You Are Never Alone (John 14:15-21)
Rev. David French

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus and His disciples are still in the upper room. In a few hours, they’ll leave that room and make their way to Gethsemane. Shortly after that, Roman soldiers will arrest Jesus; and within 24 hours, Jesus will have been tortured, killed, and buried in a borrowed tomb. That leaves Jesus just a few short hours to teach. Five chapters of John’s gospel are focused on the teachings of Jesus that began in the upper room and ended when Jesus was arrested. Certainly, Jesus knew the next three days would change everything forever. 

And even though His disciples didn’t understand at the time, the Holy Spirit would soon change them as He begins to bring what Jesus taught back into their memory and thinking. The Holy Spirit would use these teachings to prepare these apostles of Christ for the work they would do, the life they would live, and the sacrifices they would begin making in just a couple of days.

Notice how even though the next 24 hours would be filled with intense suffering followed by death, Jesus is already looking past those things. In the next few hours (or five chapters) Jesus will teach about His ascension, the Holy Spirit’s presence with His disciples then and now, and the life that all who would come to follow Him would find waiting for those who hear His words today. He spoke of the world’s rejection of both Him and the Holy Spirit. 

Jesus knew what was waiting for Him at Gethsemane. He also knew His disciples would not be able to get through the next few days alone. The dark despair that drove Judas to hang himself would attack them all. Jesus knew they didn’t understand, but they needed to hear Him say that they would not be alone. And so, Jesus began to teach them about another helper. He said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth ….”

Now, while an accurate translation, the word helper doesn’t do justice to the fullness intended by the Greeks. The Greek word for helper, Paraclete, could just as easily be translated as advocate, intercessor, or comforter. You see, a Paraclete is a helper of the helpless - a helper who was also sent to be with us. 

But, Jesus said He would ask the Father to send another Paraclete to us. So, the Spirit of Truth is not the first Paraclete that the Father has sent, which leads to the question, “Well, who is the first?” Who is the first helper of the helpless sent by the Father? That would be Jesus. Jesus is the Paraclete, the One who came to save us from our sins by becoming a servant, the One who would offer Himself as a sacrifice on the altar of the cross for those who cannot save themselves, that is the helpless or all of us. 

Jesus understood that this was His work alone, that His disciples could not drink the cup He was about to drink. And by doing such, He would bring to completion what the first Paraclete was sent to do and then return to the Father. But before He left, He asked His heavenly Father to send another Paraclete, One who would be with and watch over His disciples until His return. Jesus called this other Paraclete the Spirit of Truth, which is another name for the Holy Spirit. Yes, to this very moment, God the Holy Spirit watches over and protects all the disciples of Christ – during the time between His Ascension and His return when He will bring us to be with Him forever. 

That’s what Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another helper, to be with you forever ….” How comforting it can be to know, whether gathered in this place or in our day-to-day lives, the Holy Spirit - the eternal Paraclete - is with us. 

But not everyone feels the same way about this Paraclete. Jesus said, “The world cannot receive [the Spirit of Truth], because it neither sees him nor knows him.” By nature, we are all enemies of God. By nature, we have no desire to know God. And for those who have never received His Spirit, this is all nonsense, and the Holy Spirit is nothing more than a figment of man’s imagination. Jesus, however, tells His disciples (those who have been born of God), “You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” That is, the Holy Spirit is with us and in us to guide, help, teach, comfort, and bless us.

But why do we believe when others don’t? What makes us different? We know that even though we believe now, and so are disciples of Christ, we also were born as sinners into this world. So, what happened to us? How is it that this other Paraclete now dwells within us? The disciples in today’s reading received the Holy Spirit through the words spoken by Jesus. Today the Holy Spirit still comes to us through Words spoken by Jesus. You see, whether spoken or combined with the water of our baptism or bread and wine of His Supper, the Holy Spirit comes to create or sustain saving faith and so life as God promised it would be in us.

Are these life-giving words profound and mysterious? No, but then the words that brought Lazarus to life were “come out.” The words of Christ that brought most of us to life are “… in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” You see, there is no formula. Any and every word of God can create faith and so, life. So, Jesus teaches or speaks, and the Holy Spirit uses His Words to create faith in your heart, the faith that trusts in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins. And so, not surprisingly, Jesus and the Holy Spirit work together as one.

And if you think about it, we’ve seen these two Paracletes working together throughout the life of Christ. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit [Matthew 3:16]. When Jesus was baptized, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God coming to rest on Him. It was the Holy Spirit who brought Simeon and Anna to the infant Jesus in the Temple.

The first Paraclete, Jesus, purchased us from sin, death, and the power of the devil with His holy and precious blood poured out from the cross as the payment for all sin. The second Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, creates and sustains in us the faith that receives and holds to the now freely offered gift of forgiveness that Jesus purchased for all. 

When Jesus died, the world celebrated because it could see Him no more. We who believe know, as Jesus taught in today’s lesson, “Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me.” To this day, those who are spiritually dead still do not see Jesus. We, who by grace alone have received the gift of faith from the Holy Spirit either by word or sacrament, know the real presence of Christ not only in the sacraments, but in our day-to-day lives as well. Like Jesus said, “you have not been left as orphans,” because your God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in one way or another is always with you. You are never alone.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.