Reassurance for Troubled Hearts, part 2 (preaching resource for 5/14/23, Easter 6)
This post exegetes John 14:16-31 to provide context for the RCL Gospel reading for 5/14/23. It draws on multiple sources including "The Bible Expository Commentary" (Warren Wiersbe), "The New Bible Commentary," "The Parable of Joy" (Michael Card), and "The Gospel of John" (F.F. Bruce).
|"The Last Supper" by Maulbertsch (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)|
This post concludes a two-part exploration of John 14, which records part of Jesus’ Upper Room discourse on the night before his crucifixion. The chapter opens and closes with our Lord’s loving admonition to his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1, 27). Between these ‘bookends’ are six wonderful assurances designed to calm those troubled hearts. Part 1 covered the first three assurances: 1) We will be with God forever, 2) We know the Father right now, and 3) We have access to God in prayer. We'll now look at the last three: 4) We have the Holy Spirit, 5) We enjoy God's loving presence, and 6) We have Jesus' gift of shalom.
We have the Holy Spirit (14:16–18)
16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever-- 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
Jesus had a great deal to say about the Holy Spirit in his Upper Room discourse, for Jesus lives in and through us by the indwelling Spirit. Jesus refers to the Spirit as “another Counselor” (‘Comforter’ KJV) and “the Spirit of truth.” The Greek word translated “Counselor” is parakletos and means “one called alongside to assist.” The Holy Spirit does not work instead of us, or in spite of us, but in us and through us. Some translations translate this word as “the Encourager,” and this is a good choice of words. In 1John 2:1, parakletos is used to refer to Jesus as the one “who speaks to the Father in our defense”—or the one who is our “Advocate” (KJV). An advocate is one who represents you at court and stands at your side to plead your case. This is Jesus’ role and the role of the Spirit who Jesus sends to be our counselor, comforter, encourager and advocate. What reassurance!
Jesus called the Spirit “another Counselor,” (verse 16) and the Greek word translated “another” means “another of the same kind.” The Spirit of God is not different from the Son of God, for both are God. The Spirit of God had dwelt with the disciples in the person of Jesus Christ. Now He would dwell in them.
As “the Spirit of truth,” (verse 17a), the Holy Spirit is related to Jesus who is the Truth (John 14:6; 17:17). The Spirit has inspired the writing of Scripture (the written Word) that tells us of Jesus (the living Word). The Spirit also illuminates our understanding of that word. Later on in this message, Jesus will explain the teaching ministry of the Spirit. Since he is the “Spirit of Truth,” he cannot lie or be associated with lies. He never leads us to do anything contrary to the Word of God, for again God’s Word is truth.
The Holy Spirit abides in us (‘he will be in you’, verse 17b) as the gift from the Father in answer to the prayer of the Son. During his earthly ministry, Jesus had guided, guarded, and taught his disciples; but now he was going to leave them. The Spirit would come to them and dwell in them, taking the place of their Master.
The world cannot accept (receive) the Spirit (verse 17) because the world lives “by sight” and not by faith. Furthermore, the world does not know Jesus Christ; and you cannot have knowledge of the Spirit apart from the Son. The presence of the Spirit in this world is actually an indictment against the world, for the world rejected Jesus.
Jesus abides with us through the indwelling Spirit; he has not left us to be “orphans” (verse 18). We are not alone, abandoned, helpless, and hopeless! Wherever we go, the Spirit is with us. There is no need to have a troubled heart when we have the very Spirit of God dwelling within us!
We enjoy God’s loving presence (14:19–24)
19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." 22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, "But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?" 23 Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
The last time the world saw Jesus was when Joseph and Nicodemus took him from the cross and buried him on Good Friday. But the disciples would not be abandoned (orphaned); he would return to them. This return certainly refers to his post-resurrection appearances, but it also seems to refer to his words in John 14:3: “I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” Jesus (here through John’s teaching) seems unconcerned about the chronology of all this. What’s important is Jesus’ reassurance: I am coming to you!
