The Advocate

Pentecost 2022  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Expectant waiting

Waiting can sometimes be hard. During the week, my daughter, Sienna, turned 11. I had been on a retreat group for most of the week, so when she woke up, I wasn’t in the house, but I was able to pick her up from school on that day.
In the morning, we had most of her presents laid out in the lounge room. But, with me not home, we decided to hold off opening them. When I got home, I added the biggest of the presents to the pile. But then Fiona hadn’t got home from work so she still had to wait.
Now to be fair, Sienna was actually really good about the waiting - but yet, there was this great anticipation looking at the presents. She looked at each of the box sizes and shapes. What could be in each? What was she about to uncover?
The anticipation of our presents is something we’re perhaps all familiar with, but we can usually manage this anticipation well, because generally speaking, there is a clearly defined time when all will be revealed.
In other areas of life, there can be anticipations which are a lot harder to handle. Mostly because we just don’t know how and when it will all unfold. I’m talking the likes of waiting for a cancer diagnosis to be given the all clear. Or perhaps waiting for a new job opportunity to arise.
It’s much harder then the task of waiting for a present. And in part, that’s because of one main difference between the two. You see, the reason waiting to open a present is a good experience, is because we trust that the person giving it to us is good.
For Sienna, the waiting presents were from her parents and her sisters. They were going to be good. But with the other kind of anticipation - the life stuff… well… who knows whether it’s going to be good or not.
You can be waiting for the right job opportunity, but it never comes.
Except for one thing - in Romans 8:28, where told that... “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him....”
And this is where it gets interesting. You see, if we believe that, then the posture we take toward waiting should be somewhat different.
Perhaps we won’t exactly wait on the diagnosis from the doctor in the same way as we wait to open our Christmas presents, but yet, if we believe that God works for our good, then we should know that whatever the diagnosis, God will be glorified.
But this is where it gets hard. Because this sort of expectant waiting is not easy.
It’s one of the things we are quick to highlight as a benefit of Christianity, and yet we don’t always do it well.
The reality is, our conception of God working good things for those who love him fails because we lose sight of God himself.
We get so caught up in the ways of this world that it obscures our view of God.
So how do we avoid this?
And this is essentially the question I want to explore this morning. How can we keep God as a focus in our lives so that we can see things from his perspective and be able to expectantly wait on whatever God has in store for us next, knowing that it will be good?

Comfort for the disciples

I’m actually going to explore this idea using John 14, and we’ll see how Jesus helps his disciples to see things differently, and in the process, point us to the events of Pentecost which we’re going to look at today.
But first, let’s orient ourselves in John 14.
So John 14 is part of a larger section which has Jesus talking rather frankly to his disciples in the immediate lead-up to his arrest. That larger section really covers from chapter 13 through to chapter 17.
Now if we were to go back to chapter 13, it starts with a beautiful object lesson on servanthood. But things take a bit of a turn as Jesus starts talking about the fact that his about to be betrayed. In fact, as Jesus talks about this betrayal, it even says that he was troubled in Spirit.
The chapter ends with this discussion about laying down ones life. This was no light topic. This is heavy stuff.
Then as we move to chapter 14, it’s almost as if Jesus realises what’s happened with the mood. At least, he’s realised that they were feeling troubled in a way that they shouldn’t.
And so he shifts their focus onto something bigger and better. He tells them not to be troubled, because God the Father has a place for them. In fact, he pictures a massive house with many room - one of them being prepared for each of them.
He even tells them how to get their - with one of the best known verses of the Bible - “I am the way and the truth and the life”.
But here’s the thing. When the troubles of this world loom large… when they are just on the horizon… even these words of Jesus are hard to put in such a way to give us comfort.

