Philip said to [Jesus,] “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
“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. 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.” (NRSV)
Jesus is clear he is not going to be with the disciples much longer. He has to tell them what they need to know to be able to process what is about to happen. But he also knows he doesn’t need to tell them EVERYTHING they will need to know in the coming years as they carry on Jesus’ work. Jesus knows he has a gift for them. Jesus knows there is a living Spirit that will sustain them. The Advocate is how it is identified in this passage. An advocate is one who stands up for you. They speak for those who, by whatever circumstances, cannot speak for themselves.
But let’s talk about this Advocate for a bit. In the original Greek, the word is “parakletos.” It can be translated a number of ways. Counselor is one of the common ways it is translated. Advocate is how it is translated in our NRSV text. The New International ‘Version (NIV) also uses Advocate. Both of these words have courtroom overtones. That is definitely there in the original understanding; it is the one who can speak for you when you cannot speak for yourself, who will stand with you and guide you in every important matter. Most times, when you need an advocate, you are in no position to pick them yourself. This would be consistent too. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, is sent by God, the source of all to be of aid to God’s people.
But the thing that these translations are missing is the more intimate element of “parakletos.” The Common English Bible (CEB) translates it as the Companion. Eugene Peterson uses “the Friend” in The Message. The King James Version translates it as the Comforter. These get that element; the sense that the Holy Spirit will be with more than just the occasional high stakes moment. A friend or companion is more likely to be around for the little moments as well as the big ones. The Amplified Bible, which adds definitions and explanation to difficult words or concepts into the text to amplify our understanding of the passage, uses a whole list; the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby). They try to get all of that in there by not being limited to one word.
My take on it is that Guardian would be a good word for it. You would most likely live with a guardian. It is someone who is there for you for the long run, who provides for you, who speaks up for you, who is responsible for you. It is also someone who is going to discipline you and train you as you grow.
On the other hand, none of these words work completely. We outgrow guardians. Friends come and go. An advocate is only with you for a specific time or circumstance. All of these words fall short. Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would come and provide all the disciples would need to share Jesus’ message, to teach the loving way of life and to grow the church. Whatever your version of the Bible calls it, trust that the Holy Spirit is with you to teach you and guide you. Sometimes the Spirit works through other people in your life. Sometimes the Spirit works through the forces of nature. Sometimes the Spirit speaks directly to our hearts. Expect the Spirit to speak to you in all of those ways at one time or another.
So for today, pay attention, because I assure you, the Spirit has a thing or two for us to learn.
Blessings to you,
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.