I wonder, can you remember what you were doing 54 days ago? No looking at your iPhone! Can you remember what you were doing 54 days ago? Well, 54 days ago, probably about this time I was sitting in our church hall down in Vevey having a meal with about seven or eight people. It was Maunday Thursday. And we were eating together and after we’d eaten together, we shared the Lord’s supper together. And we were using that evening to remember the night before Jesus died. When Jesus met with his disciples, you will remember they shared a meal together and he washed their feet. The day after that we gathered to celebrate Good Friday. And we did that down in Vevey and we were here, again around this time, in St. Peter’s. We gathered for an hour to hear the Bible read and to hear some music.
That helped us focus upon the death of Jesus and Good Friday. And then Easter Sunday we were back here again at St. Peter’s 5.30 for our Easter celebration to celebrate the fact that the Lord is risen. He is risen indeed, hallelujah. And so here we are today, 50 days later. 50 days, which is why we call this Sunday, Pentecost. 50 days after the Passover, after Easter. And the reason why I’m just reminding you of what we did 50 days ago, is because our gospel reading tonight – John 14 – is set the night before Jesus died. So Jesus has had a meal with his disciples. He’s just washed their feet, I think quite an awkward, uncomfortable moment for a number of them.
And Jesus has begun to talk about the Holy Spirit. The night before he dies. And that’s why we have this reading this evening. John 14 You have it in your service booklet. It would be lovely if you just keep that to hand because I want us to think about that this evening. It’s important also to to realize that the words of Jesus that he speaks about the Holy Spirit are set against the backdrop of pain, a backdrop of pain. On that night we have Judas, we have Judas betraying Jesus. So Jesus is having a meal with his disciples. He’s washed their feet. It must be a beautiful atmosphere in the room and Jesus drops three bombshells. One, one of the people who that he’s just shared a meal with, a person whose feet he’s washed, someone’s going to betray them. Somebody is going to betray him that night. And if that wasn’t a big enough bomb shell, he then goes on to say that somebody who’s just shared a meal with, whose feet he has just washed, is going to deny him. There’s two bombshells in a matter of a minute. And then comes the third one. Betrayal, denial and then the third one departure. Jesus is leaving. Jesus is leaving. His time with his disciples has come to an end.
And it’s in the context of that pain. I wonder, have you ever felt betrayed or have you ever felt that a friend’s, denied you? Or have you ever experienced someone who has, maybe a close intimate friend, who’s left you?
And so in the context of that pain that Jesus speaks these words, very first words, the first phrase in John’s Gospel, we don’t have it here. He says this. Do not let your hearts be troubled. It’s against this backdrop of pain that Jesus speaks this phrase. Do not let your heart be troubled. And he goes on to talk about why they don’t have to have troubled hearts. Against this backdrop of pain, against this backdrop of betrayal and denial and departure. And it’s against that backdrop that Jesus begins to speak about the Holy Spirit. And I just want to share with you the two things I think he says to his disciples about the Holy Spirit coming. And here’s the first one.
Because the Holy Spirit is coming, Jesus is really not going away. He’s really not going away. Early on in John 14, Jesus has assured his troubled disciples that one day they will be with him forever. Do you remember these words? In my father’s house there are many mansions. And if that were not so, would I have told you that I’m going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I come back and take you to be with me that you may also be where I am. Jesus is saying to them that one day his disciples will be with him forever. And that’s a great promise, isn’t it? It’s a great promise that death doesn’t have the last word. And Jesus wants his disciples to know that. Yes, Jesus is going away and yes, one day his disciples will be with them forever, but there is more to come.
If you’ve got your John 14 open in front of you, have a look at verses 15 to 16. This is Jesus speaking to his disciples. If you love me, keep my commandments. Verse 16 and I will ask the father and he will give you another comforter. Another advocate to help you and to be with you forever. Not only are the disciples going to be with one day with Jesus forever, but what Jesus is teaching them now is that he is going to be with them by the spirit. There’s one word in verse 16, which is really important and it’s the word, another. Our family tradition was on Sunday afternoons we had a big meal together. It wasn’t at lunchtime. We had ours, in Northern Ireland you called itdinner time, but dinner time is sort of five or six in the evening.
