“…It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you….When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” – John 16:7, 13-15
Just before Jesus was arrested, he told his disciples that he was about to die; however, his talk was not self-focused. His concern was for his followers. He wanted them to be empowered to live fully and faithfully without him. In that context, Jesus made a shocking statement. He said that it was actually in the best interests of the disciples for him to leave them. ”It is to your advantage that I go away,” Jesus said, and then he told them that he would return to the Father and his spirit would be poured out on them. He said he would send “The Comforter;” some translations say “The Counselor;” others say “the Advocate.” He was referring to the Holy Spirit.
One of Jesus’ great promises to his followers was that the Holy Spirit would come to them to offer comfort. But be sure to note that Jesus’ offer of comfort is not what we might think. Most people seek comfort in faith. In fact, one of the reasons people hold on to faith is to find comfort. Jesus offered comfort, but he did not promise his followers a comfortable faith or a comfortable life, in which everything would be easy and free from struggle. We come to understand Jesus’ offer as we note that the word Jesus used to describe the Holy Spirit is Paraclete. Paraclein is a Greek word meaning one who is called to encourage another, like a coach or a general, who exhorts people to aspire to noble deeds, to think high thoughts, and to achieve greatness. The word is often used to refer to the encouragement given to soilders before battle.
Jesus’ promise, therefore, does not assure us that our lives will be easy, but rather that the Holy Spirit will give us courage to live in God’s presence and power – with acceptance and love and compassion and care – and to find God’s comfort when we encounter persecution and alienation. Jesus calls us our of our comfortable, easy lives into struggles for justice and true righteousness, and he promises us the comfort that we are not alone, that God is with us, that the battle belongs to God, and that God will be victorious. Jesus’ offer of the Holy Spirit is, above all, a comforting assurance that our lives are well lived to the greater glory of God.
Good Father, bid me cease from seeking the road most travelled, the path of least resistance, the broad way of ease and comfort. Fill me instead with your passion for justice and righteousness, with your courage to stand strong, and with the comfort and assurance of your presence and power, that I may live a life of purpose and meaning to your glory. Amen.
A Bible-study devotional blog by Gorman Houston