“The Helper: The Paraclete of Pentecost” (John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15)
“To You, O Paraclete, we raise / Unending songs of thanks and praise.” Did you catch that last line of the hymn we just sang? And did you wonder who or what this “Paraclete” was? Well, it seems to be a reference to the Holy Spirit, because earlier in that stanza we’ve been praising the Father and the Son, so this must be the Holy Spirit. But why call the Holy Spirit “Paraclete”? Is that because the Spirit came down in the form of a parakeet at Jesus’ baptism? No, wait, that was a dove, not a parakeet. And besides, this is “Paraclete,” not “parakeet.”
Alright, so what in the world is a “Paraclete”? Well, if you noticed the fine print at the bottom of the page of that hymn, Hymn 500, you saw that there was this explanation: “‘Paraclete,’ another name for the Holy Spirit, comes from the Greek, meaning ‘comforter’ or ‘counselor.’” And so it is. “Comforter,” “counselor,” “advocate”–these are all ways the Greek word “Paraclete” can be translated. Or, as the term occurs in the Holy Gospel for today, there the word “Paraclete” is translated as “Helper.” Jesus uses this term “Paraclete” several times to tell the disciples he is going to send them the “Helper.”
That’s what this day, the Day of Pentecost, is all about: It’s about the risen and ascended Lord Jesus Christ sending the Paraclete, the Helper, the Holy Spirit, to the church, to help the church, to help us Christians, in several ways. So let’s find out how, as we now consider our theme, “The Helper: The Paraclete of Pentecost.”
How the Holy Spirit will be our Helper, that’s what I want to point out today, three ways in particular on this Pentecost morning, and they are these: 1) The Helper, the Holy Spirit, will go alongside us. 2) The Helper, the Holy Spirit, will glorify Jesus. And 3) the Helper, the Holy Spirit, will guide us into all the truth. Go alongside us, glorify Jesus, guide us into all the truth.
So first, then, the Holy Spirit will go alongside us. In the Holy Gospel reading, from John chapters 15 and 16, Jesus tells his disciples that he is going to send them the Holy Spirit very soon. And really, this is part of a longer discourse, extending from chapter 14 through chapter 16, the so-called Upper Room Discourse, where Jesus tells the disciples that he is going away, that he is about to return to the Father. This causes the disciples some distress, hearing that their Master is about to leave them. But Jesus reassures them that this is actually for their good, his going away, and that he will not leave them comfortless. And a big part of that reassurance and comfort is that he will send them the Holy Spirit, who will be with them and go alongside them.
This begins back in chapter 14, where Jesus tells them: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth.” And this is the first place where we find the term “Paraclete” to refer to the Holy Spirit. It’s translated here as “Helper,” but it could also be translated as “Comforter,” “Counselor,” or “Advocate.” And this word “paraclete” in the Greek means “someone who is called alongside of you.” The idea is like you call over to someone and say, “Hey, could you come over here and give me a little help?” And then that person comes alongside you and goes with you to be your helper. That is what a “paraclete” was in the ancient world. And this is what Jesus says the Holy Spirit will be for the disciples–and, by extension, for us. He will be our Paraclete, our Helper.
And notice, when Jesus says he is going away, going to the Father, he says that he will send them “another Helper.” Did you catch that? “Another” Helper. Well, if the Holy Spirit is going to be “another” Helper, another Paraclete, then who was the first one? Why, it was Jesus himself. He had been a Paraclete, a Helper walking alongside the disciples, for the past few years. And think of it: Jesus had been that for them, going with them, helping them, teaching them, guiding them, all of that–that is what Jesus had meant to the disciples during their time together. So now when Jesus says that he is going away, but that he will send them “another” Paraclete, another Helper–Jesus is saying that that is how the Holy Spirit will help them, in other words, like Jesus did.