And the words that you wanted my mother to hear, or wanted to hear my mother say to us, where these words. Would you like another helping? And the answer to that question was always yes . My mother was a wonderful cook. Particularly when it came to desserts. Would you like another helping? If people say that to me today, I tend to say I better not. But when my mother said, would you like another helping? What she was saying is, would you like a helping just like the first one. Exactly like the first one. Would you like roasties and would you like a little bit more surloin meat or would you like another yorkshire pudding or which would you like? And so on and so forth. A helping just like the first. And so when Jesus says to his disciples, I’m going to ask the father and he’s going to send you another comforter, another advocate. What Jesus is saying is this. Is that the father is going to send to the disciples someone just like Jesus.
The Holy Spirit is just like Jesus. He is another comforter. Jesus has been the comforter. Now they are getting another comforter just like Jesus. Jesus has been the advocate, the one who’s spoken truth to them. Now they are getting another advocate just like Jesus. Another comforter, another advocate. The Holy Spirit is the continuation of Jesus with us. Yes, not physically beside us. But a reality within us. And that’s why in Paul’s letters, particularly in the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is often referred to as the spirit of Christ. Holy Spirit, spirit of Christ. Same thing. Holy Spirit is Christ in us. The Holy Spirit is Christ in us. And that’s true of each and every believer, each and every Christian. So maybe tonight you are a man in your 50s very, very early fifties but 50s nonetheless and you’re a believer. Well, the Holy Spirit lives within you. Or maybe you’re a lady and I won’t mention age at this point because it would be completely inappropriate. And you’re a believer. Well, the Holy Spirit, spirit of Christ, lives in you.
Maybe you are a chief executive of a business or maybe you’re what we would have called back in Ireland a bin man, a refuse collector. Well, irrespective of what you do, if you’re a believer, guess what? The Holy Spirit lives within you. The spirit of Christ lives and you just elbow the person beside you and say the Holy Spirit lives within you. That’s the promise of the father. That for every single believer, irrespective of gender or age or class or status or background, Christ lives in us by the Holy Spirit. I will ask the father and he will give you another comforter, another advocate.
Before we move on. I just love the imagery that Jesus uses to describe what it’s like to have the Holy Spirit living in you. So if see in in verse 16 that Jesus talks about the other advocate who has come to help you and be with you. And so having the Holy Spirit within you means that we’re going to experience being helped, being accompanied. Verse 18, Jesus uses the phrase of the Holy Spirit coming and he describes it this way. I will not leave you as orphans. In other words, having the Holy Spirit within you means that you have a sense of belonging to a family.
I met somebody for the first time, well, not for the first time, but I spent meaningful time with this person for the first time this week. And they were, they were sharing with me about how their children are adopted and described, as a father, one of the things that he has to do repeatedly with them, even though they have had these children now for nearly 15, 16 years, is to remind them daily that they belong. Because they struggle with a sense of abandonment. And as a father, and his wife as a mother, every day to remind their preciously loved children that they belong. And that’s one of the things that the Holy Spirit seeks to do for us to remind us that we belong. We’re not orphans. We’re not estranged in this world. That we belong to our father’s family. So the first thing that Jesus wants to teach his disciples against this background of pain – remember betrayal, denial, departure – is that in reality, he’s not going away. The spirit is the spirit of Jesus who comes to live within us.
But Jesus has one more thing that he wants to say to his disciples. And it’s about love. And it’s about truth. On Friday past we had a kid’s club down in Vevey. We had about 29 kids all under the age of 10, all who had had too much sugar, and were really energetic and full of life. And we had a little strap line for our Holy Bible Club, our Fun Friday, as we call it, and it goes like this. When life is sad God is good. So whenever I said, when life is sad, they would shout back. God is good. And we had this particular 10 year old who decided that he would be very contrary. And so I said, when life is bad or when life is sad, he shouted back, God is mad. And you knew what? That child spoke wisdom. Because how many of us as adults have gone through sad times and questioned God. God, are You mad? Why are you allowing this to happen?
