All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, 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 to you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.
It is just before the trial and crucifixion of Jesus, and he is here comforting his disciples in the upper room before his betrayal. He has just announced to them that he must leave them, but he assures them that he will not leave them despondent. He will send them the Holy Spirit to comfort and empower them. What Jesus says about the Holy Spirit gives us quite an image for who the Holy Spirit is and what he does for the people of God.
The Holy Spirit above all works in the name of Jesus. Everything he does for the people of God is meant to glorify Jesus. The Holy Spirit does this largely by “reminding” the people of God of all the things Jesus said and did. Perhaps more importantly, the Holy Spirit opens our minds that we might understand the significance of what Jesus said and did. Further, he will empower us to likewise say and do the things Jesus said and did for Jesus’ sake. Finally, the Holy Spirit grants us a peace—a special peace imparted to God’s people by Jesus himself—that enables us to endure the bald reality that the world will reject us on account of Jesus.
In these ways we perhaps understand the Holy Spirit reasonably well. We know that he reminds us of Jesus’ teachings. We know that he empowers us unto mighty works in Jesus’ name. We know that he comforts and guides us. In terms of what the Holy Spirit does for the people of God, we are reasonably clear.
What we perhaps often miss is that the Holy Spirit’s principle function in all these things is not really meant just for the people of God. No, he works in the people of God to empower them unto one noble task: to move the message of Jesus into the world. That is to say, the Holy Spirit is first and foremost an evangelist. Jesus gives this word to his disciples in the context of the disciples’ witness about him to the world. The refrain “that the world may know” is seasoned throughout the narrative. The Holy Spirit reminds us what Jesus said and did so that we can share his teaching with the world. The Holy Spirit empowers us unto miraculous works as a sign to the world that the God is on the move in restoring it to himself. The Holy Spirit gives the people of God a profound peace so that we can endure the hardships of engaging with the world. The Holy Spirit’s primary work in the world is to empower the people of God to get the word out about Jesus, to wit: Jesus has died; Jesus is risen; Jesus will come again.
The take away for us is that the work of mission to which we’ve committed ourselves in the Church is not in the last analysis our work at all. Since the beginning of this movement we call “the Christian church,” it has been the Holy Spirit who has pushed the people of God forward. It has been the Holy Spirit who has persuaded and compelled the hearts of people to hear the word about Jesus. In many respects, we here are simply along for the ride. This is not to say that we needn’t teach about what Jesus said and did, or engage in the work God has given us, whether mundane or miraculous. It is to say that the Holy Spirit is going to help us to do all of these things. That is fundamentally why we have this fabulous peace Jesus promises here, because we know that, since the Holy Spirit is quite eager to get the word out about Jesus, he will not fail to work in us when we set our hands to that task. Now that is quite a peace indeed. Let us then set ourselves to this work with confidence, knowing both that the Holy Spirit loves to glorify Jesus and also that he is to that end quite alive and well in this world.
Look for Part 8 of this series, entitled “ Witnesses”, soon. For the original setting of these devotionals, see my introduction to the first post in the series here.