THE ROLES OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
John 14: 15-27
We are in the season of transitions, and sometimes of saying goodbye. Some have children graduating from high school or college. Some older adults have to move to a new location to be near a grown child who can care for him or her. Some, like Andrea and Steven yesterday whose wedding was here yesterday, are transitioning to married life. Sometimes there are tearful goodbyes. In the First and Second World Wars, wives said goodbye to their husbands as parents said goodbye to their son, hoping that he would return. Later in the Gulf War and today with both men and women deciding to enlist, or do more than one tour of duty, or to go through an Officer Candidate’s School, we still say our goodbyes, and we pray. In hospital rooms people say goodbye as their loved one goes back for surgery. Goodbyes are part of life. And Jesus in John’s gospel brings a plethora of helps for his disciples, and also for us as we read his words.
Today’s text from John is a concentrated portion from about 9 chapters of Jesus giving final instructions to his friends. And today’s text holds the key verse of Jesus’ reassuring words: “I will not leave you orphaned.” The original Greek: “Orphanos.” I will not leave you as orphans. As I told the boys and girls today, for those in our world who do not have a mother or father to care for them, we are glad to support the Thornwell Home for Children in Clinton, South Carolina. They used to be called an orphanage but that term has fallen out of use. What they do is make a home for children that has a house parent who love them. That way they are no longer feeling abandoned. And Jesus was also saying the same thing. No gospel makes a better case for Jesus’ care and comfort for his followers, and part of that gift is the Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s roles are: 1) to fill the void with Jesus’ eminent departure. 2) To counsel and be a counselor; and 3) To teach what they and we will want to know. John, the author, highlights the extraordinary declaration we heard last week: In the beginning was the Word; and the Word was with God, and the Word was God …. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Then, three chapters letter: John records Jesus saying: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Late John recorded the story of the raising of Lazarus, and of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, and early on, the wedding at Cana. What a gift John’s vantage point and witness have been to the church! And as we hear last week, Jesus loved his disciples and when he was leaving, he said in John 14: “Let not your hearts be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms” as we heard last week. This man filled a void in the lives of the Twelve and others. And Jesus can do that for you too. Jesus, in John’s gospel, takes not one, but nine chapters to tell his disciples goodbye. For nine chapters: 1) He tells them that after awhile he will leave them, but that he will return; 2)He tells them where he’s going; and 3) He says they can’t go with him now; and 4) he tells them he’s leaving them the Holy Spirit so they will not feel abandoned. The Spirit has an important role when Jesus departs.
One commentator rightly suggests that we picture the disciples almost as children. Picture, for example, children or grandchildren sitting on the floor of your house. When they notice you picking up your car keys, getting a purse or briefcase, and reaching for the door, they might ask questions like the disciples did:
- “Where are you going?”
Jesus answered that question “I’m going to my Father.” (John 14: 12)
- “Can we come too?”
Jesus’ reply: “Where I’m going you can’t go now; but you can come later.”
- Here’s the key question: “Then who’s going to stay with us?”
Jesus’ reply: “The Father will send you another Counselor who will be with you forever. You will not be left as orphans.” (John 14: 16-18)
This chapter of John is one of the most beautiful accounts of God’s care for his people. No wonder that in times of our final goodbyes to loved ones, John 14 brings such comfort. Jesus begins to prepare his disciples in chapter 12. From that time until chapter 21, he is preparing his disciples to carry on without him. “Feed my sheep” was among the last of his instructions.
Could this model be a good one for our goodbyes too? Before you are caught off guard by your death, have you made yourself indispensible? Jesus didn’t. He taught others how to carry on without him. Have you avoided the subject of your own death? Jesus didn’t. Nine chapters out of twenty-one dealt with what to do when he was gone. Do you have a will, and is it up to date? We’ll have a speaker from our planned gifts committee address that next week. Have you told your spouse who to go to for car repairs, or how to handle your finances? Have you told your spouse how to do things around the house, including the kitchen and the laundry room? It’s time to break our silences, because our silences leave a spouse or child with a greater burden when we are gone. Jesus prepared those around him for his death. If we seek to ask “What Would Jesus Do?” in every other area of life, death should be included too. Consider how he has left the Holy Spirit to comfort, to counsel, and to teach us. Do what he would do.
Jeffrey A. Sumner May 21, 2017
Dear Lord of Life: how often we avoid talking about our deaths. It is more reassuring to say “see you later” than “goodbye.” But dear Jesus: teach us the value of preparing for our death with as much care as we prepare for a new life entering our world. Grant us wisdom and courage for the living of our days. And remind us that you never, no never will forsake us and leave us as orphans. Through the power and gift of the Holy Spirit. Amen.