Summary: May 5, 2002 -- SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER John 14:15-21 Color: White Title: “Jesus gives us a way of transforming the negative experience of grief into a positive experience; Christ presence.”


John 14:15-21

Color: White

Title: “Jesus gives us a way of transforming the negative experience of grief into a positive experience; Christ presence.”

Jesus continues his farewell discourse to his disciples; this section begins and ends with a statement about loving Jesus and keeping his commandments and occurs also in verse twenty-three. In each instance there is a promise that a divine presence will come to those who meet this standard. In verses fifteen to seventeen, it is the Spirit or Paraclete; in verses eighteen to twenty-one it is Jesus and in verses twenty-three and twenty-four, it is the Father along with Jesus. The three different terms all point to the same reality, namely, divine presence, looked at from different vantage points.

In verse fifteen, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

“To believe in” Jesus is much more common in John than “to love” Jesus., but they amount to the same thing. Here, loving Jesus and “keeping, ” that is, fulfilling his commandments amount to the same thing. “Love” identifies the attitude; “keep” identifies the actions which flow from it. “Love” Greek agapate, is plural and means “have a positive will towards,” an invisible reality which becomes visible, enfleshed, takes form, in actions. Those actions are called here “commandments,” since they are done out of obedience, as opposed to “good feeling,” love. In John Jesus has but one commandment: to love one another. When used in the plural it means all those actions that flow from and are consistent with that fundamental attitude. God and Jesus, is complete in himself and autonomous. He has no real “needs,” as such, but when a Christian acts in the best interests of others, he or she, in a sense, meets God’s needs. Thus, he or she can be said to “love God” or “love Jesus.” Of course, Christians also love God in an emotional sense, but that is not the point here. Keeping Jesus’ commandments is the way the invisible reality of love become visible. Thus, they become signs, sacramentals. The “commandments,” of Jesus involve a whole way of life in loving union with Jesus; they are not just moral precepts.

In verse sixteen, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.” The verb “to give” is often associated with the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, so much so that “gift” of the Holy Spirit, becomes a term for the Spirit himself. See Acts 2:38; 8: 20. Jesus is the way to the Father, and also the revelation of the Father. When he is withdrawn, through his death, from the disciples’ sight, how will he continue to reveal e.g., make the invisible God visible, God, being invisible himself now? The Holy Spirit is the answer. The divine presence will be felt spiritually, as really as physically. John does not stress the extraordinary manifestation of the Spirit’s presence, such as miracles, prophecy, tongues, etc. as does Paul in, say, 1Cor12. He does not exclude them, but he wants to say that the ordinary lives of Christians who put into practice the attitude of love is lived by and under the power of the divine presence now experienced as Spirit or Paraclete. The whole point is that the Spirit of Jesus performs the functions, does the work of, Jesus now, after he is no longer “in the flesh,” through his disciples. The Spirit is not a different divine reality, but a different experience of that same divine reality, God. The Father’s gift of his and Jesus’ Spirit overcomes the gap created by the absence of the physical Jesus. That Jesus-Spirit will now be located in the disciples instead of in an earthly body once inhabited by the Jesus-Spirit.

In verse seventeen, “This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”

This explains the term “Advocate,” used in verse sixteen, In Greek the term is Parakletos, “Paraclete.” It has a lot of meanings: advocate, counselor, intercessor, helper, consoler. Basically, it is a forensic term for what we would call a lawyer, one who stands by your side at a trial for John does see Jesus and the “world,” on trial and defends you, pleads your cause, etc. John uses the term much more warmly than that and intends to include all of the above nuances in his meaning. For all of its importance the term appears only five times in John: here in 14: 16-17 and 26; 15: 26; 16: 7b-11, 13-15 (and once in 1Jn2: 1-2 for Jesus as intercessor). The term is another designation of and for the Holy Spirit who communicates truth and interprets for the present what Jesus said and taught in the past.

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