Text: John 14: 8-17, 25-27
Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. I tell you the truth, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Today’s text begins with Philip asking Jesus to show the disciples the Father. Philip’s thought seems to be that if Jesus, soon leaving them, would visibly reveal his Father to them, the disciples would be satisfied with this until the day when Jesus would return for them. On the one hand this shows great faith—Philip regards Jesus as able to actually and visibly show the Father to them. On the other hand, Philip is slow to grasp what Jesus means when he speaks about knowing and seeing the Father.
Jesus’ response to Philip is that Philip has already seen the Father. “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” Jesus says. This is because Jesus shares the same eternal, divine nature as his Father. In order to make this oneness of Himself with the Father altogether clear, Jesus points to the constant evidence and manifestation of this oneness: “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing His work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves” (verses 10-11). What Jesus has been teaching, preaching and doing is no less than the Father speaking and working through him.
Then Jesus continues with a series of amazing and comforting promises. Now listen carefully—because these are the same promises for Jesus’ church today. First He says: “I tell you the truth, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these…” The promise is for whoever believes in Jesus. Now it might seem a bit hard to believe that we will do even greater works than Jesus. The greater is referring to greater in number. Jesus’ followers of all times will continue his mission and ministry throughout the ages. And so we see Jesus’ promises beginning to be fulfilled in Acts 5:
The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade…more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed (v 12-16).
These works were possible because it was really Jesus working through the people. Jesus continues to work through his people today. The promise is that whatever we ask in Jesus’ name he will do: “You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it.” This isn’t a blanket promise for a new car, better pay, the jackpot in the lottery, a grand final win for our sporting team…
The promises that Jesus makes—that we will do greater works than he, and that he will do whatever we ask in his name—are couched between two references to God’s Word in our text—verse 8 (“The words I say to you are not just my own”) and verse 15 (“If you love me, you will do what I command”). What Jesus is saying is that when his people minister to others according to what he commands, he will follow through on what he promises and do what we ask in his name that is according to his will.
Jesus says: “Whatever you ask I will do it.”
When we baptise in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, God is present to wash the lost and condemned sinner and unite them to Christ and his death and resurrection. The Father hears our prayer to set the person free from the power of Satan and rescue them from the kingdom of darkness and death and receive them into the kingdom of light and life of Christ, for Jesus’ sake. When we pray for God to sanctify us in the truth, he answers our prayer and Jesus comes to us through his Word and continues to share his holiness with us as in his presence. When we trust God at his promise that the Gospel is the power for salvation, and ask him to bring that salvation to those gathered with us, he is present through his Word to convict us of sin, forgive and comfort us through his gospel, and create and sustain saving faith in Christ crucified, risen and ascended.
When a friend on the fringe of the church sits in your lounge room, broken and searching for hope, and you desperately pray in your heart for Jesus to help you find the words to say, his promise today is that he will do whatever we ask, and his words will come to you, and no matter how mucked up you think your proclamation may be, it will be Christ’s proclamation that there is hope when it would seem there is none, that there is a Saviour for them, the Lord Jesus Christ and he forgives every sin and promises to make everything new, no matter how messed up things may be.
When at a hospital bedside someone who does not yet know the Lord asks what hope there is for them, and you pray that somehow this person will come to know Christ, Jesus promises: “I will do whatever you ask in my name” and he will help you share with them the hope that you have, Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins, the One who is the resurrection and the life so that “Whoever believes in the Son will not perish but have eternal life”.
When we pass the peace of Christ in church with his words: “Peace be with you” we are not conveying a nice wish but Christ is speaking his own words through us and bringing peace and comfort through us to those in the pews around us. That’s Christ at work through you!
These are the greater works that Jesus is talking about. You don’t have to raise Lazarus or heal someone from cancer or convert your entire workplace by turning the water in the water cooler into wine. But every proclamation of God’s grace in Christ are the greater works, for the gospel is the power for salvation. Every word of blessing, every building up in the faith, every admonishing from Scripture, every act of witnessing to our neighbour, every act of love according to God’s Word are the greater works, and they can only be done if Jesus and the Father are with us in the first place…that is what Jesus is ultimately assuring you today. So don’t ever think that what you do in the Lord’s name is insignificant, for God is with his servants.
How good our God is to us, giving of his very self to us! Not content to rest there, Jesus makes another promise: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth.” Actually the word for Counsellor is perhaps better translated ‘Advocate’. It comes from the word ‘Paraclete’; originally two Greek words: para (to be beside) and kaleo to call out, or urge on. And so we see the Holy Spirit Jesus promises is not a thing, or a power, but a person—a Divine person, God the Holy Spirit, beside us urging us on, calling us on as he walks step by step beside us.
Jesus promises that the Spirit of Truth will be with us forever. God with us forever! God with us in the Person of the Holy Spirit, teaching us of everything Jesus said—forever! What a personal God we have! God who is relational, intimately involved in our lives. And this Paraclete, this Holy Spirit, is the other counsellor who will be with us forever. Who is the first? Jesus himself. Jesus’ ascension was not simply to go to heaven to be distant and removed from his people. It is not as if Jesus ascends into Heaven to leave behind the Holy Spirit in his place. Jesus ascended to fill all things, Paul says in Ephesians. He is everywhere present, and present in particular ways in his word and sacraments to bring forgiveness, life and salvation. He is the other Counsellor, the other Advocate, or Paraclete, the other one walking beside you, urging you on. And wherever Jesus is, so is the Father.
What an amazing, self-giving God! Pentecost is so much more than searching for visual proofs for God’s existence. It is so much more than trying to find spiritual experiences. It is all about the One who has given himself to us in the Person of Christ and the Person of the Holy Spirit so that we can have a personal relationship with the God of the universe. God is not up there…or over there…but God Almighty is our Paraclete, the One who walks beside you and who lives in you, in the Person of Christ and our Heavenly Father and the Person of the Holy Spirit whom the Father sends through Jesus. God lives in you! Just think of that! Everywhere you go, in every prayer for every person you come across, in every blessing you give them, in every Word of comfort from the Scriptures, in every act of love, you bring the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit to them. Wherever you are in your faith journey, whatever life throws at you, and whenever you share the gospel with those around you, Jesus and the Spirit of Truth are walking beside you. God goes with you. The Lord is always with his servants.
So brothers and sisters do not be troubled and afraid. Your God is with you and he does not give to you as the world gives; he does not give to you expecting that you will be able to pay him back. He does not give to you based on certain provisions in fine print. He does not give to you with interest or an early termination of contract clause. He does not give to you based on how well you are doing, or based on what you deserve. No, he does not give to you as the world gives. But he gives to you as God gives: generously, freely, graciously, unconditionally…he gives himself to you…forever.