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reading from the holy Gospel according to John
Jesus said to his disciples: “When the Advocate comes,
whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth
who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf.
You also are to testify because you have been with me from
the beginning. “I still have many things to say to
you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth
comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will
not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and
he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will
glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare
it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason
I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
is a story told about a well known lawyer. He was known for
his immense skill and commanding voice. In a complicated
case before a judge, whom the lawyer regarded as slow and
rather dim, the judge confessed that he was not clear about
the issues involved. The lawyer, coming to his defence, gave
a clear account of all the issues and their implications
The judge thanked him courteously but added, ‘I’m
sorry Sir, but I regret I am none the wiser’. The lawyer
rose wearily to his feet again, ‘Possibly, my lord,’ he
said, ‘but you are better informed!’
Information doesn’t add up to wisdom and knowledge
doesn’t necessarily lead to sound judgement. Like the
judge in our story, we can possess all the information available
but still be no wiser about what it actually means. In today’s
Gospel we hear Jesus give his final address to his disciples,
he promises to send them a good lawyer! Lawyers are only
needed when there is trouble and indeed there was plenty
of trouble around. Soon there would be arrests, court scenes,
trials accusations, and sentences. Jesus promises his disciples
that the lawyer he will send will lead them out of confusion
and bewilderment into the full truth. This lawyer is no human
advocate; he is the Spirit of truth that comes from the Father.
Jesus consoles his followers with the promise: ‘I shall
have many things to say to you but they would be too much
for you now. But when the Spirit of truth comes, he will
lead us to the complete truth.’ (John 15,16)
One of the traits of the Gospel of John is how he presents
the story of Jesus as a lawsuit between God and the unbelieving
world. Witnesses are lined up on both sides to argue the
case; ‘Is Jesus the Messiah and the Son of God?’ God’s
witnesses are his Word in Jesus, John the Baptist, the miracles
of Jesus and finally the Holy Spirit and the apostles.
This is the group of witnesses who support the claim that
Jesus really is the Son of God. The unbelieving Jews, who
might bring their own testimony against the claim, represent
the opposition. When Jesus’ trial gets underway, the
accusers are invited to bear witness regarding the evil Jesus
is alleged to have committed. Jesus boldly challenges the
officer in court: ‘If I have spoken wrongly, bear witness
to the wrong: but if I have spoken rightly why do you strike
me?’ No one takes up the challenge. Jesus wins the
most important lawsuit in history. Pilate declares Jesus
innocent three times, so he is guilty of perverted justice
when he hands Jesus over to be crucified.
When Jesus dies, however, the lawsuit is not finished. His
claim to be the Messiah and the Son of God is confirmed by
his resurrection, when the Father raises the innocent one
to glory. But there are still many who do not accept the
evidence. The principal advocate for Jesus’ claim is
now the Holy Spirit. He is the great lawyer who advances
the claims of Jesus before the court of an unbelieving world.
the advocate’s principal witnesses are the apostles – those
who have been with Jesus from the beginning.
What we celebrate at Pentecost is the coming of this Advocate,
the one who enables the apostles to witness to Jesus’ claims
in the world. Before this the apostles were incapable of
acting as witnesses, they were frightened, too confused and
hurt to act as effective witnesses on behalf of Jesus. With
the help of the Spirit, they are graced with a new courage.
The courtroom is the market place of the world and they are
willing to testify to the truth of Jesus Christ to anyone
who has ears.
As we know from experience the lawsuit still continues – the
case is not closed. There will always be opposition to face,
and a jury to persuade. The Spirit continues to be the Advocate,
calling on generations of Christians to come forward as witnesses
in the case.
We are those witnesses; to us is given to continue the case
on behalf of Jesus. The disbelieving world still looks to
Jesus’ witnesses to make their case not so much by
the quality of our information, but by the quality and courage
of our lives. The world is not dying for lack of information,
but may well be dying by not having life in Jesus’ name.
The evangelist John finishes the case on behalf of Jesus
when he tells his readers that he has advanced his cause.
So that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son
of God and that believing this you may have life in his name.’ And
so the case continues.
Archdeacon of Glendalough