Bible Reading: John 14:15-18
If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another comforter to help you and be with you forever, the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
Yesterday we celebrated the festival of Pentecost. In the Jewish faith of the Old Testament this was their harvest festival, and was celebrated fifty days (hence ‘pente’) after Passover. For Christians it is the celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit, which happened on the Jewish feast of Pentecost, fifty days after the Passover, on the Saturday, when Jesus was crucified on the Friday.
Recently I have talked about who the Holy Spirit is. It often helps to go back to the original biblical documents, written in Greek, to get a better understanding of our faith. Sometimes this gives us a more precise understanding and sometimes it gives us a broader understanding. This is particularly true when we want to know more about the Holy Spirit. In today’s reading the Holy Spirit is referred to as ‘another comforter’. The Greek words here are ‘allos parakletos’.
The word ‘allos’ translates as ‘another’, but it literally means ‘another of the same kind’, as opposed to the Greek word ‘eteros’, which means another of a different kind. Imagine you are given a Cox’s apple. You really enjoy it and ask for another. You are asking for another of the same kind, and the word is ‘allos’. If, however, you don’t like the Cox and ask for another apple of a different kind, a Braeburn maybe, the word is ‘eteros’. The Holy Spirit is one of the same kind, the same kind as Jesus. If you want to understand the nature of the Holy Spirit, you only have to look at the nature of Jesus.
The other word, ‘parakletos’ is less easy to translate from the original Greek, but in its complexity it gives us a much broader understanding of the Holy Spirit. The word ‘Parakletos’ literally means ‘called (kletos) alongside (para). The Holy Spirit is the one who comes alongside. As such, ‘parakletos’ can be translated as ‘advocate’ or ‘intercessor’ in the legal sense of one who comesalongside to argue our case in a court of law, or as ‘counsellor’ in the sense of one who comes alongside to advise, or as ‘comforter’ in the sense of one who comes alongside to comfort or as ‘helper’ or ‘friend’ in the sense of one who comes alongside to assist us.
At Pentecost, God made his Holy Spirit available to all Christians. As Jesus said in our reading, ‘he lives with you and will be in you’.
The Holy Spirit is ‘another, like Jesus’ who comes alongside. But who do you need him to be for you today: advocate, intercessor, counsellor, comforter, helper, friend…?
Come, Holy Spirit. Amen.