(for the Day of Pentecost, Sunday, May 24, 2015)
‘When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning…
‘I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, “Where are you going?” But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgement: about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgement, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.
‘I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 15:26-27 & 16:4b-15, NRSV).
In a court of law, an ‘advocate’ is one who joins with and testifies alongside one who is accused. The two become a team witnessing together.
According to Jesus advocacy is the role of the coming ‘Spirit of truth’. So much so that Jesus names this third member of the God-head ‘the Advocate’.
It is impossible to testify to the work of Jesus alone. There is always a divine witness alongside. This is the kind of thought that should dramatically empower our mission. We are never isolated or alone as we testify to the work of God.
Yet this aloneness is exactly what the disciples fear. Jesus is making noises about going. The disciples are so filled with sorrow at this prospect that they don’t even ask the obvious: ‘Where are you going?’ It is left to Jesus to point this out!
Yet Jesus sees his leaving as – of all things – an ‘advantage’. His arrival in heaven will signal the release, the sending, of the Spirit into the world.
And in every situation you find yourself this Spirit is already at work.
And his job: to ‘…prove the world wrong about sin, righteousness, and judgment’. I guess we often get these things wrong!
Here, however, a true understanding of each of these is found in relation to the person of Jesus. Sin and faith are linked; righteousness and Jesus’ place alongside the Father; judgment and Jesus overcoming of the evil one.
Who could honestly address personal and corporate sin without trusting the one who so generously forgives? Who could accept Jesus’ declaration of our ‘righteousness’ without seeing him enthroned alongside the Father? I would rather be judged by Jesus than an undefeated ‘evil one’.
Jesus is certainly right to say that the Advocate will ‘testify on my behalf’. This is a telling of the great story of Jesus!
This ‘Spirit of truth’ will keep the teaching, guiding, truth-revealing work of Jesus going. He is Jesus’ mouthpiece loose in the world. A continuation of the work of Jesus.
What a tragedy if we leave the ministry of Jesus in ancient history. Though the wild, loose, Spirit of truth Jesus ministry is surely broader and deeper than ever before.
This Pentecost may you encounter again Jesus’ promised Advocate!