Words of comfort

John 14, 15-27 (Revd Jane Webb, 30th March 2014)
Some people enjoy a new adventure, change, different faces, but to some extent we all want to hang on to what we know, what is safe and familiar. Let me read you an extract from a story of Dr Ronald Clements, a researcher from Oxford:
I cried when we left our home in Guildford. Not the manly thing to do, but I did cry. We weren’t going far – I had a site job in Derbyshire. We weren’t even selling our house, merely letting strangers occupy it – a tiny terraced cottage, 2 up 2 down, built by the local brewery for its workers a century ago.
But it was our first home, the place where my wife and I had put our feet on the property ladder, established ourselves and had the first of our daughters. There we had sat through the night, devising a devious cat flap, unpatented, to confuse the neighbour’s cats, grown vegetables at the bottom of the garden and applied the brightest yellow paint we could find to the front door. But I cried…

Jesus’ disciples were lost and frightened. They weren’t just moving house. They had been following Jesus for 3 years and thought they had worked out that he was God’s Son and that following him was the best and only place to be – and now they couldn’t see the time line any more and Jesus said he was going away, and he said they didn’t need to be worried or upset! The bad news was that He was going, but the Good News was and is that for those who love Him and obey his teaching what comes next will be better!

Jesus’ Promise of the Spirit.

Don’t you sometimes think, I wish Jesus were here today and he could explain to me what to do? The disciples were used to having Jesus there as their Helper, counsellor, comforter, friend, standing beside them. When things went wrong and they disagreed or their prayers weren’t answered or they just didn’t understand, they could go to Jesus. And now He tells them he is going away, but.. He says He will ask the Father and the Father will give you another helper to stand in His place alongside you, and he will be with each of you for ever, not limited by where you are or when he is available. The name Jesus uses for the Holy Spirit here is The Paraclete. Paracletos is a very rich word, it’s someone who comforts you – who comes and puts their arm around you when you feel lost. He is also the one who stands up in court to speak on your behalf. As God is our judge, the Holy Spirit is there in Heaven pleading our case. Paul said to the Romans (8,27) The Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will”. There is so much teaching about The Holy Spirit. Here Jesus tells them that this other helper will not only stand alongside you, he is the Spirit of Truth (also 15, 26 and 16,13- important!) – when you feel lost, he can show your Spirit what is true
He will teach us all things. What about those moments when you are about to reply to a text, call someone, go looking on the internet, and suddenly you know in your heart that it’s wrong! The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth, to teach us God’s way.

A geographically defined Jesus could only be in one place, but His Spirit can live with us and be in us.

I remember the summer holidays after Philip and I got engaged. I was at home in Sussex, writing essays for University. Philip had a student pastorate and was looking after the Baptist Church in Honiton in Devon, a long way away. We wrote to each other twice a week, but there were no mobiles then! One day my mum came up to my room and found me crying. I was missing Philip. A couple of phone calls and I went down to Devon by train and had a wonderful weekend with Philip, and came back home quite happy till term began and we were both back in Bristol. Being apart was not good.
Other than at that terrible moment on the cross, Jesus was never apart from the Father. He said in v10 that the Father abides in Him– meno – meaning abide, remain, stay. He was so close Jesus to the Father , able to talk with him and know his will. Jesus promise v17, is that the Holy Spirit can and will abide in us. He doesn’t live a long way away and agree to visit from time to time, he abides, remains, stays with us. What does abiding look like? We talked some weeks ago about “I am the Vine”. Jesus is the vine and we are the branches and we are invited to remain (meno) in him. If we don’t remain in him we are like a branch cut off and thrown onto the bonfire. But if we do, then his Spirit will remain in us, stay with us.

People sometimes say to me, “How do people manage who haven’t got faith, who haven’t got Jesus?” On Mothering Sunday, think of an orphaned child in one of the disaster zones, in war in Africa or earthquake in the Philippines, or think of your own sense of loss when your parents died, Jesus says to us “I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you – that is His Spirit that will live in us.”

Jesus’ prayer for himself (17, 1-5)
We don’t often hear what Jesus prayed. This prayer for himself is short – Father, glorify your son, that your son may glorify you, that’s the heart of the prayer. Matthew tells us He asked God to let this cup be taken from him, but here John shows us Jesus ready to die, ready to do the work he came to do. Earlier in the Gospel he told His mother, my time has not yet come. But at this stage the word is NOW! 16.5 Now I am going to Him who sent me
16,22, 17,5, 17.7, Now, now , now, 17.13 I am coming to you now, Father the time has come.. I have brought you glory by completing the work you gave me to do – I’m about to finish the task
And from the Cross, 19.30 Tetelesthai – It is finished!

Jesus’ prayer for the disciples 17, 6-23
If I were about to die, I think my prayer would be self centred! Jesus prayer for himself is short, but his concern is for us!! Not for the whole world, but specifically for those then who had accepted his words and believed in Him, Jesus says – Father, They are yours! We began by thinking about the disciples being frightened because Jesus was about to leave them. How would Jesus feel? You have all heard stories of mothers who go on holiday and leave young children to look after themselves, not seeming to care at all. But what if the mother had to go away, and made arrangements for her parents to look after the children, grandparents who love the children and who the children know and feel safe with? Jesus was leaving his beloved, frustrating disciples, but he knew that the Holy Spirit would come to them, and that the father, His Father, who made them and loves them as he has, and whose love they have begun to understand, would be looking after them.

Take time to look at Jesus’ prayer as you prepare for Easter, in House groups or on your own

1 Protection – he prays that Father God will protect them (v11) – not take us out of the world, but protect us from the evil one

2. Unity – and he prays that they may be one, united as Jesus is united with the father
Amazing prayers at the point of death – but those prayers were not just for them alone, but for “those who will believe in Me through their message.” That is US! Jesus prayed for you and me. Jesus has promised us the Holy Spirit. Has prayed for who? us for God to protect us, prayed to God to help who? us to be united with each other, just as God the father Son and Spirit are united, and just as the Spirit of Jesus abides in us.

It’s about us all being not abandoned, not left. We are not only loved, but protected by the father and with His Holy Spirit abiding, living in us. That is more than being safe – that’s wonderful eternal life. Amen

A Prayer based on Jesus’ prayer in John 17, 8-21

Thank you, Jesus
For you gave us the words the Father gave you, and we accepted them. You prayed for us. You were not praying for the world, but for those the Father had given you, for we are His, and glory has come to you through us.
You remained in the world no longer, but we are still in the world, and you came to the Father. Holy Father, protect us by the power of your name—the name you gave Jesus—so that we may be one as you and Jesus are one.
You have given us God’s word and the world has hated us, for we are not of the world any more than you are of the world. Your prayer was not that God takes us out of the world but that He protects us from the evil one. As the Father sent you into the world, you have sent us into the world.
You didn’t only pray for the disciples and believers then. You prayed too for us who would believe in you through their message. You prayed that all of us may be one, Jesus, just as you are in the father and He is in you. May we also be in you so that the world may believe that you have sent us. Amen