‘I have said these things to you while I am still with you.’ John 14:25
In college days, the New Testament lecturer would divide the Gospel of John into two books: the book of Works (Chapters 1-11) and the book of Words (Chapter 12-21). The miracles that John recounts in Chapter 1-11, are seen from John’s perspective not just as incidents in a story, but as deliberate signs pointing to the glory of Jesus. After the turning of the water into wine in John Chapter 2, John writes in John 2:11, “What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.” The miracles reveal Jesus’ glory so that people may believe. In John 12:37, John expresses disappointment that people had not seen the signs, ‘Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him’.
John doesn’t attempt to record more than a small selection of Jesus’ miracles in his Gospel account, he says in Chapter 20 Verse 30, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.” John has chosen the miracles he describes with a specific purpose, declaring in Chapter 20 Verse 31, “But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”
As John writes about particular signs, particular works of Jesus, so he also recalls particular words. Read Saint John’s Gospel and there is no account of the sharing of the bread and wine at the Last Supper, but there is a careful description of the washing of the disciples’ feet. John is selective about what he has written, so each word should be read as something he hopes will inspire belief in Jesus among those who hear the Gospel.
John Chapter 14 is filled with words John would want his readers to note. “I have said these things to you while I am still with you”, says Jesus,. Jesus is emphasizing that these are his own words; they are to be noted, taken with seriousness, applied to people’s lives.
In Chapter 14 Verses 26 and 27, Jesus, in a few words, tells readers things about God that they might never have realized, or perhaps we had realized, and then forgotten. Jesus’ words challenge readers to think about their picture of God; when they think about God, how do they see him?
“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name,” says Jesus. How often would people think of God as their advocate? An advocate is someone who speaks for someone, someone who defends, someone who protects. Do people see God in such a way? Do they see God as actively engaged on their behalf?
There are many people who believe in God, but when it comes to describing the God in whom they believe, he is a God who is remote, far off, he is not someone who is part of everyday life, not someone who could be imagined as having their best interests at heart. Believing in God as an advocate is to believe in a God who is very different from ideas of God as some faraway old man with a beard, or strict schoolmaster, or terrifying judge.
How much difference to daily thinking would it make if people really believed in God as advocate?
The Holy Spirit “will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you”’, says Jesus. How often do Christians feel that they have new things to learn? Many adult Christians feel that they know all they need and that there is nothing else that can be taught to them, but if the Holy Spirit is one who comes as a teacher, then there is clearly a great deal more than might have been imagined to be learned.
What might the Holy Spirit teach if people were prepared to listen? It can only be known by being prepared to listen, but that depends on a change of heart, being prepared to accept that faith is not complete, but that it is possible to learn and grow.
How much difference to daily thinking would it make if people were prepared to accept God as our teacher?
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you”, says Jesus. The words are very familiar, John Chapter 14 Verse 27 is a text regularly read at funerals. “I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
While people may listen to the words, find them comforting, even think them poetic, how seriously do they take them? A sense of God’s peace is surely something that should transform the way people see their lives, but how much sign is there in the lives of Christians that they have really listened to what Jesus is saying?
How much difference to daily thinking would it make if people really had a sense of God’s peace in their hearts?
“I have said these things to you while I am still with you”, says Jesus. “These are my own words,” he is saying, “take them seriously”.
God as advocate, teacher and peace-giver. The words John writes have much to say.