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May 19, 2024

The Paraclete Witnesses Christ.

Passage: John 15:26-16:4

“But when the Helper comes…” The word “Helper” from our text comes from the Greek word which, transliterated into English, is pronounced ‘paraclete.’ No, it is not a small, colorful bird that mimics human speech, but it has been depicted by Christian art as a dove. This paraclete, in the form of a dove, descended upon our Lord Jesus Christ at His baptism. This paraclete is the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Triune God, and the term paraclete describes the essential function of God the Holy Spirit. The word paraclete denotes many wonderful qualities. It can be translated to mean helper, comforter, counselor, advocate, protector. It portrays a character who offers firm and loving security.

This is the wonderful function of the Holy Spirit, and
His function is much needed. Jesus Christ in our text tells His disciples that He will send the Holy Spirit, the paraclete, the helper, comforter, counselor; and why? What do the disciples need comfort for, protection from, and help with? Well, if you were to read the verses immediately preceding the beginning of our text, you would see that Jesus had just finished explaining to His disciples that the world hates them because they hate their master: Jesus Christ and His heavenly Father. With such odds stacked against them, with the world having such enmity towards them, the Savior promises them a helper and comforter through their trials. He promises the paraclete to His disciples. This promise provides nothing but comfort, and the paraclete provides this comfort in a very special way. That special way is what we will be observing as our theme: The Paraclete comes to witness Christ. From our text, we see that He does this in three ways: 1) He witnesses Christ and His warnings concerning the hardships we will face, 2) He witnesses Christ and His cure for hardship and sinfulness, and 3) He witnesses Christ and His invitation of grace to the world.

(We pray…)

The Paraclete, comforter, helper comes to us to first witness Christ and His warnings of hardship. What is this hardship exactly? Jesus spells it out for His disciples in verse 2 of our text. He colors the hatred that the world has for Christ’s followers by saying, “they will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.” This is what the world’s hatred will look like. This is what the hardship will look like. This is the cross that Christ’s disciples will have to bear. They will be put out of the synagogue. The apostles of Jesus would be put out of the church, wrongfully excommunicated from the church. That’s a frightening prospect, for that would not only exclude them from the synagogue, but it would ostracize them from Jewish society. Not only that, but they may even be murdered in the name of divine service! And did this come to pass? If you read the book of Acts, you will see the apostles imprisoned for preaching the name of the crucified and risen Jesus. You will see them stoned by pharisees who claimed to be doing God’s work. You will see the evil world, like Saul before he was converted by Christ, breathing murderous threats towards Christ and His followers. Jesus said these things to keep His disciples from falling away from Him, from the way of salvation. Yet what did the disciples do?

In our day and age these hardships are similar in some ways. There are many who hate us, mock us, and may even ostracize us because of our Christian faith. We know from our Lord that the life of a Christian is not an automatic, cushiony life, but rather a life of pushing, shoving, and pain; for Jesus says with purpose, “take up thy cross and follow Me.” Our Lord tells us this time and time again to give us a reality check so that we don’t fall away, yet, are we better than the disciples? How many of us have acted like Peter and the rest by running away and maybe have even denied the teachings of our Lord? Maybe friends were mocking God, and we didn’t speak up? Maybe your friends acted in sinful behavior, and you kept silent, and maybe even joined in because you didn’t want to be ridiculed? Or maybe disobedience took on a different tone, and like a medieval crusader, you were violent back? “If they mock me and my faith because they think its right, then I’ll show them!” Many a thought may have entered our mind thinking, “laugh all you want about my God, you won’t be laughing later.” And though this may be true, namely that the fires of hell wait for those who don’t believe, is that really what you want for them? Do we really want to be like the sons of thunder, James and John, and ask Jesus to call down lightning on His naysayers? Do we really know what were wishing upon them? Jesus didn’t want Jerusalem to burn, weeping over them and desiring to gather them under His wing. How then can we, when mocked by the unbelievers, wish lightning and the fires of hell upon them if Jesus didn’t want that for them.

And so, whether we’re cowardly pushovers or brutally cruel crusaders, our sinful flesh bends and breaks from hatred and disdain that the world has for our Savior, and is it our Savior’s fault? “God, you didn’t make me stronger. God, you’re not making this easy.” We were warned. The world will hate us, and the more the world’s pressure tempts us into sin, the closer and closer we slip to falling away completely until we become part of the evil, helpless, and hell bound world. Christ warned them. Christ warns us. He warned Peter yet Peter denied Him. He warns us, yet we have sinned time and time again as the hours of opposition come upon us. At this point I would call attention to Jesus’ words in verse 4, “But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.” With these words, we have no excuse. Jesus warned us, and despite the warning we have sinned. That stings.

