April 2 – John 16:4-15
Main focus: The Spirit, God himself, condescends to be our help—this is the promise on the other side of the pain of the cross.
To close out our four-week section on the Spirit we’ll return to a thread we picked up two weeks ago in Romans 8:26, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.” Here in John 16, on the first Maundy Thursday, Jesus promised his disciples that though they would mourn his death as a loss, on the other side of it they would gain something priceless: the Helper, God himself. In our groups this week we’ll discuss what it means for us to receive this exact same Helper and his help.
For context, we’re parachuting into the middle of Jesus’s final night with the disciples (John 13-18). But here, part-way through the Final Discourse (Jesus’s last teaching with his disciples), we find the majority of the New Testament’s teaching on the Spirit (John 14-16). Fitting in with our sermon series, 16:4-15 narrows in on the internal counsel of the Trinity: just as the Father sent the Son to accomplish his will, so the Son will send the Spirit to do the same.
Back in our week on Matthew 28 I mentioned what one Bible scholar calls the Spirit: “the executive power of the exalted Christ.” We see this throughout the early days of the church in the book of Acts, where over and over the Spirit does remarkable things in order to continue the work that Jesus started. The Spirit is so closely related to the work of Jesus on earth that sometimes the New Testament refers to him as “the Spirit of Jesus” or “the Spirit of Christ” (Acts 16:7; Rom 8:9; Phil 1:19; 1 Pet 1:11), but to be clear, this is not meant to confuse Jesus and the Spirit but to describe whose mission the Spirit is on.
But, as Jesus told his disciples, the Spirit would only come after his death and ascension; this was a promise for the other side of the pain of the cross, a gift to their advantage despite Christ’s bodily absence. You can imagine how much the disciples would need this promise over the next few immensely grief-filled days. They needed to know, in the face of all that would transpire, that Jesus was working to secure the promise of salvation and the promise of the presence of God for them.
The advantage of the Spirit is often hard for us to appreciate, though. When reading this we might ask ourselves whether we really believe Jesus’s promise that his absence and the Spirit’s presence is to our advantage; how often have we wished we could just talk to Jesus face to face or finally see this Savior we’re following with our own eyes? As Jesus told Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
But we should also keep in mind all those benefits that the Spirit provides us, benefits like guiding us into his truth, testifying to our own spirits that we are children of God (Rom 8:16), and giving us gifts for his ministry, as we saw last week. When Jesus calls the Spirit the Helper, we shouldn’t forget that this is the third member of the Trinity we’re talking about—this is the omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent God himself who says he will help us! As we’ll hit in discussion, though we might have difficulty knowing how to interact with the Spirit, his help has the power to radically change our lives.
Looking ahead, this passage has other things for us to consider as we prepare for Resurrection Sunday. Jesus says that the primary help of the Spirit is to guide us into his truth. For example, do we really believe that the Spirit’s best help isn’t to smooth the road of our lives but to guide us into truth? Because truly this is the way of the cross, not the easy road but the true one, not the broad way but the narrow. Or for another example, take this passage and apply it to others—when Jesus mentions the Spirit’s work of conviction and revelation, do we believe he might do exactly that with the neighbor, coworker, or friend we invite to an Easter service? Knowing the immense power of the help God provides, we can cast our hopes on him for our lives and for the lives of others.
• Could someone read John 16:4-15 for us?
• What stood out to you from the passage?
• How does this passage describe who the Spirit is and what he does?
• This is the night before Jesus’s death—why do you think he wanted to say this to his disciples?
• In what ways do you find it difficult to live your daily life with the Spirit?
• How might turning to the Spirit for his help affect your daily life?
• Looking ahead to Easter, is there anyone you’re inviting to an Easter service that we can be praying for?