Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.
This is your word heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is Truth. Amen.
Fellow redeemed: Without the Helper Jesus promises, you simply cannot exist as a Christian. The Helper He is talking about sending, once He ascends, is the Holy Spirit. And Jesus doubles down in describing just how vital it is, that He send the Spirit. In today’s Gospel, Jesus uses two terms that would have lit up the flashing lights in the minds of those who first heard, and later, read His words.
The first term Jesus uses in our text is ‘Helper’. He promises, when He goes, to send the Helper to you. Later in the reading, Jesus calls Him ‘the Spirit of truth.’ Let’s take these two terms, ‘Helper’ and ‘Spirit’ in order today.
Even today our military commonly uses an innovation attributed either to Philip of Macedonia, or his son, Alexander the Great. Whatever branch of the military you may serve in, you will have your wingman, shipmate, or battle buddy. We work best in the trials and danger of warfare when we pair up. In ancient times— the days of Alexander the Great, and later too, when the Roman legions marched out to battle in Europe, Asia, and Africa— the Greek term was ‘paraclete.’ It means ‘the one who comes to your aid.’ You trained with your paraclete (and you were his), you marched with him, you bunked with him — in fact you were only issued half a tent, and he was issued the other half! And you received your rations and pay with him. And you marched into battle with your paraclete. If things went badly, if your phalanx— your group of soldiers— was broken, you and your paraclete stuck together. In fact, you wore a belt and armor that hooked together for that purpose, back to back. Your paraclete fought for you where you couldn’t fight for yourself. And if you were struck and fell? Your paraclete leaned forward, hoisted you on his back, and bore you off the field of battle. A good paraclete was the difference between life and death.
Why am I telling you all this military science and history stuff? I’m telling you this, because Jesus’ words are written for us in Greek. Our Gospel reading today is an English translation. But now you know a Greek word ‘paraclete’ that is, ‘the one who comes to your aid.’ Where the translator wrote down ‘Helper’, in the original, in the Greek, the word is a military term— ‘paraclete.’ Jesus promises to send the Paraclete to you. And He is the difference between life and death. He bears you up and fights where you can’t, and He defends and saves you here and now.
The Holy Spirit is your Paraclete. Unfortunately, you have failed Him time and again. Remember, you are partnered with Him. But time and again, you have wandered off into the very sin He has identified for you in His Word as being hostile territory, a deadly place for you. And you have forgotten that your sustenance and welfare are dependent on sticking to Him. You have preferred the words of this fallen and dying world, to His Conversation and Consolation, you have not always attended to the rations He would share with you, nor do you always find shelter and rest with Him. You see, He speaks to you in the Divine Service, through His Word, and there He gives you rest, and even dines you on the rich supper of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus. Your Paraclete trains alongside you for your spiritual strengthening and vitality in coming to Bible study, and in the ongoing discipline of your morning, mealtime, and evening prayers, as conveniently outlined for you in the Catechism, and supplemented in such good and orthodox publications as Bishop Laache’s Book of Family Prayer.
In fact, your spiritual welfare and fitness rely on your disciplined and diligent adherence to the Word and Sacrament and the prayers too, you receive in the good offices of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete sent by Jesus for your ongoing life as a Christian. Apart from Him, you cannot live as a Christian. And the Paraclete is with you, connecting you to the good things God gives, and would yet restore you to these Gifts in this brief moment of grace remaining, if you now consider and know you have wandered too far away. Now He bids you return, and will fetch you gladly home again, that He may restore you in Christ’s good grace and merit.
For you see, the Paraclete give you nothing of His own. He gives you what Jesus has won for you. Thus He does not speak on His own authority, but endorses to you the word of our Lord Jesus. The Paraclete delivers to you the blessing of Jesus. That is what He does. Any who teach of special gifts of the Spirit apart from what Jesus first and definitely has done, speaks false doctrine and is unreliable. Pay no attention to such natterers.
