Third Sunday after Easter
Psalm 123, 124 and 125, Numbers 24: 10 – 25 and John: 14: 15 – 31
I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near – a star shall come out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel. Numbers 24:17a
I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. John 14: 25 and 26
Almighty God, who shewest to them that be in error the light of thy truth, to the intent that they may return into the way of righteousness: Grant unto all them that are admitted into the fellowship of Christ’s religion, that they may eschew those things that are contrary to their profession, and follow all such things as are agreeable to the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Collect for the Third Sunday after Easter
Last week we were thinking about the appearances of the risen Lord Jesus to his disciples in the days following the resurrection. They were provided with both physical and spiritual proof that it was really him and were given teaching to prepare them for their future mission as apostles of the new Way. Today’s gospel reading takes us back to the Upper Room on Maundy Thursday and a portion of the intensive teaching Jesus gave on that occasion prior to his death. The important points from this passage are helpful to us in our present circumstances.
The first interesting point is that we should not be surprised at the hostility Christians sometimes face or the lack of comprehension around us to matters of faith. Jesus says in verse 17 that the world in its unregenerate state cannot receive the Holy Spirit (or Spirit of Truth in the NRSV). Non-Christians neither see Jesus nor know him because their eyes are closed and their hearts hardened. However, when repentance takes place and new life received, the Holy Spirit ‘abides’ with us and is ‘in’ us.
This leads us to the wonderful realisation that we are in the same privileged position as Jesus’ own disciples. When we become Christians, we are granted the rights of children and heirs, inheritors of the promises of God. As Jesus remarks in verse 18, we are not left orphaned in the world. While it may be seemwe are vulnerable and feel cast-adrift by circumstances of life, in reality we are God’s children and under His protection.
The third point is that as our love and devotion increases, the Holy Spirit reveals more of Jesus to us (verse 21). We know him more intimately the more we read the Bible, devote ourselves to prayer and allow the Holy Spirit to influence our attitudes and behaviour. This is one of those virtuous circles, where a little effort on our part is rewarded over and over again in the riches of God’s love and blessings shown to us.
Fourthly, in verse 25 Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit using another name, the Advocate. This shows the teaching role of the Holy Spirit in revealing the truth to us, giving us understanding and ‘arguing the case for us’ as we wrestle in prayer – sometimes feeling powerless to express the anguish in our hearts or our concerns for others. It was this teaching role of the Holy Spirit that the disciples would find so important in subsequent years. We might call it divine inspiration, and when the New Testament came to be written it enabled the authors to recall the words of Jesus and shape the developing theology of Christianity. This is probably most marked in the apostle Paul who had not walked Galilee with Jesus, but had insight into what Jesus had said (through oral transmission of his deeds and words, and visions imparted to Paul).
The final point returns to the theme of the locked room on Easter Day, when Jesus appeared to the fearful disciples. In John 14: 27 Jesus uses the expression about the peace he leaves with us (just as we saw in John 20: 19 and 26), but supplements it with the addition that this is not peace as the world gives. The peace Jesus gives is not temporary or transient, like the short-term respite the world gives through things like alcohol, drugs or training to use tools like positive thinking or meditation to combat a troubled mind. The peace Jesus gives is guaranteed because he overcame death and sin on the cross, and now has authority in heaven. The Holy Spirit is the ongoing promise that Jesus is with us until the completion of time when he will return in glory to judge the ‘quick and the dead’.
We pray today’s Collect confident the Holy Spirit will reveal God’s Truth to us, will confirm us in the way we are going, equip and defend us, and make us ready to meet Jesus face to face one day.
Kevin Boak, Lay Reader