Acts 8:5-8,14-17; 1Pt 3:15-18; John 14:15-21
I WILL NOT LEAVE YOU ORPHANS
In today’s gospel, Jesus is preparing for his imminent departure. He knows that he is about to go back to his Father. Like ordinary human beings, the disciples are not finding it easy to digest the idea of his departure. They are deeply sad, and are asking themselves how they can keep staying close to Jesus and love him if he goes away. He gives them a firm kind of assurance. He says that there is nothing to worry about because he will always be with them. In giving them this assurance, Jesus make three main emphases: a) He will not abandon them like orphans (cf. Jn 14:18-20). b) He will have a new presence among them, through the Spirit (cf. Jn 14:16-17). c) He gives them his own expectations for the receiving the Spirit; it is the commandment of love (cf. Jn 14:21).
- “I WILL NOT LEAVE YOUR ORPHANS”
With this promise, Jesus shows great concern toward his disciples. The Greek word “orphanos”, used by the Evangelist, John, means without a father, but it was also used of disciples and students deprived of the presence and the teaching of a beloved master. When children are left as orphans, they are placed in a dangerous situation. If nobody keeps or takes care of them, the situation becomes even more miserable. Such children may have a difficult life, and a life without a direction. In the same way, the departure of Jesus places the life of the disciples into a difficult situation. They, also, are described as “children” whose father/master has died. But Jesus told his disciples that they would not be abandoned. “I will not leave you orphans. I will come to you” (Jn 14:18).
Jesus is telling his disciples that he is “coming back”. Here, he is talking of his resurrection and his risen presence. They will see him because he will be alive; and because they will be alive. What he means is that they will be spiritually alive. At the moment they are bewildered and numbed with the sense of impending tragedy; but the day will come when their eyes will be opened, their minds will understand and their hearts will be kindled. At that time, they will really see him. That, in fact, is precisely what happened when Jesus rose from the dead. His rising changed despair to hope and it was then his disciples realized beyond doubt that he was the Son of God.
After Jesus’ death, the “world” did not see Jesus again, but the disciples kept seeing him. “In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live” (v. 19). This is one item about the resurrection of Jesus which has sometimes been overlooked: he showed himself after death only to those who loved him. The “WORLD” mentioned here is translated from its Greek original – kosmos. The kosmos is, as it were, the world opposed to God, that is, the world that prefers darkness (cf. Jn 1:5). The kosmos cannot see Christ today, because their eyes have been blinded to the truth, blinded by their own choices against the truth. It is only through the eyes of faith that one can see Christ.
- HE WILL GIVE YOU ANOTHER ADVOCATE
But Jesus does not leave his disciples to struggle with the Christian life alone. He would send them another helper “I will pray to the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, that he may be with you forever” (v. 16). The gospel text of today gives two names to the Spirit that Jesus will ask the Father to send: the ‘Paraclete’ (Advocate) and “the Spirit of Truth”. This is the same Spirit that descended on Jesus at his baptism. These titles describe what the Spirit does within the believers. ‘Parakletos’ is used only five times in the New Testament—four in John’s Gospel to refer to THE SPIRIT (14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7) and once in 1John 2:1 to refer to JESUS. “Parakletos” has been translated: Advocate, Counselor, Comforter, and Intercessor. This can mean:
- A lawyer who pleads your case or a witness who testifies in your behalf
- A person who gives comfort, counsel, or strength in time of need
- A person who comes to the aid of someone who is in danger
- The literal meaning is “SOMEONE CALLED IN” to help when the person who ‘calls him in’ is in trouble or distress or doubt or bewilderment.
The Paraclete’s, role according to John, will be:
- a) In relation to Jesus’ DISCIPLES: The Paraclete will be with them forever (14:16f.) to teach and remind them of what Jesus has already taught (Jn: 14:26). He will testify to them, and through them to the world, about Jesus (15:26f.). He will guide them into all the truth and will glorify Jesus by speaking what he hears from the Father. He will even predict things to come (16:13-15).
- b) In relation to the WORLD: The Paraclete will act as God’s advocate, to convict the world of sin and to prove it wrong in its standards of justice and judgment (16:8-11).
- c) Jesus is also a parakletos: Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as “another parakletos”, the implication being that Jesus is also a parakletos. However, as a parakletos, Jesus is limited by the Incarnation—by time and space. He can be in only one place at a time, and can help only a limited number of people in any given time. Moreover, he is moving toward his glorification, that is, his death, resurrection, and ascension. Therefore, he will be leaving the disciples. The new parakletos will be with all disciples everywhere and will be with them forever.
