Day 31 (Wednesday, April 10, 2019)
One of the great mysteries for many about Christianity is the death of Jesus Christ. It also puzzled the disciples.
During the hours before his arrest and death, Jesus sought to comfort them by telling them that he would not leave them bereft: he would send the Comforter who would also have a role in the wider world as the Advocate. The presence of this Comforter and Advocate was highly significant, for without his (the Spirit’s) involvement, Jesus’ disciples could not have fulfilled their special calling (for example, John 14:26). But nor would men and women come to respond to God’s good news unless God’s Spirit was active.
By way of background it is important that we remember Jesus’ words to his Jewish audience: “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe” (John 4:48). He was saying that he objected to performing signs because he knew what was in the hearts of people who asked for them: in their pride they thought they had a right to evaluate him, testing his credentials.
Furthermore, in 1 Corinthians 1:22 Paul writes of the non-Jewish mind-set: Greeks desire wisdom, … The non-Jewish world may not have asked for signs, but they considered their philosophers to be smart enough to explain the world and life. If God existed, he would need to fit into their philosophical, scientific or political framework.
But God in his wisdom knows our propensities and, in his mercy, provided and continues to provide the very Advocate we need to open our eyes to the truth.
4 (Jesus said…) ‘But I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them. I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 5 But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, “Where are you going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. 7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11 about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.’
During the Passover meal Jesus told his disciples that he was going away but that he would not be leaving them alone. In fact his going would mean the coming of the Comforter, the Advocate. The disciples’ silence is palpable (16:5). They were devastated.
Yet through his death, which from a human perspective looks like failure, God has built a movement that will continue forever. In these hours before his crucifixion – which happened the following day – Jesus told his disciples that God would be awakening an unbelieving world to its spiritual need.
Jesus speaks of God’s Spirit as an Advocate: his work is like that of a prosecutor laying charges, though not in a court of law but rather in the human heart. The Spirit convicts the world of sin, defined now, not as failure to keep the Ten Commandments, but failure to acknowledge Jesus as Messiah. The Spirit also convicts the world of righteousness, defined by the moral goodness of Jesus’ life. Where human courts condemned Jesus, God has declared him righteous, giving him life.
Further, the Spirit alerts the world to the reality of judgment. And this is not some remote maybe. God’s Messiah has come and his kingdom is established. He has already confounded the attempt by powers of evil to usurp God’s rule. Everyone now has a choice to make – to side with the defeated enemy or commit to the victorious Jesus.
Jesus challenges us to draw comfort from God’s Spirit at work in our own lives, and to pray for the Spirit to work with mercy in the lives of people around us.
God our Father, whose will is to bring all things to order and unity in our Lord Jesus Christ; grant that all the peoples of the world, now divided and torn apart by sin, may be brought together in his kingdom of love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (1978 AAPB)
Daily Reading Plan
Read John 16:1-15