Laying in the sting of the Law, we turn now to ask, “Why does Jesus tell His disciples these warnings?” He tells them this because He is leaving them. He is leaving them to accomplish what He came to accomplish, namely His cure to our sinfulness. Here then is the paraclete’s witness of Christ’s cure. Jesus is leaving them to provide the cure to their failures. He hadn’t told the disciples these things in the past because He was with them to protect them from opposition. How so? Think of every time a Pharisee, Sadducee, or rich man confronted Him. Each time Jesus didn’t waver and cave to the pressure. Each time He was ridiculed, threatened, and cursed, He stood His ground and witnessed Himself as the savior of all people. He was rejected by priest and pharisee, and ostracized by the church leaders, yet He still witnessed Himself as the Messiah! He did this on our behalf. He never caved to pressure, and He held His witness on our behalf. He did it for us!

His witness didn’t stop there then. His ultimate witness to this was when He let Himself be murdered by those who claimed to be acting in the name of godliness. He didn’t come down from the cross, He didn’t call down 12 legions of angels. He didn’t run and hide or smite in brutality, but He died to purchase our salvation from death and hell. He did this so that we could be forgiven for every time we fell into sinful pressures. When hardships from the world come to push us down, the Savior reminds us that He has lifted us up.

Thus far we have discussed plenty about the hardships of Christian life and the work of Christ, but what does this have to do with the paraclete again? That is exactly how the paraclete works. He works through the word of God and its teachings. He exposes our sins with His word, showing us our needs; and He shows us our Savior with the Word, showing us our salvation. He witnesses Christ and His warnings and how we’ve broken then, but then He witnesses Christ and His cure. Jesus explains, “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.” This Spirit of truth showed us that we are sinners, and He also showed us our Savior and His sacrifice to cleanse us of this sin. The Spirit, by the Holy Word of God, by baptism, and by the Lord’s Supper, comes to help us, comfort us, and bear witness to Christ and his cleansing sacrifice to us. This is the comfort of the Paraclete. This is the message of the Spirit of truth. This is the everlasting and comforting promise of the paraclete, the one who comes from God the Father who created us and is our benevolent father. He came from the one who is our Shepherd, Savior, and Salvation: Jesus Christ. The Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, sent by Father and Son, creates in us by God’s Word the faith which clings to Jesus, and by doing so comforts us. The Paraclete is the one brings who us back to Jesus’ time and time again to get us through trials. Jesus gave all His disciples these parting words, but He didn’t leave them to their own devices. He gave them the paraclete, the comforter, the helper, the Holy Spirit to guide them to the word and use the word to show that Christ has made us well.

This same paraclete is now also our advisor. We have been shown by Him that we have sin in the face of adversity, but that we have been forgiven in Christ. Now, with the forgiveness and love of Christ and the paraclete at our side, let us look at the hostile world again with a different perspective. Jesus explains why they are hostile, namely that they don’t know Jesus nor the Father. Can you expect anything less than hate and evil? Of course, they are going to pressure you! Should we hate them back? No! Let’s let the Paraclete through the words of our Savior shine a perspective on the world. These evil people of the world are where we were once. They are in a state of utter darkness, completely drowned in sin. They don’t understand the Father who made them and loves them. They don’t understand the Son who had to die to take away their sin. They don’t have the Paraclete working faith in them. And don’t let their lives and attitude fool you. They won’t always be miserable, in fact they may walk, talk, and live like all is well, and yet they don’t know the Father or the Son.

How then does the Paraclete address the situation? He witnesses Christ through us! The Paraclete witnesses through us Christ and His invitation. Take the Apostles for example. Jesus says of them, “And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.” The Apostles have the paraclete and the privilege of being with Jesus. They have the message of Christ in their memories and the comforter on their side. They were double qualified, having walked with Jesus in the flesh for three years and having the paraclete given to them at Pentecost! They went and spread the message of Christ crucified to all people, while enduring imprisonment and even gruesome deaths. The Paraclete made it so that they would never waver and worked through them to bring thousands to faith, perpetuating the preaching of God’s Word throughout generations.

So how does He work through us? After showing us the darkness of the hostile world, he then works through us in a threefold pattern. I said earlier that the Apostles were double qualified, but, in a way, they were triple qualified, and so are we. We are triple qualified to witness through the blessings of our God. The Father has created us to speak, move, and has given us many more gifts of varying degrees to work in the world as part of the body of Christ, working in the vocations He has placed us in. The Son has shown us love in forgiveness and has, like the disciples, been with us and shown us the very message and picture of salvation given in the cross and empty grave. This message concerns our salvation and cure from sin, and it is the message that we are to witness—the message that pronounces all flesh saved. And finally, The Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, then is the one who uses this message to create faith in the cure to sinfulness, and He is the one who witnesses and He does so by working through us for the spreading of God’s message to the world.

So, what then is a paraclete! He is the greatest witness and messenger there is! He witnesses Christ. First to warn us and show us how we’ve transgressed Christ in failing Him and His precepts. He also shows us our cure in Christ and Him Crucified, who has absolved us of all our failings. And He also equips us to share this wonderful message to all around us. He is the penetrator of darkened hearts, the Comforter of all Christianity, the Strength of every messenger, and the power behind the Word of God. He is God the Holy Spirit, the one eternal God with Father and Son. He is our Helper, Comforter, and Counselor. He is our Paraclete.