Life is sad. Sometimes we conclude that God stepped away. God’s backed off. God’s love is stopped. God’s mad. And Jesus now addresses that very issue. Remember the context. Betrayal, denial and departure against this background of pain. Jesus has spoken words, profound words. When he said to his disciples, do not let your hearts be troubled. Against this background of pain. Do not let your heart. Jesus is inviting his disciples, even in their pain, to trust him with their pain. To not conclude that they are no longer loved. To not conclude that they are abandoned. Because he then says to his disciples – when he’s speaking of the Holy Spirit – verse 16, again, just to go back to that verse. He says that he’s going to ask the father and the father’s going to send another. We’ve looked at that word, another, another, and in my Bible its translated advocate. Another advocate. In some translations, it’s counselor in some translations, it’s comforter. What Jesus is saying is that the Holy Spirit when he comes, he’s going to come with truth. He’s an advocate who brings truth to us. A counselor who brings truth to us. I don’t know whether you’ve ever been in therapy and a counselor has brought truth to you. That is one of the things that the Holy Spirit does is, is that he brings the truth, the truth, that Jesus has taught. The truth, that Jesus has embodied, lived out and he brings that to us.
In verse 17, Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the spirit of truth. Back up half a dozen verses, and we’ll hear Jesus say: I am the way, the truth, and the life. The Holy Spirit brings us the truth that Jesus teaches, the truth that Jesus embodies. And he brings that to us. And Jesus highlights a particular truth. Verses 20 and 21, that the holy spirit will bring to us. If you’re looking at John 14, have a look at 20 to 21. This is, this is Jesus speaking to his disciples. Here’s one of the truths that the Holy Spirit will bring to us. Verse 20 on that day, what day? The day that the Holy Spirit comes, you will realize that I am in the Father and you are in me and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father and I too will love them. One of the things that the Holy Spirit, one of the truths that the Holy Spirit will bring to us is that we are intimately and deeply connected, not only to Jesus – you are in me – that beautiful phrase. But not only are we deeply connected to Jesus that we are in him, but we are also deeply and intimately connected to the Father. And what does that mean in reality? Well, it means in reality that we will know the Father’s love and the love of the Son as well. Here’s the truth, one of the truths that the Holy Spirit will bring to us and it’s this. We are loved. Loved by the Father. We are loved by the Son. The Holy Spirit make real to us. It makes real to us the experience of that love. I think it’s a wonderful prayer to pray. Holy Spirit, will you open up my mind and my heart to the love that the Father has for me? Holy Spirit, will you open up my mind and heart to the love that the Son has for me.
I think that’s a great prayer to prey. So here’s your homework. Why don’t you pray that every day for the next week. Maybe you wake up in the morning, the alarm clock’s going off, before you get up. Just pray that. And if you’re feeling adventurous as you put your head on the pillow at night, why don’t you pray it again? So that’s your homework for next week.
One of my favourite hymns is written by a Scotsman called George Matheson. The hymn is entitled: O love that wilt not let me go. Does anybody know that hymn? O love that wilt not let me go. This is George Matheson talking about this hymn. He said this. “My hymn was composed in the months on the evening of June the sixth, 1882. I was at that time alone. It was the day of my sister’s marriage and the rest of my family were staying overnight in Glasgow. Something had happened to me which was known only to myself and which caused me the most severe mental suffering. The hymn was the fruits of that suffering. It was the quickest bit of work I ever did in my life. I had the impression of having it dictated to me by some inward voice. I am quite sure that the whole work was completed in five minutes.” I never imagined writing a hymn in five minutes. In five minutes. “And equally sure that it never received at my hands any retouching or correction. I have no natural gift of rhythm. All the other verses I have written are manufactured articles. This came like a day spring from on high. I have never been able to gain once more the same fervor in verse”
And then this is an editor’s note. “Matheson obviously didn’t intend to tell us what caused his most severe mental suffering. But people who know his background strongly suspect that it had to do with a heartbreaking experience several years earlier. His fiancé had broken her engagement to him, telling him that she couldn’t see herself going through life, married to a blind man. Matheson was blind. Matheson never married, and it seems likely that his sister’s wedding brought the memory of the woman that he had loved and the wedding that he had never enjoyed. And the title of the hymn that he wrote: O love that wilt not let me go.
That’s the love that the Holy Spirit brings to each one of us. The love of the father and the love of the son. John 14, that’s set against pain. What are they again? Betrayal, denial, departure. Against that pain ends with Jesus speaking these words. Peace. You probably know these words. 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. Do not be afraid. How can he say those words? He can say those words, because he knows the spirit’s coming. Come Holy Spirit. Amen.