Redundant. If there is one thing you do not want to be in our cultural setting, it is redundant. We tend to treasure that which is unique. Different. “You do you,” Zayde Wolf sings, giving voice to our present cultural moment.
In the marketplace, advertisers highlight what makes their product different. In the mediascape, celebrities emphasize what sets them apart. In society, individuals celebrate diversity. Even in the spiritual landscape of our country, churches differentiate themselves from one another by emphasizing the uniqueness of their style of worship, their preaching and teaching ministries, or their missional niche. Diversity is something our country cultivates. Diversity sells.
Which is what makes the words of Jesus sound so strange to us this morning. Jesus is not celebrating diversity or difference. He is promising sameness. Redundancy. A repeat of what has happened before.
Jesus is preparing to leave His disciples. Their world is going to change as their Master dies upon a cross. After He rises from the grave, conquering death and giving them a glimpse of the new creation, He will ascend into Heaven and leave them on earth. But He promises He will not leave them as orphans. This new thing Jesus has done is not just for a moment. No, it will last. It will last an eternity.
Jesus tells His disciples what He will do after His ascension. “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper to be with you forever” (14:16). The disciples will not be alone. They will have another Helper, another one like Jesus. A counselor. A helper. An advocate. The Spirit who comes alongside them and continues the work of Jesus.
This Spirit will not only do the work of God for them - comforting them, strengthening them, encouraging them - but He will also do the work of God through them. He will dwell with them and be in them (14:17). The Spirit will lead them to keep the commandments of Jesus. The sacrificial love of Jesus becomes the sacrificial love of His disciples and the world will know God’s people by the love they have for one another and for the world (14:12, 15, and 21; cf. 1 John).
This Spirit will not only do the work of God for them - comforting them, strengthening them, encouraging them - but He will also do the work of God through them.
In a culture which celebrates diversity and difference, today, Jesus encourages us to rejoice in something that is the same. Jesus will send us another Helper who will continue God’s work among us and extend God’s work through us. Having been brought from death to life, having been brought from sin to salvation, we now will continue to live in the life of God, following the way of Jesus, empowered by His Spirit to show love.
Sometimes, redundancy is not just something desired. It is essential. In the recent COVID-19 pandemic, there was a desire for more of the same; more ventilators, more test kits, more hospital beds, more masks, more health care workers. This was not a time for diversity or difference. This was a time of mass production, to make and to share that which was essential. Sameness would save lives.
In a similar way, John’s gospel encourages the Church, today, to celebrate its life-saving sameness. The love of the Father in the Son in the Spirit in God’s people. There is one Lord, Jesus Christ, and one work of salvation that brings eternal life. If you are part of God’s people, you will not be an orphan. Jesus will send His Spirit, another Helper, to lead you in the ways of God.
If you are part of God’s people, you will not be an orphan. Jesus will send His Spirit, another Helper, to lead you in the ways of God.
I know a woman who left her congregation in the Midwest and traveled half-way across the country to start a new job. This job transfer moved her one level up in the company. It also moved her one step away from the Church. She tried to find a congregation like her congregation back home. But, so far, the search was unsuccessful. She started attending church sporadically and, the place where she went, she certainly would not have called her church home. Then, she had minor surgery which put her in the hospital, and she called the pastor to ask for prayers.
After the surgery, the pastor came to visit, and she had a question for him. On the wall across from her bed, there was an array of cards. Members of the congregation had sent her get-well cards and the nurses taped them to the wall. She asked the pastor, “Who are all these people? Why did they send me these cards?” The pastor looked at the cards and read some of the names and talked about members of the congregation. After a while, he explained, “I had your name in the bulletin and we prayed for you at church. Some of these cards are from people in our prayer chain.” “But why did they send them to me?” she asked. “I don’t know them and I’m not even a member.” “But you are a member,” he said. “You are part of the body of Christ. These are your brothers and sisters in Christ and that’s what a family does when somebody is ill. They send cards.”
Although she was far from her home congregation, she had not left the Church. Jesus had sent His Spirit. And the Spirit was still at work, sharing the same love through different people and calling her to recognize that she had not left the Kingdom of God. She was not an orphan. She was still home.
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching John 14:15-21.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach John 14:15-21.
Lectionary Podcast-Dr. John Nordling of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN walks us through John 14:15-21.