Today I’m going to give you a very abbreviated teaching about something that took Jesus many hours to teach. I’m going to tell you about the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Separate Events or the Same?
Some people think that John 17 was an isolated event where Jesus prayed for the unity of the Church. People also read John 15, where Jesus taught the disciples how to abide in Him, as if it was its own separate teaching. However, a closer reading reveals that both of these events occurred on the same night. In fact, John chapters 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17 all occurred at one time, in one place.
In John chapter 13, Jesus and His disciples are in the Upper Room. In that room, Jesus washes their feet and serves them Communion. Then, as a continuation of that moment, He began teaching them about the Holy Spirit. Jesus went on to teach the disciples how He is the Vine and those who follow Him are the branches. Finally, He returned again to the subject of the Holy Spirit, whom He continued teaching about until He stopped to pray for the disciples in John chapter 17.
At the beginning of chapter 18, Jesus and the disciples leave the Upper Room. John 18:1 tells us, “When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and His disciples.” Jesus spent one very long night teaching His disciples everything we find in John chapters 13 through 17. It all happened on the same night, in the same place — the Upper Room.
I don’t know about you, but when I read these chapters in the Gospel of John, I count these as some of the most important chapters in this Gospel.
Jesus Had to Leave
So what is the ministry of the Holy Spirit? What did Jesus teach His disciples that night?
First, Jesus told the disciples He was leaving. Jesus had told them this many times, but sometimes you don’t hear things correctly the first time. He wanted them to realize it was really happening, so He told them again.
It couldn’t have been easy for the disciples to imagine life without Jesus. For three and a half years, they had walked with Jesus, heard His voice, looked into His eyes, and felt His touch. They knew Jesus. He had been their Teacher and their Coach — He taught them how to pack their suitcases and how much money to take with them when they traveled. He told them how to be thankful for food when they ate in somebody else’s house and how to treat a city if a city did not receive them. The disciples held onto every word He said. And after all that time together, Jesus told them He was going to leave.
Then Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled…” (John 14:1).
But the disciples were troubled. Jesus had just told them, “I’m leaving you.” In fact, He was leaving them that night.
In John chapter 14, Jesus begins telling the disciples about the ministry of the Holy Spirit, saying, “And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever” (John 14:16).
The word “Comforter” is the Greek word parakletos, a compound of two Greek words, para and kaleo. The first word, para, means to be alongside. It depicts two things so close that they’re almost inseparable. In fact, it’s also the root for the word “parasite.” You can’t be much closer than a parasite! So, the word para really means to be stuck to each other. This verse tells us that the Holy Spirit sticks alongside us, closer than anyone else in our lives.
The second part of this word, kaleo, tells us that the Holy Spirit is actually called to do this. In Greek, kaleo means to call someone to do something specific. It describes a calling. For example, I am called to be a minister and an author. By using this word, Jesus is telling us that the Holy Spirit has a calling. He is called to remain alongside us as we live our lives.
Just like I’m called, and just like you are called, the Holy Spirit is called. He’s not just a free agent doing whatever He wants in the earth. The Holy Spirit has a very specific call. His whole purpose is to be alongside us. And He will answer to the Godhead for the way that He comes alongside us — and, of course, we know that He will answer well because He is flawless in His mission.
One of the Same Kind
When you put these two Greek words together, they describe several things. Parakletos depicts a “trainer” who comes alongside his students as he teaches, corrects, and instructs them. It also describes an “advocate” — someone who comes alongside his clients, defending and helping them. And it can also be translated as the word “helper.”
Now, each of these is very important because Jesus also said, “And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter…” (John 14:16). There were two Greek words that could have been used here. The first word is heteros, meaning one of a different kind. It’s where we get the word for “heterosexual.” But Jesus did not use this word. He used the word allos, which means one of the very same kind. In fact, it could almost be translated as identical.
For three and a half years, Jesus had been the disciples’ Teacher, Trainer, Advocate, and Helper. He was with them all the time — nearly inseparable from them. And then Jesus tells them, Now you’re going to have another Comforter. I’m going to ask the Father to send Him to you. And when He comes, He’ll be just like Me.
“And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever” (John 14:16).
In fact, Jesus went on to say, It’s really better for you that I go — if I don’t leave, the Holy Spirit will not come, but if I leave, I will send Him to you (John 16:7).
Why was it better? Because when Jesus was here, He was only in one place at a time. But the ministry of the Holy Spirit would allow Him to be in multiple places at once. The Holy Spirit coming to earth multiplied the presence of Christ. So now, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, Jesus is everywhere. And that’s why Jesus said this would be better.
The Spirit of Truth
Then Jesus said, “Howbeit when He, the Spirit of Truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth…” (John 16:13). In these chapters, Jesus calls the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of Truth” three separate times (see John 14:17; 15:26; and 16:13).
Why was this important? Because the disciples were stepping into a new kind of a relationship with the Holy Spirit. They knew Jesus and had a relationship with Him. But now, they were going to be in a relationship with the Holy Spirit, but they didn’t know Him yet.
Because Jesus was leaving that night, He told the disciples, Guys, listen to Me. When the Holy Spirit comes, He will be truthful. He’ll never mislead you. He will never misguide you. He is the Spirit of Truth. He is the Spirit of Truth. Are you really hearing what I’m saying? Jesus wanted the disciples to know they could depend on the Holy Spirit just like He had.
Look again at what Jesus said, “Howbeit when He, the Spirit of Truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will shew you things to come.” (John 16:13). Jesus told the disciples the Holy Spirit would be their Guide.
When you’re led by the Holy Spirit, it’s not always in a straight line. That’s because the Holy Spirit can see things you don’t see. And when He sees that there’s a problem, like a traffic jam ahead of you, He may lead you in a different direction. It might be a way you wouldn’t normally expect to go, but in the end, He’ll get you where you’re supposed to go. And He’ll get you there safer and faster than if you tried to get there on your own. Not usually — always.
When the Holy Spirit leads us, we simply need to trust Him. Trusting the Holy Spirit allows you to receive the beautiful things God wants to bring into your life. And as we follow Him, our lives will never be the same.