Summary: Jesus Promised the Holy Spirit to his disciples to come and bring them into a whole new relationship with himself and the father
I was talking to someone this week about prayer and in the course of the conversation we got around to the subject of praying for ourselves. The trouble was, this person had great difficulty with the thought of praying for themselves, because there were so many more worthy people in the world to pray for. When I pressed them a bit I discovered that in fact they didn’t think they deserved God to listen to them at all. It was OK for someone like me to pray to God, but not them. Well, of course, I quickly explained that my worthiness or otherwise had nothing to do with it. I don’t pray on the basis that I’ve done something to make God pleased with me. On the contrary, I pray despite my failings, because I know what Jesus has done for me. I pray because Jesus Christ has brought me into a new relationship with the Father.
When Jesus began to talk to his disciples about his going away, they began to worry. Over the years they’d been with Jesus, they’d become dependant on his presence to help them know what to do, and how to live. I guess they realised how much they still needed to learn. So the thought of Jesus leaving them was pretty disturbing. So Jesus set out to reassure them. John 14 begins with these words that we looked at a couple of weeks ago: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me," then he follows up with the promise that he’s going to prepare a place for them in his Father’s house. But having talked about that, he then goes on to deal with their concerns about the loss of his daily presence with them.
He says "I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever." 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 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 I want you to notice the condition for this receiving of the Spirit. How worthy do you need to be, to receive God’s Holy Spirit? What do you have to do? Do you have to pray for three hours every morning, before you wake up? Do you need to study your Bible until you know it backwards? Do you need to be prayed over by someone like the Bishop did last week with our confirmees? Do you need to lead a sinless life for the next week? Do you even have to be a good person? No, have a look at what he says: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever." Now don’t get confused here. It’s very easy to misunderstand this. The only if here, is "If you love me." Not if you keep my commandments. That’s a natural result of loving Jesus, not a prerequisite. No, it’s "if you love me."
You see, the picture is of a child with its parents. Now I’ve seen how parents relate to their children. Richard and Andrea don’t wait to see if William behaves well before they give him his dinner. They feed him because they love him. Their love is unconditional. And that love is returned by William. It’s interesting how the love of parents for a child comes about. It’s one of the few loves where the object of the love has nothing to offer, apart from the love they give back. And there’s no particular merit in a child loving its parents is there? It’s just something that comes naturally.
Well, that’s the picture that Jesus is using here. He says "If you love me, I will ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever." The gift of the Holy Spirit is a gift of a generous and loving Father, given without conditions, independent of merit.
But it isn’t just a gift. In fact the Holy Spirit is the source of a whole new relationship with God. Look at what he says in v 18: "I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you." Jesus’ coming in the form of the Holy Spirit will change their relationship to God completely. They’ll no longer be orphans, left to fend for themselves, because now they’ll be children of God. But as he goes on it gets even better, even if it does seem more complicated. He says: "20On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you." Now if you’ve been following these John sermons for a while, you’ll probably realise that he’s said this sort of thing before about himself and God the Father, about how he is in the Father and the Father is in him. In fact back in vs 10&11 he’s said just that. But here, he’s extended the relationship set to include us. And the reason that the relationships have changed is because the Holy Spirit has come to dwell in us.