Reader: “It is best for you that I go away,”
Response: “because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come.”
Scripture: John 16:4-11
Yes, I’m telling you these things now, so that when they happen, you will remember my warning. I didn’t tell you earlier because I was going to be with you for a while longer.
“But now I am going away to the one who sent me, and not one of you is asking where I am going. Instead, you grieve because of what I’ve told you. But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me. Righteousness is available because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more. Judgment will come because the ruler of this world has already been judged.
Reader: “The word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
A reminder of the context tells us this conversation of Jesus with his disciples occurs on Maundy Thursday, the day before his crucifixion. Notice Jesus’ timing of giving them the information they needed was perfect. In his words, the disciples were going to face some difficult days ahead in relation to their Jewish brothers. Since Jesus had been with them physically, he could guide and protect them, helping them understand what was happening and what they needed to do to respond. That is why he didn’t tell them about the Holy Spirit’s role prior to now. But now he is leaving them. In passing, this does not mean the Holy Spirit was not present before now, but that the role of the Spirit would be more specific.
Predictably, their concern here is not where Jesus is going, but that they will be left alone. Their spiritual guide is leaving them and they are thinking, “Now what will we do?” It reminds me of leaving home for the first time and not having mom and dad to help make decisions and give guidance. I remember how uncomfortable that was. This is much bigger in the disciples’ eyes. Like my early life, a new chapter was forming for the disciples and Jesus’ leaving them was essential.
These next few sentences give us the most concise description of the ministry of the Holy Spirit as any place in Scripture. There are three things: convict the world of its sin, of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. The use of the word “convict,” a legal term, is significant. Now the world is on trial before the Spirit and stands guilty. Whereas the world tried Jesus with false evidence and unjustly convicted him, now the truth comes full circle and the sin of the world for rejecting the Son of God is called into account. Second, the righteousness of God is demonstrated as the only source of true righteousness which is found in Jesus Christ. Finally, the guilty verdict applies not only to the world, but to the ruler of this world, the devil. In the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the judgment of a condemned Satan was complete. These absolute truths are confirmed by the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ departure from the disciples enables this work of the Holy Spirit to happen and move God’s plan forward.
The result is that you and I have a teacher, guide, and counsellor present in the Holy Spirit. Take some time and imagine that Jesus is with you in the flesh today. He is going everywhere you are. Talk with him about everything you are dealing with. Maybe go for a walk with him. Ask him some questions. That kind of presence is what Jesus made a reality in sending the Advocate. Live today in communion with the living Holy Spirit. It’s not just a theological truth, he’s the source of spiritual life.
Music: “Veni Sancte Spiritus” Lauridsen The Singers, Matthew Culloton
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3laWxBucxo (In Latin 13th c., Read through the English text first. This piece is from a larger work Lux Aeterna.)
Come, Holy Spirit, send forth from heaven the ray of thy light.
Come, Father of the poor, come, giver of gifts, come, light of hearts,
Thou best of Consolers, sweet guest of the soul, sweet refreshment.
In labor, thou art rest, in heat, the tempering, in grief, the consolation.
O Light most blessed, fill the inmost heart of all thy faithful.
Without your grace, there is nothing in us, nothing that is not harmful.
Cleanse what is sordid, moisten what is arid, heal what is hurt.
Flex what is rigid, fire what is frigid, correct what goes astray.
Grant to thy faithful, those trusting in thee, thy sacred seven-fold gifts.
Grant the reward of virtue, grant the deliverance of salvation, grant everlasting joy.
Prayer:Holy Spirit, the life that gives life, you are the cause of all movement; you are the breath of all creatures; you are the salve that purifies our souls; you are the fire that warms our hearts; you are the light that guides our feet. Let all the world praise you. Amen. ―Saint Hildegard von Bingen, from Prayers for Easter, p.107