As we approach Pentecost, we’re going to spend a few days reflecting on Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit to his disciples. But what is the Holy Spirit like?
I remember having trouble understanding the Holy Spirit’s role in my relationship with God growing up. I got that the Father was, well, like a Father. And I understood the Son, Jesus, to be a bit like an older brother – someone to follow and do what they say, and in him we are now children of God, like him. Of course Jesus is also our Saviour, but that concept was a bit harder to grasp as a kid. And then there was the Holy Spirit. The more vague one. I’d like to suggest today that the Holy Spirit is a bit like our best friend.
When I think of really great friends I think of those long evening chats where everything and anything can be discussed – where you share those weird school memories of playing with papier-mâché as well as your fears about the future and what life might look like in 15 years time. I think of the times I’ve knocked on a friends door but then also just walked straight in because their house is as familiar as my own. I also think of those friends who after I’ve said or done something stupid call me out on it – saying they know I can do better and praying together for more grace to change. Great friendships shape and mold us.
So in what way is the Holy Spirit like a best friend?
Jesus introduces the Holy Spirit to his disciples in today’s passage. He says another Advocate will come – a Helper – someone who will teach us and be with us forever. He calls him the Spirit of truth. This Helper and Spirit of truth will not be afraid to tell it like it is. There is no hiding of some parts of us that we’d rather no one would see when our new best friend here is nothing but truth. He will know us fully. He will be a faithful friend – with us forever – and he will help us become better than we are. The Bible calls this process sanctification – becoming holy – by the work of the Holy Spirit in us.
I want you to notice the theme of love in this passage. Jesus begins by saying that if we love him we will keep his commandments. The way we show our commitment to him is by following what he said. Instantly I realise I’m not very good with that. How could I live up to the high calling that Jesus puts on my life? Just in the previous chapter Jesus has washed the disciples’ feet and given them the commandment of doing the same to one another – this humble servantship grates against the pride within me.
I don’t know if I can do it.
But Jesus isn’t done talking yet. He goes on to say: ‘I will ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever.’ Another Helper is coming. I don’t have to do it on my own. And this helper is not just another coach on the sidelines or even a new rabbi. No, he will be in you.
Jesus explains this theme in verses 20-23: ‘I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you’
It’s like we’re packed right in there with the trinity – like a stack of glasses – first the Father, then Jesus, then us, then the Holy Spirit – all in one stack on the shelf. Of course the reality is probably quite different to a stack of glasses, but it’s a good visual reminder for me that God actually wants to be that close and surround me on all sides and dwell within me. Verse 23 explains it like the Father and the Son making their home with us. What a picture of love.
I hope I can make it homely for them. How do I do that? Again Jesus reminds me: ‘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.’
He is the one that will make me a home.
By teaching me over and over again, patiently, what it means to love, what it means to lay down my life for others – what it means to be more like Jesus.
Everyday I need to listen to his teaching. Everyday I need reminding. By my faithful friend, the Holy Spirit, I will be shaped and molded into the image of God’s beloved Son.
Today’s passage finishes with a peace blessing. Jesus says he does not give to us as the world gives. He gives his Holy Spirit. To be with us forever. What abundance of peace.
Lord, thank you for sending your Spirit to be with us today and every day. Fill us anew with the Spirit of Love as you make us more like you. We love you, Lord Jesus.