Jun 4, 2017

“So, What’s a Paraclete?” 6-4-17

Acts 2:1-42 & John 14:15-17 & 23-27
June 4, 2017

It is Pentecost, 2017.  Pentecost is when Christians celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit on or into the Apostles in Jerusalem on the 7th Sunday after Easter.  The Apostles were being obedient to the command of Christ, and they had been waiting in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit.
For the last day or so, many other Jews had been gathering in Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost.  But that was a different kind of Pentecost than what Christians have been celebrating for the last 1900 years. 
The Jewish Pentecost or Feast of Weeks was a dual purpose holiday.  They celebrated the Wheat harvest in Israel, and it was the holiday at which they celebrated God giving the Covenant to Israel at Mt Sinai after the Israelites came out of Egypt.  The Feast of Weeks was one of the 3 annual pilgrimage holidays for which all Jewish men were supposed to go to Jerusalem.
That was why Jews from different parts of the world, whose native languages were different, were gathered in Jerusalem.
On that morning as the celebrations were beginning, the Holy Spirit came on the Apostles.  The presence of the Holy Spirit was on that occasion marked by three occurrences.  First of all, the Apostles each had a fire flame or a tongue of fire above their heads.  There was also in the room the sound of a strong wind.  And each of them began to preach about Jesus in a different language, one they did not know.
Now, a few minutes ago, we commemorated the first Pentecost by having a verse from the bible (John 3: 16) read by several different people, each in a different language.  But I have a spoiler for you.  Each of those people knew how to read and speak those languages when they arrived here for worship this morning.
The event at that first Christian Pentecost was much different.  Those men did not know the languages they spoke.  And, as far we know the visible manifestation of the flames or tongues of fire never occurred again.  So, when we talk about the Holy Spirit and that first Christian Pentecost, it is probably best to think of ordinary and extraordinary works of the Holy Spirit.
But as I use those terms, I need you to know that I use them with some reservations.  We are talking about the Holy Spirit, a person of Almighty God; God is supernatural, so by definition, everything He does is extraordinary.
What I am trying to distinguish are the ways in which God usually works, and the ways in which He only works on rare occasions.
The Flames and the languages on Pentecost were Extraordinary.
So, then, what are the ordinary works of the Holy Spirit.  How does he usually work in His daily life?
Well, If we read the things said elsewhere about the Spirit of God and look at this passage we see that on Pentecost the Spirit used extraordinary means to accomplish one of his ordinary tasks. 
When Jesus was about to ascend to heaven, two of his last orders to the Apostles were “You shall wait in Jerusalem for the coming of the Holy Spirit”  And, “You shall preach the Gospel, the Good news of the kingdom of God in Jerusalem, Judea, Galilee, Samaria, and the whole world.”
At Pentecost we see the HS beginning this ordinary task.  The Gospel was preached and the Spirit caused many to believe in Jesus that day.  But this ordinary task was accompanied by some extraordinary signs: the languages and the flames.
To see some of the other ordinary functions of the Holy Spirit, we need to look at various passages of the New Testament.  I do not have that much time today, so I selected some verses from the 14th chapter if John.  Chapter 14 contains part of the Last Supper Discourse of Jesus, so these were things said to the Apostles on Maundy Thursday, just before his death.
I want to start by noticing the progressions of both verses 15&16 and 23.  In both passages there is a chain of events that is similar, if not identical.
In 15&16 we see it as “If you love me, You will keep my commandments, and I will have the father send another advocate.”
In 23 it is, “if you love me, you will keep my word, and my father and I will make our home with them.”
Now, in one the chain of events ends with the Advocate coming, in the other the Father and Son living with the Christian.
The Advocate or Holy Spirit is the one through whom the Son and Father live in us or with us.
Now, just who is that Advocate? Well, He is the Holy Spirit, but Jesus was using special language here to refer to the spirit in a way that would give a clue to one of His main functions.
In some translations you will find the word comforter rather than advocate.
The real truth is to be found in the Greek text, not that Jesus spoke Greek, but it gives us the intent of what Jesus said more clearly.
The word in the Greek texts of John is Paraclete.  Now listen up you players of baseball, football, and soccer.  It is not a pair of cleats; it is a Paraclete, which means “One who is called to the side of another.”  Advocate only covers a part of that meaning.  Counselor is another who comes to us and helps us and in some way illustrates the work of the HS. 
But the function of the Spirit with us and within us goes way beyond advocating, and counseling.  See vs 25.  It includes translating.  In several places in the gospels there is a mention of Jesus telling the apostles something, and note that they did not understand what he said until after his resurrection.  The Holy Spirit helps us understand the teaching of Jesus and the rest of the bible.
But I think it goes further than that.  The Spirit not only translates the teachings of Jesus to us, the Spirit translates Jesus to us.  As we read the scriptures and live among Christians, the Spirit within us helps us know the Jesus we are reading and talking about and the Jesus whom we are worshiping.
There are several more things I could say about the Holy Spirit But I am choosing only 2 more. 
In the last verse of our second lesson, John 14: 27 Jesus is recorded as saying: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
The Spirit of God is the one in Christians who brings us peace, a peace that is beyond understandings or our worldly situations.
And the last thing involves the Sacrament.  As we eat from the table, remembering the death of Jesus for us, The Spirit of God is in us, bringing Jesus to us in this meal.


Pastor David Horner
Faith Presbyterian Church
West Lafayette, IN 47906