Summary: On the night before his death, Jesus reminds his distraught followers that though he is leaving, they have another divine friend to nurture them. The Holy Spirit is sent by Jesus and the Father, and he is the Christian’s constant, guiding companion.
Dear fellow saints, who have been made perfect by the death of Christ:
God only told us about the Creation once. There is only one Creation account in the entire Bible. For believers so great as Noah, Abraham, Elisha, and Daniel, God only told us about them once. All the stories of Noah, they are in this section of the Bible. All the stories about Abraham, they are all in these chapters of the Bible.
There’s no doubt that the Bible focuses squarely on Jesus, just based on the amount of times his personal story is told. Of course the entire Bible is about Jesus, but in 4 separate books, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the story of the life of Jesus Christ is told 4 separate times. And each of these books has its own emphasis. Matthew, writing mostly to Jews, ties Jesus’ life in with the Old Testament prophesies. That’s why Matthew is where it is on our Bibles: it is the perfect bridge between the Old and New Testaments. Mark’s Gospel stresses Christ’s power. Luke proves how Jesus is the universal Savior: how he is the God for both Jews and people like him: Gentiles.
But the Gospel of John is quite a bit different than Matthew, Mark, and Luke. St. John really takes a close look at the relationship of Jesus with the other members of the Trinity: the Father and the Holy Spirit. In addition, John is a book that allows us to gaze right into Jesus’ heart, and to see what he’s thinking and feel what he’s experiencing, especially in his relationship with his close followers. We see all those things coming together in our text for today, where Jesus tells his disciples about this other Divine Friend that they have. In talking about the Holy Spirit, Jesus wants to stress to his disciples and to us, (1) that the Holy Spirit is sent to us by Christ and his Father, and (2) the Holy Spirit is the one who empowers you in your Christian life and witness.
Our text is still that Maundy Thursday evening, when Jesus was in the upper room with his disciples shortly before he went out to the Garden of Gethsemane. And you remember how sad his followers were that Jesus was about to leave. And you remember how Jesus comforted them with the promise that he was leaving to go to heaven, so that he could prepare the mansions for them and all believers. But as we see here, his disciples were still sad.
No, they were more than sad. They were so sorry for themselves that they were whining. "Oh Jesus, it’s going to be too hard for us if you leave. If you go Jesus, who is going to calm the storms? Who is going to miraculously provide bread for us in the desert? Who is going to do the preaching and teaching? Jesus, you can’t go. You are going to make things too hard for us." It was a lot easier for these disciples when Jesus was with them to do all their work for them, to take care of everything for them; but now that he was going…oh, it was going to be so hard for them. They were really feeling sorry for themselves.
Jesus told his disciples that he was going away, and they were so selfishly consumed thinking about how that was going to affect them, that they don’t even bother to ask Jesus where he’s going. Jesus is a bit hurt by their selfishness. But then his response is completely selfless. He wasn’t going to his Heavenly Father for his own enjoyment; so that he could kick back and pass the reigns of mission work onto his disciples. No, Jesus was going to heaven for the disciples’ benefit. As he said in verse 7, "I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I’m going away." And then he tells them why it was going to be so good for them that he go away, "unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you: but if I go, I will send him to you." And here Jesus talks about that "other" Divine Friend that Christians have: this Counselor, the Holy Spirit.
You see, Jesus was not just feeding them a line: it was better for the disciples if he went up to heaven. If Jesus had just stayed on earth, he would just be one person confined to a single time and a single space. With regard to his human nature, Jesus would not have been able to be present everywhere. And that’s why, when Jesus ascended into heaven, things were going to get a whole lot better for the disciples. He was not going to leave them all alone on this world, but he was going to send them the Holy Spirit. And through the presence of the Holy Spirit, Jesus would be able to make good on his promise later when he said, "surely I am with you always." He couldn’t have said that had he remained here on earth, only able to be in one location at once as the disciples all scattered off in different directions. So Christ’s departure, while sad, was actually going to be a benefit for his followers when they knew that this other Counselor, the Holy Spirit, would always be with them, shielding them with Christ’s presence.