pentecost and filling Christ’s followers.  From that day forward, the message has been proclaimed with the power and the witness of the Holy Spirit.  To say a person comes to faith by the revelation and call of the Holy Spirit is not a spiritual cliche.  It is, in fact, God’s plan in action.

A final thought about the Trinity as we close John chapter 15.  We have seen in this and the other Helper passages that Jesus will send the Spirit.  The Spirit will proceed from the Father.  The Father will send the Spirit in Jesus’ name.  It is not important to parse who of the Trinity is doing exactly what.  The message is that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are working in concert to fulfill all that God has promised.  Our God is amazing!

The Father and the Son

“If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.  He who hates Me hates My Father also.  If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well.  But they have done this in order that the word may be fulfilled that is written in their Law, ‘They hated Me without a cause’ ” (Jn 15:22-25).

If Christ had not come, the world would not be aware of their sin or the guilt their sin produced.  The calamity of sin and guilt would seem like the norm for the human race.  But Christ came to offer freedom from sin and guilt through His death in our place and His resurrection from the dead.

Everything that Christ spoke (“spoken to them”) and all that Christ did (“the works which no one else did”) was to draw men and women to Himself and the freedom that He offered.  But the world of Christ’s day and the world of our day have for a large part rejected Him.  “But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him” (Jn 12:37).

What Christ makes clear in John 15 is that hatred directed at Jesus is hatred directed at God Himself.  Recall a similar connection in John chapter 5 when Jesus was talking to the Jewish leaders.  It was an occasion when they were actively seeking to kill Jesus.  Jesus is speaking.  “The Father has given all judgment to the Son, so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father.  He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (Jn 5:22-23).

In John chapter 5, the honor of the Father and the Son are tightly linked.  Jesus is making it clear that no one can refuse the Son’s claims and still say they honor the Father.  This is exactly what Jesus’ opponents were trying to do.  They claimed to be followers of God, but at the same time were seeking to kill the one who claimed to be His Son.  The honor of God the Father and Jesus the Son are inextricably linked.

Back to our passage above, Christ said that the world that has seen Him has seen the Father also.  And by hating the Son, the world was despising the Father as well.  “They have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well” (Jn 15:24).  The Son and the Father are inseparable regarding our belief in them, our honor of them, or one’s hatred of them.  If the people of Jesus day had recognized Jesus as the Son of God, they would have seen the Father in Him.  But by rejecting the Son, they were rejecting the Father as well.

Jesus came to show the world the love of God.  The world’s reaction – with the exception of His disciples and followers who were just capturing a glimpse of who He really was – was hatred all the way to a public execution.  Jesus came to show them the light, but the world chose darkness.  The world rejected the light and the life.  The world chose darkness and death.

“In Him [Jesus] was life; and the life was the light of men.  And the light shines in the darkness; and the darkness did not comprehend it” (Jn 1:4-5).  We are now a light in this darkened world.  May we bear witness to the light.  May we reflect the light.  May we be the light.  And through this light bring comprehension, understanding, and hope to all men.

Hated by the World

“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.  Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’  If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.  But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me” (Jn 15:18-21).

Because the world “does not know the One who sent Me”, it is living in darkness.  And it is a darkness that hates the light.  Jesus is the light (Jn 8:12), and “everyone who does evil hates the light” (Jn 3:20).  And did you know that by virtue of Christ living His life through you that you are also called “the light”?  “You are the light of the world” (Mt 5:14).

The darkness hates the light.  The world living in darkness hates the Son.  And the world hates us, the Son’s followers.  How do we respond to that hatred?  There are three mistakes we can make as we process and react to the hate all around us.

First, we can take on an unhealthy victim mentality that wants our fair share.  We argue for a seat at the table.  We are owed a place in the public square.  Our viewpoint deserves to be heard.  We constantly blame the  _____  (you fill in the blank) for the lack of respect we have in places of media and political power.  But was that ever promised to us?  The prediction from Jesus above sounds like just the opposite.  The world will hate us.  Something I believe we should expect and accept.

A second mistake is that we can fight fire with fire.  This is similar to the attitude above with a slight variation.  Because the world hates me, I can be a jerk in return.  If you are going to suppress my right to speak out, I will fight to suppress yours.  I will boycott your establishment.  I will … etc.  How does this fit Jesus’ call to love our enemies, and actually shower them with goodness in response to their hate?  Christ’s call to us has always been a higher call of love, not getting even.

The third erroneous approach is basically the opposite of one and two, but just as dangerous.  It is a people-approval idol that doesn’t want anyone to hate us.  And we will do anything we can to not experience the hate.  I am not person one or two at all, but I very easily fall into the trap of person three.  I want people to like me.  I want the new neighbor to think highly of me.  I stand on the sidelines not wanting my true colors to show for fear of rejection; even when rejection seems to be exactly what Jesus says is coming and its OK.  Have you been there?  The world rejected Jesus first.  “And the slave is not greater than his master.”

We are called to speak the truth.  We are called to speak the truth with grace.  We are called to speak the truth with love.  We are called to speak the truth with humility.  “Always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience” (I Pet 3:15-16).

We can focus on gentleness and reverence and a good conscience and we should.  But let’s not forget the ready to speak; ready to give an answer.

The world that hates us has already made up its mind.  And it is a world system that hated Jesus first.  But the individuals that make up that system are not the enemy.  Satan is the enemy.  The person standing against you is not the enemy.  They are actually prisoners of the enemy.  Something we all were until Jesus set us free.

In your interactions with a world that hates us, let’s not focus on the hate coming our way.  Let’s counter that evil wave with a love that is pure, a love straight from the Father.  A love that sends an aroma of grace to a hurting world.