Day 317 – The Promise of the Holy Spirit

Today’s reading: John 14

Today we read John chapter 14.  I think it is one of the most difficult but most engaging chapters in the Bible. One reason it is difficult is that Jesus keeps switching between the Father, Himself, and the Holy Spirit from one moment to the next.  Jesus is revealing to us how closely the persons of the Trinity are connected.  When one acts, they all act.  Watch out for this.

There are also two particularly challenging passages:

First, Jesus says,

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.

Jn 14:12

Stop the presses!  John must have made a mistake.  How can the followers of Jesus do greater works than Him, who is God himself?

This revelation of one of the deepest truths of Christianity.  This is the revelation that truly changes lives and the world.  It is possible for us to do things “greater” than Jesus because we do not do them alone, we do them in union with Jesus and with Jesus in union with us.  This is why Jesus will pray, “Father, let them be one as you and I are one” at Gethsemane. That is how close he wants our union to be.  This is why Paul will say, “It is not I who live but Christ who lives in me.”  That is how close our union with the Lord actually is.  This is why works matter – because they are not just our works but his works done through us.  In a human sense, our works are “greater” because they are greater in number.  In another sense, they are “greater” because they are ours and his.

Knowing this, that each other person you see and meet is joined in radical union with Christ, how do you react to that?  Can you pass a hungry beggar on the street, knowing he is joined to Christ?  Can you speak a harsh word to a driver that cuts you off, knowing he is joined to Christ?  How does your perspective shift knowing that the people around you are not just your metaphorical brothers and sisters (for those terms can minimize the true nature of the relationship) but rather are in perfect spiritual union with you through Jesus Christ?

There is also a second understanding of Jesus revelation that his followers will do greater things than him.  Through Jesus, the entire universe was created.  Yet as majestic as the entire universe is, it is still finite.  For an infinite God who is infinitely powerful even creating the entire universe was infinitely simple.  In contrast, during the Mass, when the Priest says, “this is my body … this is my blood”, you have a finite creature making present the infinite God.  You have a creature that is powerless begetting infinite power.  Of course, this is only possible because of the ordination of the priest.  It is not an inherent power of the priest at work, rather it is still the voluntary act of God to fulfill his promise through the priest but on one level it is truly the followers of Jesus doing something “greater” than the master.

In the second challenging passage Jesus is asked a question:

Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?”

Jn 14:22

Jesus answer is into parts.  First, he says that to those individuals that keep his word the Father and he will come to them and make their home in that person.  The second part of the answers is to the Apostles as a group:

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

Jn 14:26

So there is more to learn.  AFTER Jesus dies and the Holy Spirit comes we will still be being taught and will reach a greater understanding.  How will the Holy Spirit “teach”?  Who will be the teachers?  How will the Holy Spirit make things known to us?  The context of this statement is important.

Thus, this is primarily a promise to the clergy … to the Apostles and their successors, the Bishops.  It is not a promise to us as individuals.  Indeed, it CONFIRMS, the Great Commission which we read in Matthew:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age. Matthew 28:19-20

This is how the Great Commission will be carried out.  The Holy Spirit will continue to teach the Church even after Jesus has ascended.  This doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit will never teach an individual person, or guide them into truth, or help them to find or share the faith.  Of course, He will.  However, it does mean that true doctrine, correct theology, holy morality and venerable tradition will only come through the Church.  The Bible says that the Church is the pillar and bulwark of Truth.  Jesus told the Apostles that if there is a dispute to “tell it to the Church” and he who does not listen to the Church is to be like “a gentile and a tax collector.”  This is because Jesus promises the Holy Spirit to the Apostles as a group and therefore to the Church.  Thus the Holy Spirit will “teach you all things” through the Church.

Finally, there is one more important aspect of John 14.  Notice there are several parallels to John 6, the Bread of Life discourse.

Compare

Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?

Jn 14:10

With

As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.

Jn 6:57

And compare:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.

Jn 14:12

With

Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

Jn 6:29

And compare:

… and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive,

Jn 14:16-17

With

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

Jn 6:63

And

“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

Jn 14:23

With

Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.

Jn 6:56

It is easy to see that the Bread of Life discourse and the Last Supper discourse are related.  Of course, we know from the other gospels that Jesus consecrates the bread and wine at the Last Supper.  For his part, John has illustrated a deep theology that Jesus has taught the Apostles.  The bread and wine at the last supper is the Bread of Life which is Jesus himself.  It is no longer a “what” but rather a “who”.

Tomorrow: John 15

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