Wanting to see the Father

And so as we get to verse 8, which is where our passage that was read earlier starts, we get Philip asking an interesting question.
He simply asks: “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us”
Now we might wonder what is behind this question. Why is Philip wanting to see the Father at this point?
Well, maybe it’s as simple as: why wouldn’t anyone want to see God the Father?
But in the context I want to suggest a more nuanced reason.
You see, I wonder whether Philip is actually questioning this comfort that Jesus is trying to give them. That is, Jesus is trying to tell them that God’s got this… that this is all going to work out alright. But is it? Is it really?
Look, this would be a whole lot more simpler if God would just reveal himself. Almost like God just revealing everything all in one go. Perhaps it’s a bit like turning to the last page of a book so you can read the words: “…and they all lived happily ever after”.
If God the Father just reveals himself, then that will be enough!
Well, Jesus actually gives a direct answer. Its like Jesus must be wondering how Philip has so missed the point. Seeing Jesus is seeing the Father.
For Philip and the other disciples, this hopefully is a moment of dawning for them. They get to see God face to face. They get to see him in such a direct way that such a small percentage of the entire human race has had the privilege to do.
For us, we don’t get to see Jesus in the same way as these disciples.
But yet there is evidence we can lean into. It’s the evidence of the works of Jesus. First and foremost, the works we have recorded for us in the Bible. But also the miracles we see today. To the point that as we see in verse 14, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it”. Now we could unpack that verse, but for now, let me just leave it at the level that seeing things happen in Jesus name, is evidence that in Jesus we can see the Father.

The Holy Spirit

But even still, we’re left with a problem. We’re tempted to ask just as Philip did: just show me God and that will be enough.
We just want something - because frankly, as lovely as these words are, something seems to be missing.
Well, after reinforcing this link between the himself and the Father, in verse 16, Jesus introduces a new concept into this conversation - something which completely changes everything.
I’m going to come back to verse 15, but verse 16 says: “…I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you for ever - the Spirit of truth”.
Now I’m going to come back to this word “advocate” in just a moment, but for just a moment, it worth appreciating the gravity of this statement.
The Son, is asking the Father, to send this being that Jesus is calling an “advocate”, to help us.
We’re going to see very soon, that this “advocate” is a game changer. This advocate, is going to be the one that helps us see the bigger picture… that God is working for the good of those who love him… that there is a bright future.
This “advocate” is none other than the Holy Spirit - the third member of the Holy Trinity. He is with us now, and he is the reason that all this talk is far more than just a theoretical discussion, rather it is a truth that we can know intimiately.


Now, I just want to do a brief reflection on the word translated here “advocate”. In the Greek, it’s the word “Paraclete”. The NIV uses the word “advocate”, but in other translations you might find, “comforter”, “intercessor” or “mediator”. The more direct meaning is actually, “one who is called to someone’s aid”. It was actually sometimes even used as a technical term for a lawyer.
But in the context here, we can see that this is a very specially chosen word for the Holy Spirit to help us understand what the Spirit is doing for us. The Holy Spirit, this paraclete, is going to serve many purposes, but he’s going to be the one who is God for us. He is going to come to our aid in that whether things are going great, or whether we are in our darkest moment, God becomes real for us and we can start to see the bigger picture of what God is doing.

The Day of Pentecost

Well, I’m going to leave John 14 for a moment as we see how the giving of the Paraclete (the Advocate), plays out.
You see, Jesus is saying this words some time shortly before the Passover, the first of three main festivals celebrated by the Jews. Not only does Passover have a deep theological root in that it connects us with the story of Israel leaving Egypt, but the date also has an agricultural connection, in that Passover also coincides with the agricultural cycle of Barley and wheat.
Well, a week or weeks later, we get to harvest time for Barley. A week of weeks is of course seven times seven, which equals 49. Move to the next day, and we have 50 and hence the name Pentecost.
Now Pentecost was part of the Jewish tradition for a long time - something we can actually trace back all the way to Deuteronomy 16.
And so, on the first celebration of Pentecost following the death and resurrection of Jesus, we see many people in Jerusalem because this is what you do when it’s time to celebrate one of these great festivals.
Well, about ten days prior to this festival, Jesus had ascended into heaven. After some forty days post resurrection, the disciples were now on their own.
i wonder if they had it playing on their mind this idea of a Paraclete that Jesus had spoken of .
Well, we need to go to Acts 2 to come to the action of this Pentecost.
You see, the disciples are all gathered together in a room.
While the Holy Spirit had been active at various times throughout the Bible prior to this time, the scope of the Spirits work had always been limited.
But this was about to change.
In Acts 2:2, we read of a wind that filled the whole house.
This was followed by tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.
We’re then told that, filled with the Holy Spirit, they began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. We’re not talking just some ecstatic speech, we’re talking actually languages that can be understood by native speakers of those languages.
The movement of the Spirit was going to be far wider than just this room.
It wasn’t long and Peter was outside, and with a raised voice he addressed the large crowd that had gathered.
Now I have no doubt that the words he spoke were very powerful, but it wasn’t in Peter’s ability that made them so powerful. It was that the Spirit moved before him that we see the effectiveness of them.
You see, the words Peter spoke are recorded for us through Acts 2, but the things I find most remarkable is that towards the end of the chapter, we’re told that three thousand people accepted the message and were baptised.

