Here we have John’s gospel’s version of this story of the Last Supper. Jesus and the disciples are all together, sharing the Passover meal—Passover being the celebration of God freeing their ancestors from their slavery in Egypt. It is the key festival in their faith, and it is a reminder of God’s faithfulness to them and promises to care for them. And in the midst of this powerful, reassuring, life-affirming event, Jesus is talking about what will happen when he is NOT “still with you” (John 14:25).
What a downer! Why is he bumming them out this way? They are celebrating God’s working things out in their favor. They are in Jerusalem; Jesus has entered triumphantly, being proclaimed King. And yet, as John’s gospel tells it, Jesus has been saying really “bummer” things since then: that he will die, talking about how so many people will not believe in him. At this meal he says some comforting things about how God will provide for them, and that he gives them peace, but he also washes their feet like a servant—NOT like a King—and tells them they will also need to be servants. And he proclaims that one of them will betray him.
Must have been confusing. Outside events are trending positively, it would seem, but Jesus is bringing them down. What he is saying right then and there doesn’t seem like what he ought to be saying.
Jesus must sense that, because he says. “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you” (John 14:25-26). And later he says, “And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe” (John 14:30).
The great Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard is credited as saying something like “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards”. Jesus promises them that later, as the Holy Spirit helps them with it, they’ll “get” what now they don’t get. And not only will they “get it”, but they’ll “believe”—which in the way the Bible uses the word, is not merely agreeing to some idea, but actively living out what that idea means.
WE have the advantage not only of reading these confusing things AFTER Jesus’ death and resurrection, but also after generations and generations of faithful “believers’ LIVING OUT what he was talking about, and what his death and resurrection made possible. And we, too are given the Holy Spirit, who will teach us everything, and remind us of all that Jesus said to them—and as the Spirit moves, also says to us.
GOSPEL John 14:23-29
23 Jesus answered him, ‘Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.
25 I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 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. 28 You heard me say to you, “I am going away, and I am coming to you.” If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.