So it was for the disciples. And so it is and will be for us also. The Holy Spirit is with us. The Holy Spirit will go with us, throughout our lives, to keep us in the Christian faith, to guard and guide us, to sanctify us and help us grow as Christians. The Holy Spirit, whom Christ poured out on the church on the Day of Pentecost–the Holy Spirit was given to each one of us on the day of our baptism. That was our own personal Pentecost, when we received the gift of the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit will go with you, as your Paraclete, your Helper, the rest of the way on your Christian journey. Thanks be to God!
The Holy Spirit will go with us. Secondly, the Holy Spirit will glorify Jesus. Jesus said that in our text, didn’t he? He said, “He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” Or again, “He will bear witness about me.” See, that’s the Holy Spirit’s job, if you will, to shine the light on Jesus, to glorify Christ. You know, sometimes we might wonder why the Bible doesn’t say too much about the Holy Spirit, certainly not nearly as much as we read about Jesus. But you know what? That’s just fine with the Holy Spirit. He wants Jesus to get that kind of attention. The Holy Spirit wants people to look upon Jesus and be saved.
I’ve heard this comparison made: It’s like your car is out somewhere in a big parking lot at the shopping mall. But it’s night, it’s dark out, and you don’t know where to find it. So somebody comes alongside you, with a flashlight, and leads you to your car, shining the light on it, not on himself. So you see the car, but you don’t notice the person holding the flashlight, even though you couldn’t have found the car without the person holding the flashlight.
That’s kind of how it is with the Holy Spirit. We don’t notice him much, but all the while he’s pointing the flashlight at Jesus, so we can see our Savior clearly and find him, so to speak. It’s like we say in the Catechism: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the gospel,” and so on. In other words, the Holy Spirit will glorify Jesus, point us to him, lead us to him, and cause us to trust in Christ our Savior. That’s what the Helper, the Paraclete, does.
Which is so wonderful, isn’t it! How we need Christ our Savior! How we need to know Christ and believe in him and trust in him! For without faith in Christ we would be lost. Christ Jesus, the Son of God, came down from heaven for us men and for our salvation. And he won that salvation by dying on the cross for us, the righteous for the unrighteous, so that we would be forgiven of our sins. Christ has purchased our redemption, our freedom from condemnation and death and damnation, and won for us our justification and life and eternal salvation, as evidenced by his own resurrection and ascension into heaven.
But all of these things that Christ has won for us would be of no benefit to us if we did not know of Christ and come to faith in him. And that’s where the Holy Spirit comes in. The Holy Spirit works though the means of grace, the preaching and teaching of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments, in order to bring us to faith in Christ and to keep us strong in that faith till the day we die.
Which leads us to our third point: The Holy Spirit will guide us into all the truth. Again, that’s what Jesus told the disciples: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”
The Spirit of truth will guide you into all the truth. You know, we live in a world today where nobody seems to be sure that there is such a thing as truth. Truth, we’re told, is whatever happens to be true for you. That’s your truth, and that’s just fine. Truth becomes relative. But that is all so subjective and shaky and uncertain. The actual truth is, there is such a thing as objective truth. Absolute truth. Truth is whatever God says in his Word is truth. That’s what we can be sure of. That’s what is certain and firm and we can build our lives on, namely, God’s Holy Word.
So if you want to know how things really stand between God and man; if you want to know what is right and wrong in this world from God’s perspective, which is the only one that counts; if you want to know the things that are to come, where this world is headed–then the one place to find that out is in God’s Word. And the Helper, the Holy Spirit, will guide you into that truth. He will open the Scriptures for you. As you grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, as you continue to come to church and Bible class and grow in your understanding of God’s Word, it will be the Holy Spirit, the Helper, who will be guiding you into all the truth.
So today, dear friends, on this great festival day, the Day of Pentecost, we celebrate and rejoice in the fact that Christ has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit. He is our Helper, the Spirit is. And today we’ve looked at how he helps us in these three ways: The Holy Spirit will go alongside us. He will glorify Jesus. And he will guide us into all the truth. And to this we say: “To You, O Paraclete, we raise / Unending songs of thanks and praise.”