It makes sense

So what’s going on here?
Well, coming back to that term we found in John 14, it perhaps makes more sense.
The Holy Spirit is the paraclete. The Holy Spirit is the one who comes to the aid of those in distress. He opens their eyes. He shows them the big picture. He is God. Whether they had physically seen Jesus or not, it mattered little, because they had now experienced God himself.
And so, the words that Peter spoke before them made sense. They understood why Jesus did what he did. They understood why things have to be the way they are. And they understood where things are headed. These are things you honestly just can’t do without the Paraclete… the Holy Spirit in your life.

Available to us

And the most wonderful thing is, that since this first day of Pentecost, this very same Holy Spirit is available to us.
We can understand the same things because we have a personal and intimate experience with the Spirit.
And so when I asked the question before about how we make sure we keep the perspective we need to know that there is a God who is working all things for the good of those who love him - well, the way we do this is to seek the Holy Spirit.

Loving God and obeying him

But I guess this begs a new question - how do we seek the Holy Spirit?
Well, this is where I’m going to come back to John 14, because Jesus explains this to us.
You see, I skipped over verse 15 earlier in my excitement to get to verse 16. And verse 15 might be one we quite readily want to skip over. It simply says: “If you love me, keep my commands”.
We jump over it because talk of keeping commands, or obedience, are not things we like talking about.
But there is actually a link between love and obedience. If you love someone, you are going to listen to them and do what they say.
But what’s this got to do with seeking the Holy Spirit?
Well, it would seem to me in John 14, that if you want to seek the Spirit, just love God and obey him, and the Spirit will come.
It’s funny how what actually happens in our thinking about trying to seek the Spirit is actually misguided. It’s easy to think that to seek the Spirit you need to have some sort of specific routine, or say a special set of words.
But in some ways, it is so much simpler.
Let me just read verse 21: John 14:21
John 14:21 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)
Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.’

Reminder of words

In verse 26, Jesus uses the word “paraclete” or “advocate” for a second time. This time saying He will teach you and remind you of everything. It is actually this verse which helps us to see how the New Testament writers were able to accurately record the words of Jesus - they had the Holy Spirit as their guide in writing.
But it can also apply to us. You see, there is a bit of a loop happening here.
Love God. Obey Him. The Spirit comes, and helps you to love God more, and obey him more, and you draw closer to God.
God initiates this process, but he wants us to be involved. All we need to do is love and obey God.


I love the simplicity of the Christian message.
There is hope.
Though that hope can feel a distant, even theoretical hope at times, but because of the work of the Holy Spirit, it can be real.
We just need to love God and obey him, and we can allow the Spirit to be the help we need to see things the way God sees them.
And the end product is what we see in verse 27.
Jesus says: “Peace I leave with you”.
This concept of peace here is very much connected with the Hebrew word “shalom”. That deep abiding peace. The wholeness. The completeness of everything coming together in the way God intends it to.
With the Paraclete, we can actually start to experience shalom right now. We won’t have a perfect experience of it until the age to come. But we can know shalom, even in the midst of turmoil.
But only because the Holy Spirit has come.
The lean in close - just love God, and obey him.
Let me pray...
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