Summary: The Holy Spirit is given to all who love Jesus Christ, to empower us for his work, to teach us all things, and to give us a real and lasting peace in the knowledge that Jesus has overcome the world.
It seems to me that there are 2 issues that Christians face today that Jesus addresses here in this passage.
The first is the question as to how we’re rating as a Christian. That is are we good enough for God to be happy with us? Are we good enough that God would listen to our prayers? How do you rate as a Christian?
The second issue has to do with how we know what’s the right thing to do; how we decide what we’re to do or say at any one moment.
Last week we saw how John 14 begins with the disciples being faced with just this problem. Jesus has just told them that he’s about to leave them, then he says these words to reassure them: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.” They’re clearly meant as words of comfort but you can imagine some of them thinking “That’s all very well, but it’s just pie in the sky when you die. I’m worried about what’s going to happen in the next few months when Jesus isn’t here to help us and guide us.” Up until now they’ve hardly done a thing without Jesus being there to direct them, or to correct them. Now they’re going to be on their own. It’s like the first time you’re allowed to take a car out for a drive by yourself; or how I imagine a pilot feels when they’re sent up to fly solo for the first time. The instructor’s not there anymore and everything depends on you.
So Jesus sets out to give them some more reassurance.
“If You Love Me.”
The first bit of reassurance he gives them comes in the form of a proposition: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Notice this isn’t a conditional statement so much as a statement of where they are with him. Those who are worried about how they rate as Christians might well read this as a test. If you keep his commandments you’ll get a good score. But in fact Jesus’ implication is that they do love him. That’s not in question. In the next chapter he’ll point out that he considers them his friends. It’s because they love him that he’s confident they’ll keep his commandments. If you think about it that’s how loving relationships work isn’t it? When we love someone we’re glad to do what pleases them. Our children occasionally need to be disciplined for not doing what they’re told, but mostly they do it, not from fear of punishment but because they love us and they know we love them and so they want to do what we need done.
So there’s the first bit of reassurance. They don’t need Jesus with them physically in order to do what’s right; they’ll do it anyway, just because they love him.
But then he promises them someone who’ll continue the relationship they have with him. He says “16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17This 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.”
Their hearts don’t need to be troubled at the thought that Jesus is about to leave them, because his presence with them is to be replaced by something far greater. Back in v12 he said: “the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.” The coming of the Spirit, you see, will empower them in a way that Jesus’ physical presence with them never could. We’ll see how that is in a moment.
But first notice that Jesus says ‘Another’. That is, this will be Jesus’ replacement. And notice how close is the identification of this new advocate with Jesus. Look at v17. He says “You know him, because he abides with you.” Who currently abides with them? It’s Jesus isn’t it? So I think he’s saying that this Spirit who will come to them is actually him but in spiritual form. We need to be careful with our Trinitarian theology here but a few verses on, Jesus explains that both he and the father will come to live within us. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves.
First notice what the coming of the Spirit will mean for Jesus disciples. First,
He will be in you.
The Spirit’s presence is different from Jesus’ presence in this important way: he dwells within us, forever. And that means that we’ll know him in an intimate way.
Secondly, he says, you will live because Jesus lives. The coming of the Spirit to dwell within us imparts to us in a mystical sense the risen life of Christ. This is why Jesus could say back in Ch12:26 “everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” We’ll all die physically, if Jesus doesn’t return first, but the risen life of Christ that we have through the presence of his Spirit within us can’t be taken away from us. So even though we die, yet will we live.