It is not easy to answer the question, who is the Holy Spirit? We seldom ask, who is the Holy Spirit?—and that tells us something about our understanding of the Spirit. The Spirit is usually associated with something rather vague, unseen, unfelt. Our minds, it seems, are unable to connect the Spirit with anything but unreality. God the Father is not hard for us to understand and even to picture; we know what a father is like. God the Son is easier to picture. We have thousands of representations of Jesus Christ the man from Nazareth, as a baby, as a man, teaching, healing, praying, suffering, dying, rising, reigning. But the Spirit is a challenge. How do you portray a Spirit? As a bird perhaps, but that is obviously little more than a simple illustration. We describe “who” the Holy Spirit is by describing what he does. The primary work of the Holy Spirit is that he calls us to the Gospel; gathers us in Christian community; enlightens us to the work of the Triune God; makes us holy (set aside) for Christ’s mission of reconciliation; and, preserves our faith in Christ throughout our earthly pilgrimage.
Like Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane as reported in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, this prayer is Jesus’ own meditation on his dying. For Jesus, his death was his moment of glorification. Throughout John’s gospel, Jesus spoke of his glory as the climax of the mission to which he dedicated himself from the beginning. It was the work that was completed and sealed at the cross. Thus, the cross was not the awful low point of the ministry of Jesus. It was not the triumph of his enemies. IT was not a momentary lapse of failure on his own part. The cross was Jesus’ hour. By dying in accord with God’s plan, Jesus was obedient to God just as we are not. He was not defeated by the world, but died for the sake of the world. Jesus prayed that his disciples might be one. It is often thought that Jesus prayed that his disciples would be united with each other, but Jesus prayed that they would be one with God as he himself was. He prayed that the world with its dark attractions would have no hold on them, that they might know God and live in God so deeply that they may be described as one with God, just as he was one with God.
Today's Gospel continues the themes of absence and presence, addressing the disciples' sense of being abandoned like orphans (v.18) because Jesus withdrew from the visible fellowship of his earthly ministry into the invisibility of his exalted life. What is new this week is especially the mention of the "Advocate" (v. 16), sometimes called "Paraclete" or "Counselor" in other Bible translations. The best way to understand the Advocate is to read the five "Advocate passages" (14:15-17,26; 15:26-27; 16:7-11, 13-15) asking how they describe the work of the Advocate. The Advocate has the closest possible connection with Jesus and may be described as Jesus' spirit or as the power of God making the resurrected Jesus present to believers. "Orphaned" is not a word that most of us use very often--but it is a word that is a powerful one, nevertheless. To be orphaned is to be alone, on one's own, to be deserted--and that can happen as a child or as an adult surrounded by others. One can even be orphaned in one's own family, lonely and estranged from others, grieved by the loss of a loved one, a forgotten old person, angered, despondent, depressed, caught up in a web of problems--some real, many imagined. We have all experienced loneliness or estrangement or desolation to some degree or another. We have all asked at one time or another, "Where is God in all of this puzzling life?" "Why is he not with us?" Jesus knew that his followers would be troubled when his life and work came to an end in world history. but he also knew that his revelation of God's love and mercy would never come to an end. He promised, "I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you." In John's Gospel, that means that at Jesus' request God the Father would give another Counselor to be with his people forever, the Spirit of truth. The Spirit taught those early Christians all things and brought to their remembrance all that Jesus had said to his followers. As the Spirit did it then, the Spirit continues to do so now. Neither they nor we are alone. The Spirit of the risen Christ still brings to our remembrance the message of Easter. And this Easter message is put in an interesting and memorable way in our Gospel for today; "Because I live, you will live also." The Counselor, the Spirit of God, brings us life as only God can give it. Rich, full life, knowledge of what life is truly all about is the ongoing gift of the Spirit--life where we work, where we play, where we go to school, where we eat and sleep, where we live. The Gospel says that there is no room for desolation! The Spirit of truth comes engulfing us in the love of God, and enabling us in turn, in the Spirit of truth, to love as we have first been loved. We can thank God that the Counselor is with us forever, that instead of being left orphaned, desolate, and alone, we can come together as the body of Christ, knowing that because the risen Christ lives, we live also. That is our Easter Good News!
The opening words of Jesus about the "Father's house" and "dwelling places" stand as the theme of the text. In the rest of the chapter, Jesus meditated on the images in that opening statement and he offered fresh ways of thinking about our dwelling with God and God's dwelling with us. This talk was all the more relevant since Jesus was about to leave his disciples. John 14 is part of Jesus' farewell discourse (13:31-17:26). These words were spoken at the table during Jesus' final night. He would rise from the table, cross the Kidron valley to the garden on the slopes of the Mount of Olives, and be arrested. When we see him no longer, where is he and what is he doing? After his death and resurrection, Jesus is not simply absent. He is in fact more fully present than ever before, as a powerful fact in the lives of his disciples. A person's dying words are often of great importance to those he leaves behind. Jesus is alone with his disciples and in these intimate, last moments, he opens his heart to them and reveals to them some things that, until now, he had not told them. After the declaration that there is room for all in his Father's house, Jesus makes a startling statement. He claims that he is the way that is truth and life (John 14:6). These words raise the mission of Jesus and his followers to a new level. It is Jesus, in person, who is the Way that leads truly to life. The Christian Community does not and can never replace this Way. The community can only offer different means to help the individual to follow Jesus, the Way. The Way is really unique for each person and all are walking on it in their own rhythm and according to their own understanding. The Christian Community, the church, has helped generations of disciples of Jesus to follow Jesus better. However, she does not pretend to be the end herself. The increase or decrease of members in a Christian community cannot be the sole aim of their activity, and neither can it always be the measure of their financial success or failure. In the end it is all God's work, done by and through Jesus.