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John 15:26-16:15 What does the Holy Spirit do? Pentecost 2024

John 15:26-16:15

It is a very special few days: we have Ascension, Pentecost and, next Sunday, Trinity

At Pentecost we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit


The Spirit can come dramatically – like in our first reading (Acts 2:1-4): the sound of a wind, tongues of fire and the disciples speaking in tongues.

I have had experience of that.

I had been asked to speak about being filled with the Spirit to our college Christian Union. It was the first time I had spoken. I spent hours preparing the talk. I was so nervous that I knocked over a bottle of milk as I came forward to speak. I read from my notes.
And amazingly, God turned up. It was like Pentecost. At the end two people made the decision to follow Jesus, and to the best of my knowledge they are still going strong; and we had to have a chill out room because people were just, like drunk, with the overwhelming presence of God.

But the Spirit also comes very gently.

In John, we are given another description of the coming of the Spirit (John 20:22-23): It is not dramatic. Jesus simply breathes on the disciples – he gives them his breath, his 'pneuma', his Spirit – and then he says, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’. And he gives them, representatives of his Church, as his Spirit-people, the authority to forgive sins.

But our reading from John today is less about how Holy Spirit comes and more about what Holy Spirit does.

1. Holy Spirit comes alongside us.

The word that is translated ‘advocate’, parakletos, literally means ‘the one called alongside’.
Holy Spirit is advocate, helper, comforter.
He comes alongside us, to help us, to be beside us.

Jesus is about to be taken from the disciples.
But Jesus says that he is sending his Spirit. And the Spirit will bring Jesus to them.

Notice the connection, even in these few verses, between Jesus and the Spirit.
‘I will send him to you’ (John 15:26).
‘He will testify on my behalf’ (John 15:26).
‘He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it you’ (John 16:14)

Holy Spirit brings the risen and ascended Jesus to us.

Although they will no longer see him with their physical eyes, they will be able to see him with their inner eyes;
Although they will no longer hear him with their physical ears, they will hear him with their real, true, inner ears;
And although they will not be able to feel him with their hands, they will feel him, in a different way, not only beside them, but in them.

And notice how here in verses 26-27 the Holy Spirit is the parakletos, the helper; even, one might say, our ‘co-lleague’.

He was the co-lleague of the disciples.
He testifies about Jesus, and the disciples, who saw Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, testify about Jesus.

And he is our co-lleague.
So we hear/read their words, and the Spirit speaks to us – to our hearts and minds.
He speaks to us as he brings those words of Scripture alive.
And as we hear the testimony of the disciples, the Spirit speaks deep into our hearts and says: ‘Yes. This is true’. And he helps us to respond by putting our trust in Jesus.

And he is our co-lleague as we speak of what we have heard from those disciples and of what we know of Jesus.

I remember Christina in Hackney. She wanted to know about God. We’d be regularly visiting her and reading the bible with her. And one evening we were out visiting in her block of flats, but decided not to knock her door. But as we walked into the block of flats, she met her as she walked out. She told us, 'I don't know why, but I was cooking my dinner and I suddenly had to stop. I've got to see the vicar. I need to know Jesus’. And we said, ‘The vicar’s out this evening, but can we pray with you’.

That was the work of the Holy Spirit – in her and also in us, giving her the hunger for God, and bringing us there to that place at that time.

We really do need the testimony of the Holy Spirit today.

We need Holy Spirit to prompt us to speak – at the right time, in the right way - to speak of what the disciples saw and to speak of what we know of Jesus
And we need Holy Spirit to speak as we speak, so that as we speak to peoples' outer ears, they will hear with their inner ear.

Holy Spirit is our co-lleague.


2. Holy Spirit is our challenger.

Holy Spirit challenges the values and priorities of the world
“He will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment” John 16:8

About sin: “about sin, because they do not believe in me”. John 16:9

The essence of sin is not doing ‘naughty’ things.

