Another Comforter/Advocate

Scripture Passage and Lesson Focus: John 14:15-26

The Gospel of John directly addresses one of the most pressing questions faced by the earliest followers of Jesus: What will happen to them after Jesus leaves? Jesus told them more than once that his time on earth would end and that he would return to God. Chapters 14-17 of John’s Gospel are Jesus’ final words to his very worried and confused disciples.

We need to remember that Jesus is fully aware of what lies ahead for him. John wants us to know that Jesus’ imminent death is really his glorification. As Presbyterian scholar Lamar Williamson observes, “In Johannine theology, Jesus’ death, resurrection and return are a single saving act through which the Lamb of God takes away the sin of the world, makes his disciples clean and prepares for them an abiding place with the Father.”

John 14:15-17: God provides the Paraclete
Having assured his disciples that he was leaving to prepare a place for them and that they possessed both the knowledge and his power to do greater things than he himself had done, Jesus promises to ask God
to send the disciples a Paraclete. Paraclete is a Greek word that resists being translated with one word because it has several related but distinct meanings. Literally, a paraclete is someone who is called (kletos) alongside (para) as an advocate, a helper, a comforter, a mediator and an intercessor.

Only the Gospel of John uses the term Paraclete to describe the ongoing presence of the Holy Spirit in each believer. Jesus describes the Paraclete as the Spirit of Truth. The Holy Spirit will dwell in and among Jesus’ disciples and all those who trust in him. 

John 14:18-21: You are not orphans 
Jesus’ departure does not mean his disciples will be orphans. “I am coming to you,” Jesus says. That promise was fulfilled three times after Jesus’ resurrection (John 20:19, 26 and 21:1).

Jesus will also be present to the disciples and all believers in a new way. Anticipating his resurrection, Jesus says, “Because I live, you also will live.” The resurrected Jesus will live in the disciples and in all believers as the Paraclete, their comforter, their advocate, their mediator. Jesus’ followers live with the promise of resurrection. The mystical unity shared by Jesus, the Father and all believers means that no follower of Jesus will ever be an orphan alone in this world.

John 14:22-24: Loving means obeying
A disciple named Judas, not Judas Iscariot (see Luke 6:16), asks Jesus a question: “How is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus does not provide a direct answer to his question. Instead he repeats what he said earlier (14:15). Those who love Jesus keep (i.e., obey) his commandments.

Conversely, those who do not love Jesus do not obey those commandments. Moreover, they are not simply Jesus’ commandments. They are God’s commandments. The line between believers and the world is very clear in the Gospel of John; it is the difference between obedience and disobedience. To be sure, God loves the world (John 3:16), even though the world consists of people who do not love Jesus and do not obey God’s commandments.

John 14:25-26: The Spirit teaches believers
The Paraclete is the Spirit of Truth who teaches believers everything that Jesus taught during his earthly ministry. The Spirit guides the community of faith in its struggle to remember and understand what Jesus taught. Believers turn to the inspired Scriptures, the word of God written, to know what the Spirit is leading them to remember. We need to remember that all of the second person pronouns in this passage are plural. The Paraclete is promised to all believers.

If Jesus seems to be far away or even absent, perhaps it is because we lack the ears to hear. The Holy Spirit speaks through Scripture and through the teaching and preaching of those called to proclaim what Jesus taught. Thanks be to God for the Paraclete.

For discussion
Jesus said God would send “another Advocate to be with you forever” (14:16). Can you identify the first Advocate? What is the difference between the first Advocate and the other Advocate God will send? What commandments does Jesus expect his followers to obey (see John 13:14 and 34;15:4, 12, and 16)? What do you think Jesus meant when he said, “On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you?”

JAMES A. BRASHLER is professor emeritus of Bible at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia.