Summary: An exposition of the key features of Jesus’ promise of Another Helper, made to his disciples in John 14, correlating this with Deut. 4 and 1 John 3.
Barbara and I are reading a series of murder mysteries. In the series we’re reading right now, the main character is named Hieronymous Bosch, a name his mother gave him because she thought that medieval painter’s depictions of hell resembled Los Angeles. In one scene, he is driving home through portions of LA that have been devastated by an earthquake, and he passes by a new apartment complex, which is now marked with fractures from one end to the other. Harry Bosch then notes that someone has come along with a can of spray paint and has written along the entire length of the building these words: The Fat Lady Has Sung.
Well, except for the anachronism involved, something like that would be a good to spray on the wall as Jesus is talking to his disciples in the section John reports in the gospel lesson appointed for today. It might say, the Fat Lady is about to begin singing. Jesus has told them in the previous chapter of John 13 that he is going away and they cannot come with him. They knew he was talking about his death. Judas is betraying Jesus. Peter will soon deny the Lord. At the time of Jesus’ greatest testing and trial, they will all run away. Their world is about to be turned upside down.
In John 14 Jesus offers his disciples the comfort of two promises. The first promise is the one you hear at just about every Christian funeral you have ever attended — the promise that Jesus is going away to prepare a place for the disciples – and by extension, for us – and that he will return and take us to be with him in that place forever.
The second promise Jesus offers his disciples has a more immediate application. Something this side of death. And, that promise is found in verse 16: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper to be with you forever...”
Many of you know that the word in John’s text is translated in various ways into English. Some versions read Counselor; others Comforter; or, as in the translation we heard read a moment ago, “Helper.” The Greek word is “parakleetos” which is difficult to translate into English, and so we find different renderings of this word in different English versions. It is a combination of “para” meaning “beside” or “alongside” and “kaleo” meaning “to call” or “to summon.” It refers to someone who is called along side to help. In some Greek texts it is a legal term for a defense attorney. And, so, some English versions translate the term here “Advocate.” We should also note what my Greek professors would often point out when discussing this passage, namely that the word “another” is important here, since there are a couple of different terms for this in Greek. Here we have “allos” which means another of the same kind (Someone just like Jesus). “I will ask the Father and He will give you another Helper...”
Why is this important to you and me? It is important because what was true of the disciples is also true of you and me. No one here today can live a godly life without the abiding help of the Holy Spirit. But this promise to the disciples is also a promise to you and me. We know this from statements such as Peter made in his sermon in Acts 2, when speaking of the gift of the Holy Spirit, he said this: “For the promise [of the Holy Spirit] is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call." The Holy Spirit is exactly what we need to handle life successfully and to live in a godly way.
We should take careful note of the things Jesus tells us here about the Holy Spirit.
For example, in verse 16, we learn that He comes to be with us forever. The Holy Spirit is not fickle in His commitment to us, or in his ministry us. He is not “there” when we feel spiritual. He is not with us only when we’re doing our best or when we’re on your knees. Indeed, it is when we are feeling pretty lousy and when we’re flat on our faces before temptation or terrible trial – these are the places and times when the ministry of the Paraclete is most important, for it is in the face of the bad news about what’s about to happen that Jesus offers his disciples this promise.
Jesus knows what awaits them on the other side of his own trials, on the other side of his own ascension into heaven. He knows they cannot fulfill their destiny as redeemed sinners without divine assistance, divine encouragement, divine enablement. That is why he promises them the Holy Spirit – for those kinds of times.