If Jesus were to have granted one wish to his disciples on that last evening together, it would surely have been that he wouldn’t leave them. That was the bombshell he had dropped in chapter 13, and throughout these chapters Jesus is preparing his disciples for life without him – essentially the same situation we are in now as we seek to follow Christ, which is why these chapters speak so relevantly to us. In this passage Jesus promises us the wonderful gift of his Spirit.
The promises in these verses are not for everyone. The “you” he is addressing is identified three times in the same way (v.15, 21, 23) as those who love him, a love demonstrated in obedience to his commands. Obedience is not the condition that must be met, as though the Spirit is a reward for good behaviour, but rather love for Jesus and obedience to his word is the description of those to whom the Spirit is given; a description which marks them out very clearly from “the world” (v.17) who will not know the Spirit.
The Spirit is called “another Counsellor” – both words need a little unpacking. You’ll perhaps know that in Greek there are two words meaning “another” – one has the sense of “another of the same kind”, one has the sense of “another of a different kind”. Here it is the former meaning therefore another like Jesus. “Counsellor” means literally “someone called alongside to help”. He will be like Jesus, so much so in fact that Jesus can say that in the Spirit’s coming to us, he himself comes to us. And actually we will then know his presence in an even more wonderful way – more permanent (“forever”) and more profound (“in you”).
Many (not least Don Carson, whom I would normally agree with) see the primary reference here being to the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, but I am more inclined to read these verses as still referring to the gift of the Spirit. In which case they teach that the Spirit not only brings Christ’s presence (v.18), but He also helps us to know Christ better. He helps us to “see Jesus” (v.19), not literally , but in terms of making Jesus clear and distinct to us. When in verse 21 Jesus talks of showing himself to us, the word “show” means more literally “illumine”, so the sense is not of showing something that wasn’t seen before, but presenting it in clearer focus. The Spirit will show us Jesus, or rather we might say, by the Spirit Jesus will show himself to us that we might know him (and love him) – know who he is in relation to God (“on that day you will realise that I am in the Father”, v20) and know who he is in relation to us (“and you are in me, and I am in you”). The Spirit of Truth will lead us to truth by showing us the one who is the Truth, and indeed bringing us life (v.19) in him who is the Life.
Judas’ question seems to be essentially, “This is all wonderful for us, but if you’re the Messiah then shouldn’t you be showing yourself to everyone? Isn’t the whole world meant to acknowledge you?” One day of course every eye will see and every tongue confess, but for now Jesus replies to say that this promise is not simply for them but for “anyone” who loves Jesus and demonstrates that in practical obedience. And now the promise is filled out even more: by the Spirit’s coming to live in us, the Father and the Son make their home in us (language which suggests not a fleeting visit, but permanent presence). Back in v.2 we were promised that we will live in the Father’s house in the future, and now we are promised that the Father will live in us in the present.
In v.24 Jesus has said that his words are the Father’s words, and now, underlining the unity of the Trinity, he says that the Spirit when He comes will teach not new words, but remind them of Christ’s words. The “all things” that He will teach means all that is revealed in Jesus (not particle physics or Thai cooking). This is a promise not for “anyone” (as in v.23) but primarily for the apostles, who had heard Christ’s teaching. It’s a promise that guarantees the trustworthiness of their witness to Christ, and so the Spirit-inspired authority of the New Testament. We hold the fruit of that promise in our hands, and of course since the same Spirit now indwells us, we can trust and expect that He will help us to understand the Scriptures. He will show us Christ through the Scriptures He inspired.
Jesus goes on to speak of his gift of peace. He doesn’t explicitly say this peace is a gift of the Spirit, but the context might suggest that we know this peace by the Spirit. Peace that is primarily to be understood as peace with God, a restored relationship with God. Jesus gives us his peace – the perfect relationship with the Father that he knew, he now enables us to share in.
You may well struggle to have time to look at these verses – that’s fine. Jesus returns to the topic of his departure; he has explained why it is good for them in terms of the gift of the Spirit, and now he says it is also good for him, and therefore if they loved him they should be glad for him that he is returning to be with his Father. It is in obedience to Him that Jesus will endure the cross, not as the devil’s helpless victim, but the Father’s obedient Son.