- d) Jesus continues to serve as our parakletos in heaven. Even though the Spirit (parakletos) is coming to help us on earth, Jesus continues to serve as our parakletos in heaven. “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). The ascended Lord is viewed as a Paraclete in the court of heaven, pleading the cause of his own. The Holy Spirit is then understood as the Paraclete from heaven, supporting and representing the disciples in the face of a hostile world. It should be noted that the Johannine church was suffering persecution and felt some sense of abandonment by Jesus. This message is very appropriate to them.
- e) This parakletos “is the Spirit of truth, whom the world (kosmos) cannot receive; for it does not see him, neither knows him” (v. 17). It is interesting to see the Spirit associated with truth, for we have just had Jesus describe himself as ‘the truth’ (v. 6); and we earlier learned that those who worship the Father must do so ‘in truth’ (4:23-24). Clearly truth is very closely associated with the Godhead.
- f) The ‘WORLD’ cannot receive the Paraclete. And what does Jesus mean by ‘world’? While the word (kosmos) can be used to refer to the created world, in John’s Gospel, it is the realm that is opposed to God:
- The WORD “was in the world (kosmo), and the world (kosmos) was made through him, and the world (kosmos) did not recognize him” (Jn 1:10).
- The world loves “darkness rather than the light; for their works (are) evil” (Jn 3:19).
- The world rejects the truth, because they have chosen to follow the devil, “a liar” (Jn 8:44). There is a little bit of “world” also in each of us. The “world” is that part of the heart of people which still harbours evil; it is where we store hate, vengeance, evil thoughts… that’s the “world” and the Spirit cannot enter there.
- BUT WHO CAN RECEIVE THIS SPIRIT?
Jesus lays down his expectations for those who can receive the Spirit whom the father will send. The Spirit is for those who love him, for those who keep his commandments, for those who practice love for their fellows, as he taught. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15); “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me” (Jn 14: 21). The commandments to love and to believe are open-ended, in contrast to most O.T. laws, which are very specific. For instance, it is easy to judge whether we have been faithful to the Law of Moses, prohibiting idol worship, adultery, murder, covetousness, stealing etc. But how can we know whether we have fulfilled the demands of love or the demands of faith? Jesus’ commandments are not simply moral precepts (telling us what to do or what not to do). They involve a whole way of life in loving union with Him. True faith is active faith. The difference between a true disciple and a false pretender is that one is FOLLOWING Christ, the other is just TALKING about him!
It is tempting to talk about God’s love without mentioning OUR DUTY TO OBEY. Love without obedience is futile. Our obedience is a sign of our love. Love for God is the only acceptable motive for obedience to him. This love may express itself in a reverence for him and a desire to please him, but those expressions must spring from love. Without the motive of love, one’s apparent obedience may be essentially self-serving.
Negatively, one may fear that God will punish him/her, or at least withhold his blessing from him/her, because of some disobedience. One may abstain from a particular sinful action out of fear that he/she will be found out or because he/she does not want to feel guilty afterward.
Positively, one may be seeking to earn God’s blessing through some pious actions. One may conform to a certain standard of conduct because he/she wants to fit in with and be accepted by the Christian culture in which he/she lives. One might even obey outwardly because he/she has a compliant temperament, and it is simply his/her” nature ” to obey one’s parents, or one’s teacher, or civil authorities, or even God.
All of these motives, both negative and positive, may result in an outward form of obedience, but it is not obedience from the heart. Our behavior may appear outstanding to other people but not be acceptable to God because it does not spring from a motive of love to him. Only conduct that arises from love is worthy of the name of obedience.
- THE BLESSING OF THOSE WHO LOVE CHRIST JOHN (Jn 14:21)
Obedience is the way to increased intimacy and enjoyment of God. Jesus makes this promise to those who obey Him: “My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” This is not like a piece of cake that is offered as a bribe to entice a child to be well-behaved. This blessing is just common sense. When we obey we open doors to God’s blessing. When we disobey we close those doors. One cannot break the laws of God and fail to break him/herself against them. Every time we disobey we cut ourselves off from fellowship with the Lord. We erect a barrier. This barrier hinders the warmth of God’s love, the enjoyment of His person. The goal of obedience is not material blessings as some would seem to indicate. The goal of obedience is an increased intimacy with the Father. Love is a much better motivation than any truckload of material things.
Yes, the world will know that we are Christians by our love! By our LOVE, we, members of the Church, are able to persuade the world of God’s love—something that we could never accomplish by skilled argumentation. No logic has the persuasive power of an act of kindness. We cannot argue the ‘world’ into faith, but it is often possible to love the ‘world’ into faith. Obedience to the commandment to love, then, is the sine quae non—the “without-which-nothing” of true discipleship.