15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and 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.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 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 and show myself to them.”
(John 14:15-21 NIV)
Jesus has told His disciples that He is going away, and they cannot go with Him this time. Jesus has answered the interruptions of Thomas and Philip, giving Himself as the reply (“I am the way, the truth, and the life.” – v. 6). Jesus reiterates that everything is focused on and emanates from the relationship between the Father and the Son (“Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father.” – v. 9). Jesus then makes four promises to His disciples.
As we look at today’s passage, Jesus now switches gears and instructs His disciples. Notice how Jesus begins His instruction: “If you love Me…”. Jesus did not say, “If you want to go to heaven” or “To secure your salvation.” Jesus’ teaching is not about earning our way to heaven – salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone by God’s grace alone. Jesus’ teaching is about obedience out of love and gratitude for Him and the Father.
And what does Jesus ask us to do? Obey His commands. And what order did Jesus give to His disciples (and us) just a few minutes prior? “Love one another.” (John 13:34-35). Love is the distinguishing difference between Jesus’ followers and everyone else, demonstrating God’s presence with them (and us).
In verses 16 – 17, Jesus promises the Holy Spirit while He is away. The NIV translates this Greek work as “advocate”; some versions translate this word “Helper”; the KJV translates this word “Comforter”. The Greek word here is “paraklētos“, which is a compound word meaning “alongside” (“para”) and “console or comfort” (“kletos”). Putting these two words together, it means “one who comes alongside another and consoles or comforts them”.
This same Greek word is also used in a legal setting, where it indicates a legal advocate who stands with the accused and argues on their behalf. Both translations of this Greek word are correct – the question is which one fits the context here. Considering the context of the evening’s events, with Jesus saying in verse 1, “Do not let your hearts be troubled” and “I go to prepare a place for you”, the first definition of “Comforter” seems much more applicable than “Advocate”.
Notice that Jesus promises “another” Comforter. Jesus is the first Comforter; that is why He is telling His disciples all the details about what is going to happen in the next few hours and days. Nothing is a surprise; this is all according to God’s plan. The Holy Spirit is promised when Jesus is no longer physically with them.
Notice that Jesus promises the Holy Spirit in the future. As long as Jesus is still with His disciples, they have God living among them. When Jesus leaves earth, that is when the disciples will need God with them again (as we do).
In verse 18, Jesus comforts His disciples again. Remember when Jesus referred to His disciples as “My children” (John 13:33)? Jesus spoke these words to His disciples, a bunch of rough, tough grown men, not to insult them, but to care for their hearts and souls. Jesus knew they would soon feel like little children orphaned from their Daddy and would miss Him deeply, heartbroken beyond words. Now Jesus reiterates His care for them, to let them know they will not be on their own like street urchins.
In verses 20-21, Jesus says that one day His disciples will realize what Jesus is saying. Jesus is promising that His disciples will see that they are part of the community of the Trinity, welcomed by the Father and introduced by Jesus Himself.
Isn’t that what all of us want at the core of our being – to have the God-shaped vacuum in our lives filled by God Himself, and to have a personal relationship with Him? Community with God is precisely what Jesus is offering to His disciples as well as to you and me.