The Spirit of truth. 14:15-21
Peter's question in 13:36, "where are you going?", prompts Jesus' discourse in chapter 14. In the passage before us John tells us more about the coming of the Holy Spirit, of the manifestation of God's other helping presence, the Advocate, that other who stands with us, abides in us, as we seek to do greater things for Jesus, v15-17. The world cannot experience this coming of the Spirit of Christ, but believers can, they will experience the fullness of God's love and self-revelation, v18-21.
v15. In John's gospel, loving Jesus, caring for Jesus (love is a relational concept), consists primarily of obeying Jesus; to love is to obey. When we think of obeying, of keeping Jesus' commands, we usually think in moral terms, in the terms of practical acts of love toward one another. Yet, Jesus' instruction to us is "believe in God, believe also in me." Jesus' command is that we have faith; if we care for Jesus we will put our trust in him.
v16. If we love Jesus, if we believe in him, even though he is now an "absent Lord", he will never leave us alone. When Jesus left the world to return to the Father, he promised to send another person, just like himself, someone to be with his disciples forever. The term, "another Counselor", or "Advocate", probably means something like helper or friend; "I will send you the Holy Spirit who will help you and always be with you", CEV.
v17. Jesus describes the Spirit as the one who communicates the truth, the one who reveals the being of God to us. Only believers, those who have faith in Christ, have an intimate relationship with the Spirit (they "know" him and he is "in" them). The relationship the apostles had with the divine through Jesus is the relationship all believers will experience through the Spirit. The "world", humanity against God, simply cannot give the Spirit a welcome, since unbelievers do not enter into a personal relationship with him.
v18. Jesus now tells his disciples that he is going to come again to them in the coming of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promises not to abandon his disciples; he will not leave them friendless.
v19. Jesus' disciples will experience him again, although unbelieving Israel will never experience him. Just as Jesus will break the bonds of death and live, so his disciples will live, and live eternally. Of course, not just breathe, but rather experience the life-giving indwelling presence of the Spirit of Christ.
v20. It is through the presence of the indwelling Spirit of Christ that the disciples will realize the depth of the personal relationship that exists between the Father and Son, a relationship that they too will be able to enter into and experience.
v21. Jesus now explains the nature of this mutual indwelling and how it is experienced. The person who accepts ("has") Jesus' words ("commands") and responds in faith ("obeys / keeps them"), is the person who has established a personal relationship with Jesus ("loves me"). Such a person is united in love to the Father and to Jesus, united in a loving relationship that is strengthened day by day.
"I will not leave you friendless."
There are some wonderful passages in John's gospel that speak of "knowing" God, of experiencing a loving relationship with God. The language chosen by John to describe this relationship is the language of intimate friendship. This is certainly how the disciples experienced Jesus and in our passage for study we see Jesus promising them that he will not leave them "friendless". He well send the Holy Spirit to be with them, just as he has been with them.
We can understand how the disciples experienced Jesus, but how do we experience him today, how do we experience the presence of the Spirit of Jesus, the Spirit of truth, in our lives?
Many books have been written on this subject; I have certainly read a few. The theological subject title is "mystical union", and I'm sad to say that many authors have left me with more mystery than union! So then, how do we experience this being "in" Jesus?
I suspect there is no definitive answer to this question. There is no doubt that some believers have experienced the "inner light", although mysticism is certainly not my cup of tea. Having some Scottish blood in my veins, I actually find intimacy uncomfortable, although this doesn't interfere with my experience of Jesus. I am constantly brought to tears with the manifestation of his truth: a line from a hymn, a verse of scripture. For me, the knowledge that Jesus, as a good friend, does what he promises, accepts me the way I am, forgives me, stands beside me in the rough and tumble of life, ........ it is in all these various ways that I experience the divine "in" me.
So, although we possess different personalities, some of us extraverts, others introverts, we will all experience union with God. As Jesus put it, "know that I am in the Father, and that you are in me, and that I am in you." Rest simply on Jesus' promise to manifest himself to those who love him - "they will be loved by my Father, and I will love them, and I will show myself clearly to them."
Draw up a list of possible ways a believer could experience the presence of God, through the Spirit, "with" / "in" us, forever. Discuss the validity of each.
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