Jesus calls the One He sends the ‘Paraclete’, which is commonly translated ‘Helper’ but in fact means so much more. The second alarm-triggering term Jesus uses is ‘Spirit.’
“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 authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
Jesus names the One He sends, ‘the Spirit.’ and commonly we call Him the Holy Spirit, or, the Holy Ghost (the two mean the same thing). What is so special about the term ‘Spirit’? Well, it can mean a few things. Spirit, as we commonly think of it, but also breath or wind. And even in our language, we talk about a spirit level, and we get words like ‘pneumatic’ from the Greek ‘pneuma’ which we translate ‘spirit.’ In the beginning, God made man a living being when He breathed into him. But in our fall into sin, mankind lost that life, that breath of God, didn’t we. But Jesus would restore the life and breath He made us to have. He literally would breathe on the disciples, saying, ‘receive the Holy Spirit.’ So they were restored. On the day of Pentecost, fifty days after Easter, the Holy Spirit came upon the holy apostles with the sound of a mighty wind. This enlivening presence of the Holy Spirit henceforth was bestowed through the washing of water and the Word of God in Holy Baptism. In today’s Gospel, Jesus promises the coming of the Spirit of Truth. The Holy Spirit would deliver to the Apostles what He had received from Jesus, who is the Word Incarnate. So these men would not only preach and teach boldly, as the Spirit now breathed through them, enabling them to do so, but they would also take up their pens and write. The Holy Spirit would breathe into that written word, His very presence, and abiding life. A technical term meaning ‘to breathe into’ is ‘inspire.’ We call the Holy Scriptures the ‘Inspired’ Word, because indeed, the Holy Spirit there dwells for us. Even long after the days of those Apostles, whenever we pick up the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit breathes out into all who might hear God’s Word, and creates in us faith by which we may receive His Gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation.
Notice that Jesus teaches concerning this ongoing work of the Holy Spirit, who inspires the Word, and enlivens those who receive it: “he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” Note well, that He does not do anything, does not bring to you anything, except what is Jesus’ doing and teaching. We see time and again in the Gospels that what Jesus taught, the disciples couldn’t understand— but that after the coming of the Holy Spirit, His teachings were brought back to mind, and they were given understanding. This is what the Holy Spirit brought to the Apostles— nothing Jesus hadn’t given and taught— and what they then were enabled to write as they composed the Scriptures of the New Testament, which are inerrant, and into which the Holy Spirit has breathed His presence, that we now, hearing that word, find that it is not alone, but the Spirit attends and enlivens it for our good, that we also are given faith to believe it in turn.
Those today who seek to make up new, exciting, works of the Holy Spirit, and attribute to Him additional works, directly contradict Jesus. But the persons of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Spirit are ever one, in perfect agreement and harmony. The charismatic claims you may hear today are not of God. They are the fictions of false teachers, for they directly contradict Jesus, and would make Him a liar. His Word does not lie, and the Spirit He sends is the enlivening, empowering, blessed, Spirit of Truth. He abides now with you, dear one, for you have heard His Word. The Holy Spirit has enlivened you through the watery Word of Holy Baptism. Have no doubt, He stands with you, and you with Him, and even in the valley of death, even in the midst of your enemies, satan, and his demonic host, you may yet stand, and even feast on the Good Gifts of God.
And come the close of this fleeting day, the Holy Spirit remains beside you, enlivening you with the gift of Jesus’ grace. And in Him you shall safely be brought to your eternal Home. You see, it was never about the battle of this sad life. Jesus has passed through death, destroying it’s power over you, that through even death itself, you would be brought to that life which shall never end. The Word is breathed on you, and the Holy Spirit enlivens you now, and unto eternity. Lift up your head, dear Christian, your Redeemer is nigh, and His Good Spirit brings you alive, restored, forgiven by the blood of the Lamb, Jesus, who has taken away the sin of the world. Lift up your head, the Spirit of Truth is with you. He has your back, and is bringing you Home.
The Peace of God which passes all understanding keep your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Amen.