Jesus’ challenge – John 14:15-16
“If you love Me you will obey My commands and I will ask the Father, and He will give you another to be your Advocate, who will be with you for ever – the Spirit of Truth.”
We live in an age that puts a high value on consensus, doesn’t like ‘Jobsworth’ council officials and likes a bit of independence – in other words, we all like to be a bit different.
We like to escape the constraints of High Street shopping and enjoy the more relaxed environment, and greater variety, of out of town outlets — I often seem to end up in one when I have a day off.
Yet Jesus, in His concentrated ‘revision’ teaching of the Twelve around the Last Supper, can sound authoritarian. The Bible in front of me contains the phrase “obey My commands”. After a strict school upbringing, years later I can still feel the sting of the effects of (alleged) disobedience!
What did Jesus actually say?
This passage offers a classic example of how we bring our own filters to what we read. The Holy Spirit speaks to us through the enduring truth of the Bible, but it’s as if He has to battle with our ideas — we only hear, at first, what we want to hear, or perhaps expect to hear.
Obey. I was brought up in a “Try harder … do more good, do what is commanded… avoid doing what is not good” church. Perhaps you were, too. I remember a preacher trying to tackle the subject of grace, and getting hopelessly bogged down. The sense of God being generous to us and wanting to give us way beyond what we deserved, never came out.
Jesus actually said something more like this: “If you love me you’ll keep hold of what I have taught you and shown you – and you’ll want to keep on doing these things.” Put like that, who wouldn’t?
Jesus says: “Anyone who loves me will heed what I say” (v.23) and goes on to say that this is at the heart of what a close relationship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit is all about.
How do we follow a difficult call?
It’s a close relationship, and one where coaching is given! This is all about the Helper, or Advocate, or Counsellor – the come-alongside person called the Holy Spirit who is ‘another’ the same – that’s what the language means. So having the Helper is the same as having Jesus on hand to remind us and help us, even though Jesus has now ended His life as one of us and ascended to heaven. He gives us His Spirit, who reminds us and teaches us again and keeps prompting us. It would be difficult for us to stay on track by ourselves. He makes it easy for us to stay on track! Humanly, it is not possible to do the things Jesus did. The Holy Spirit can enable us to do what is needed, the way Jesus would do it. Yes, really.
So this isn’t so much of a command to obey, as a call to believe we can live above ourselves. Not because we should, but because we can. Not because of what we have mastered, but because of what the Master has perfected on our behalf, and then given us His Spirit to reside in us.
When you enter Herefordshire, where I live, you see a county sign with a picture of a red cow (naturally) and the slogan: “You can”. This is Jesus’ “You can” teaching, and I like it a lot!