Summary: What A Friend We Have in the Holy Spirit !) He comforts; 2) He convinces
The favorite hymn, “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” has brought comfort to many people. In that hymn we’re reminded how Jesus bears all our sins and griefs, and how we can turn to him in prayer for anything that’s on our heart. Jesus is indeed a friend! But on this Pentecost Sunday we’ll be reminded that we have another, just as trusted friend in the Holy Spirit. We’ll learn that he’s our friend because he comforts and he convinces.
Jesus spoke the words of our text on Maundy Thursday - the night Judas would betray him. Our text begins with a bombshell. Jesus declared: “I am going to him who sent me…I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away” (John 16:5, 7a). Upon hearing Jesus’ announcement that he was going away, the disciples were too stunned to say anything. It’s the kind of shock you might experience if Dad suddenly announced at the dinner table that he was going away.
How could Jesus’ departure be good for his disciples? If you’re doing yard work on a hot day, you’re not going to think very kindly of the sibling who slips away while you’re still busy pulling weeds. You would feel resentful that you’ve been left behind to finish the yard work. But your attitude would change if that same sibling came back armed with a power tool to take over and finish the chore much more quickly than you would have been able to do otherwise. Likewise Jesus wasn’t ditching his disciples; he was setting off to save them. Yes, Jesus was going back to the heavenly Father but to get there he would have to go through the cross of Calvary first. Had Jesus remained with his disciples as they wanted him to he never would have won forgiveness. He never would have defeated death. Jesus would be no good to us then, just another guru who spoke some neat parables.
So instead of weeping, the disciples should have been rejoicing. Finally, the time had come for God to complete his plan of salvation. But because they failed to ask Jesus what he meant when he said he was leaving, they were sad, frightened, and confused. Friends, when we fail to inquire of God’s Word to help us make sense of life and what lies ahead of us, we shouldn’t be surprised if our days are filled with sadness and confusion too.
But being the loving savior that he is Jesus wanted to offer his disciples some comfort. So he made it known that while he would be visibly (though not physically) leaving them, he would in turn send the Holy Spirit to be their helper. What good would the Holy Spirit be to the disciples? Listen to Jesus’ words: “…when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you” (John 16:13, 14).
The Holy Spirit would comfort the disciples by causing them to remember everything that Jesus had told them (John 14:26) and by guiding them in all truth. He would also tell them of things yet to come. What a comfort this is to us! When we read the Bible we can be certain that God himself speaks to us, though it was men like Peter and John who wrote what we read. Peter and John only wrote what the Holy Spirit guided them to write.
But don’t think of the Holy Spirit as someone who just makes sure we have the right information to make an informed decision about Jesus. No, the Holy Spirit is much more active than that. He also helps by convincing us of the truth. Jesus put it this way: “When he comes, he will convict [convince] the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; 10 in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned” (John 16:8-11).
Have you ever tried convincing a pothole to fill up and become smooth pavement again? That’s ridiculous. Just the thought of someone standing in the middle of the road talking to a pothole would make you wonder whether or not there’s a hole in that person’s head that needs filling. In the same way it would not be enough for the Holy Spirit to tell us about Jesus. We need convincing. Why? Because we’re like a big pothole. We’re supposed to be smooth and free of cracks but sin has eroded us and we can’t fix ourselves. The Holy Spirit must go to work and fill us with faith. He does that first by convincing us of sin. The sin that Jesus mentions in our text is failure to believe in him as savior. He doesn’t just mean the failure to believe he exists but the failure to trust in him. Now you may trust in Jesus as your savior but do you trust in him as your provider too, or do you cheat and steal to pay your way out of debt? Do you believe in him as your constant companion, or do you feel as if no one cares about you? Do you believe in him as Lord, or do you figure it doesn’t matter that you dishonor him when you make the lives of the people around you miserable? If you’re nodding your head in agreement that these are sins, that’s evidence of the Holy Spirit in your life. Without the Holy Spirit you would brush off these sins. You wouldn’t think it so bad, for example, that you talk back to your parents or speak poorly of others. After all doesn’t everyone do that? Sure, everyone does that but the Holy Spirit wants to convince you that this sin alone is enough to condemn you before God.