Today’s Gospel passage is a part of the so-called farewell discourse of Jesus. Simply put, these are Jesus’ last words. Continued from the story we read last week, Jesus is now preparing to go through his passion and death on the cross. Jesus already washed the disciples’ feet. With his last words, he hopes to get the disciples ready for his departure. He doesn’t have much time. He makes sure they understand what they should keep on doing after he’s gone. Thereby, it feels like the farewell discourse is not just Jesus’ last words, but it’s like the will of Jesus. And no doubt, it’s important for any followers of Jesus; this part summarizes all messages and signs of Jesus. This is the gist of Jesus’ messages and signs. Then, what’s the core message that Jesus delivers to the anxious disciples and to us?
Here, I believe, Jesus gives us two simple messages. The first message can be encapsulated in one word. Love. If I may put that in a phrase, it would be like, keep the commandment of love. Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” and “they who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me” (John 14:15). And these commandments are what he just told them at the table. “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-34). He asks the disciples to keep on doing this thing that he has taught and done on the earth. Love. Nothing else.
Keep on loving. This new commandment is what builds the kingdom of God here and now. This new commandment is the best weapon to fight against evil and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in this world. This new commandment is the only path to the promised new life in Christ. So love God and love one another no matter what. Jesus once more asks the disciples to keep on loving. And he promises, “those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.” (John 14:21)
Then, what is the second message? The second message is this. Let the Holy Spirit help and guide you. As you keep on loving God and loving one another, you may find difficulties, you may be disheartened and wounded. Then, get help from the Holy Spirit whom I send on your way. This Spirit of God will be with you and dwell in your heart always. And this Spirit of truth will do the same work that I have done for you, and will continue my presence in your lives forever…Jesus assures the disciples and comforts their troubled hearts.
In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as “another Advocate.” He says, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever” (14:16). (3) The Advocate’s original Latin word is the Paraclete, which is a composition of “para (alongside) + kletos (to be called).” So, the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, means the one who is called alongside us to help us. This “another” Advocate is the helper, comforter, intercessor, and guide, just like Jesus, the first Advocate. Jesus says, “This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because [the world] neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you” (14:17). So ask for help. Ask your?? way. Seek consolation. Request guidance. The Holy Spirit will empower you to move on whenever it is hard to keep the commandment of love.
Keep on loving. This is what Jesus asks us to do in his last words. And how can we do that? First, by keeping the new commandment. And second, by getting help from the Holy Spirit. This is the will of Jesus our Lord. Of course, it’s not exactly the same as the will we know—a legal document containing instructions as to what should be done with one’s fortune after one’s death. But if I may point out one clear similarity between a secular will and Jesus’ farewell speech, that is, they are not recommendations, not proposals. They don’t give us a choice. There’s no room to consider whether we would like to keep it or not. In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus doesn’t say, “This is my suggestion.” He says, “This is my commandment.” This is something you should carry out. Although people call Jesus’ last words “the farewell discourse,” I believe, the content in that discourse is not actually a matter of discussion, not a matter of personal preference. Rather, it’s a matter of obedience. Obedience to Jesus. Obedience to the one we call, our “Lord.”
As the followers of Jesus Christ, how much do we try to keep on loving others in our lives? How much do we keep the new commandment? Have you ever tried to love the unlovable persons around you? How many times a week do you try to hear the Holy Spirit abiding in you? How many times a week do you ask the Advocate to guide you and comfort you? I believe, these questions are what we always ask to ourselves in this Eastertide and beyond.
Faithful friends in Christ, we are commanded to love. Let us keep the new commandment that Jesus Christ gives us today. And find help and guidance from the Holy Spirit when it’s hard to keep it. That’s the way we obey his will. In this turbulent world, our God discloses through Jesus Christ the love that forgives and saves sinners, the love that transforms the world with justice and peace, the love that overcome the power of death. Whenever we lose the direction, when we lose the meaning of life, I hope and pray that the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, may enkindle the light of this love in our hearts and enable us to keep on… keep on following Jesus and keep on walking on the journey of faith even through the wilderness.
 Debie Thomas, “Love and Obedience,” at Journey with Jesus.net
Pastor Earl Kim