I love the BCP translation of Psalm 86:14, “O God, the proud are risen against me: and the congregations of naughty men have sought after my soul, and have not set thee before their eyes”.

We can be good, honoured in this world and yet totally separated from God.

We think of Saul who thought that he was doing the work of God by capturing and imprisoning Jesus followers. Society praised him for stamping down on this seditious, dangerous Jesus cult.

Or we can we do good things but be driven by what is destructive of others and ourselves: maybe the need to prove ourselves, or because we want to be liked by others.

No – the Holy Spirit shows us that the essence of sin is not the 'naughty' stuff that we do – but lack of trust in Jesus Christ, the one sent to us by God.

It is sin, because if we do not trust Jesus, if we reject Jesus, we are rejecting the Father who sent him; we are rejecting the way of peace and life and we are rejecting God.

And Holy Spirit challenges us about righteousness.

Righteousness is not fundamentally a list of dos and don'ts, a code of morality.

At the heart of righteousness is the relationship between us and God.

When Jesus was with his disciples, they saw how he prayed; they saw his relationship with the Father: of love and trust – even when it meant going to the cross.
And now, they won’t see him, because he is going to be with his Father.

But Holy Spirit, who Jesus will send, not only allows us to see that intimacy, but to share in that deep intimacy, in that relationship.

There are moments of intimacy. One of the Puritans describes it a bit like a father walking with his child. For a long part of the journey, as they walk together, the child will be chattering away, and the Father will be quiet. And then suddenly, for no obvious reason, the Father bends down, lifts up his child, embraces them, and then places them down again and they carry on walking.

It is Holy Spirit who shows us the love of the Father
It is Holy Spirit who speaks deep to our spirit.
It is Holy Spirit who prays within us and helps us cry out to God, ‘Abba, my dear Father. I need you. I trust you. I delight in you’.

And Holy Spirit challenges us about judgement:

“because the ruler of this world has been condemned”. John 16:11

In a few hours the world, political leaders, authorities and people are going to judge Jesus. They will condemn him to death.

But it is not us judging Jesus.
As Jesus hangs on the cross, he condemns all those things that condemned him.
As he trusts and obeys his Father even to death, as he refuses to be conformed to this world and the things of this world: hatred or revenge or the use of power to stand over others or the pursuit of human glory – he condemns all those things.
As he remains hanging on the cross, as he overcomes sin, he condemns sin.
And as he rises from the dead, he condemns and overcomes death.

Holy Spirit shows us that the things of this world, the things that seemed so attractive, the things that we lived for and live for, have been judged and condemned. In comparison to what God offers, they are really really nothing.

It is a bit like driving through up to a holiday up in Scotland. When you get to the airbnb it is dark and a bit scary. But in the morning, when you wake up and open the curtains, you see the mountains.
Well, Holy Spirit draws back the curtains and gives us a glimpse of a very different world.


3. Holy Spirit speaks. He communicates what Jesus wants to say to us

“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, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:12-14)

I don’t think that when Jesus says that Holy Spirit will declare to us the things that are to come, he is speaking about telling us of future events.
He may – far be it from any of us to limit what Holy Spirit can say.

But I think he is talking about the coming suffering of believers.
He has said in chapter 13 that if the world hated him, it will hate his followers.
He has just said, in John 16:2, “an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God”. 

Holy Spirit tells them, tells us, that suffering will come because we follow Jesus.

But Holy Spirit reassures us that it is worth it – that the ruler of this world has been judged and condemned, that the present and future does not belong to him, but to Jesus, who is the one who is to come.

And Holy Spirit will give us glimpses of the future coming glory: the glory of Jesus which we will share. 
“He will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16.14,15)

Today we thank God for the gift of the Holy Spirit who came on the first Pentecost, but we also pray that His Spirit will come anew:

- That he will show us Jesus
- That he will bring this book, the Bible, alive and speak the words of Jesus to us
- That he will bring Jesus to us, into us – even as we eat and drink here
- That we will know that we are not alone
- That he will encourage us when it gets hard with glimpses of glory

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