“If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you.” (verses 15-18)
This is one of Jesus’ most profound promises to his disciples in that upper room. And it wasn’t only for them, but also for us. Jesus promises the gift of the Spirit of God himself. We will not be left alone. We will not be orphaned. The Spirit will come to be with us, indeed to live his very life within us. What promise!
The Greek word John uses here to describe the Spirit is “paraklētos”, which literally means “one called alongside to help.” The word was used in Mediterranean shipping, when a small ship got into trouble on open waters. A bigger ship would then be called to come alongside, leading it into the safety of harbour. That bigger ship was called a “paraklētos.” That’s the promise for us.
Originally the word actually came from the courtroom, referring to the Defense lawyer, the one who was on your side, advocating on your behalf. This is the sense of the translation above: “Counselor”, the legal Advocate who stands with us. But the word itself came to have a much broader meaning. One commentator says, “The word really means a friend, especially a legal friend.” So it is no mistake that Eugene Peterson’s translation, The Message, uses this simple word, “Friend.” It captures the strengthening encouragement of one who sticks closer than a brother, while not implying that the Spirit is simply our peer. Other translations use “Helper”, not referring to a subordinate aid, but rather to someone who is bigger, stronger, and immensely more able. Others translate as “Strengthener”, indicating One who provides all that is needed for deliverance in a difficult circumstance. This is the sense of the King James version’s word choice – “Comforter” – the 17th century word not referring to one who gives cozy warmth, but rather to one who strengthens, encourages and gives needed aid. What promise!
These are all good translations, but each one struggles to capture the full breadth and depth of the Greek word. None is fully successful on its own. Perhaps the word’s full richness and wonder is actually best defined by the context itself. For Jesus tells us that this “paraklētos” will not be an entirely new experience, but will in fact be “another”, just like a “paraklētos” they already know. In the context, the reference is clearly to none other than Jesus himself. This Spirit, who will be given to us as a gift, is “another” Friend, Helper, Strengthener, Comforter – “another” just like Jesus. Ultimately, Jesus himself is the best definition of this rich word.
Which, of course, is why Jesus says, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (verse 18). Yes! Jesus continues to make himself present with us by his Spirit. These disciples had walked the dusty roads with Jesus, side by side. They might well be thinking they will miss that tangible presence. But Jesus says “another” is coming – “another” just like him.
Indeed he will shortly make a startling declaration that drives the point home: “I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7).
This is the One who is now here. The “paraklētos” who has come alongside to help. “Another” just like Jesus. The One who is with us, and lives within us.
What privilege. What joy.
Dear Holy Spirit – Spirit of Jesus – thank you for your presence with me, indeed within me. Thank you that you make Jesus’ presence real and living and active. Thank you that you are Counselor, Advocate, Helper, Strengthener, and Friend. Welcome.
Reflect: Welcome the Spirit into your experience again, right now. How will you remind yourself of his presence with you all day? Act on your decision.