But the very real and very loving presence of God in Christ through the Spirit is ‘visible’ now only to the ‘eyes of faith.’ When Jesus says to them (verse 19) “you will see me”, is in the present tense and implies continuity stretching indefinitely into the future—a reality made sure by Jesus’ resurrection and our incorporation into him. As believers we have in our union with Christ unending life and fellowship with God: “Because I live, you also will live” (verse 19b).
“On that day” (verse 20) is the day when Jesus will have returned to the Father and sent the Spirit to be with and in his disciples. Then they will learn in a new way the truth of his mutual oneness with the Father of which they had so often hear him speak. This ‘coinherence’ (God in Christ, Christ in God, Christ in us, us in Christ) speaks to inter-relationships of love. God’s loving presence. Those drawn into this ‘circle of love’ of the triune God are those who love the living Lord, a love evidenced by obedience to his will (which involves acts of love and are acts performed though the agency of the indwelling Spirit).
Note in this passage the repetition of the word love. As we participate in Jesus’ love and life, the Father and the Son, through the Spirit share their divine love with us and make their home in us (verse 23 and refer back to verse 2).
Judas (not Iscariot) wondered aloud why Jesus would manifest himself to the disciples but not the world (verse 22). This seemed to contradict other statements Jesus had made, such as that recorded in Matthew 24:30. But Jesus’ reference here is not his appearance to all humanity as divine Judge, but rather his appearing (his revelation) to them in love—within the divine family circle of love. Where love and obedience are sown, the presence of God and of Christ is realized. John records Jesus making a similar point in Revelation 3:20: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”
When we feel like ‘orphans’, we need to let the Spirit of God reveal God’s love to us in deeper ways. Charles Spurgeon said, “Little faith will take your soul to heaven, but great faith will bring heaven to your soul.” Our hearts can become “heaven on earth” as we commune with the Lord and worship him.
We have Jesus’ gift of shalom (14:25–29)
25 "All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
28 "You heard me say, 'I am going away and I am coming back to you.' If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.”
Peace (eirene in Greek, and shalom in Hebrew) is a precious word to the Jewish people. It means much more than just the mere absence of war or distress. Shalom means wholeness, completeness, health, security, even prosperity in the best sense. When you are enjoying God’s shalom, there is joy and contentment. But this peace of God is unlike the “peace” that the world offers.
The world bases its peace on its resources, while God’s peace depends on relationships. To be right with God means to enjoy the peace of God. The world depends on personal ability, but the Christian depends on spiritual adequacy in Christ. In the world, peace is something you hope for or work for; but to the Christian, peace is God’s wonderful gift, received by faith. Unsaved people enjoy peace when there is an absence of trouble; Christians enjoy peace in spite of trouble because their lives are lived in union with the triune God: with the Father, in the Son, through the Spirit.
The Spirit of God teaches us the Word and guides (teaches) us (not drags us!) into the truth. He reminds us of what Jesus’ taught so that we can depend on God’s Word in all circumstances. The Spirit uses the Word to give us God’s peace (verse 27), his love (John 15:9–10), and his joy (John 15:11).
Again, Jesus assured them that they would see him again (John 14:28). Why rejoice because he returned to the Father? Because his return made possible his wonderful intercessory ministry on our behalf as our High Priest (Hebrews 2:17–18; 4:14–16).
30 “I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, 31 but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me. Come now; let us leave.”
What wonderful assurance Jesus gives to his disciples in the Upper Room – and now through the Scripture the Spirit inspired these disciples to record (here through John) we are reassured as well. In this chapter Jesus has promised that through his life, death, resurrection and ascension, God draws us into the circle of his divine love and life. We participate in that ‘divine dance’ of love with the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit. What wonderful assurance that is. And how much we need that reassurance, particularly when the ‘prince of this world’ comes after us (verse 30) as Satan (the Adversary) did in great fury that Maundy Thursday night and the next day on Good Friday for Jesus. Indeed Jesus needed God’s reassurance, and he received it in full measure.
“Come let us leave” was Jesus’ final direction in this chapter (verse 31b). Reassured of God’s love, presence, power and peace, we can go forward in faith and confidence. We are not alone. We are not orphans. God is with us and for us. Shalom.