23Jesus answered and said to him, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.24Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me.
25“I have told you this while I am with you.26The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you.27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.28 You heard me tell you, ‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I.29And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe.
Acts 15:1-2, 22-29, Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23
The Gospel passage opens in the middle of a chapter dedicated to the promise of the Holy Spirit. This Advocate or Paraclete will be given to the disciples after the resurrection event. Before our Gospel opens we note that Judas has been identified as a traitor and has been dismissed by Jesus to carry out his plan. The Passover meal will come to an unexpected end when Jesus tells his disciples that they will be leaving the Upper Room in haste and before the formal Passover meal concludes with its final cup of wine called “the cup of acceptance.” They have to vacate the Upper Room in anticipation of Judas returning with a guard to arrest Jesus.
Jesus reminds his disciples that if they love him they will keep his commandments. Love is understood to be a pragmatic expression of “attachment.” If you love someone you remain attached and loyal to that individual. Jesus knows the disciples love him and he promises them that he will ask the Father to send them another “advocate” to be with them always (see John 14:16ff). Jesus calls this Advocate the “spirit of truth” that the world cannot accept. Jesus reminds them that this “Advocate” has been with them while he has been their Rabbi and that this new “Spirit” will be “in” them soon (John 14:16). Jesus says he will not leave them orphans. He will come back to them in a new form, as the new Spirit that he promises will guide and direct their teaching and remind them of all that he has taught them over the three years of his public ministry.
Soon Jesus will not be physically present. He will come to them through the promised Spirit. The word advocate is defined as “one who stands by the side of the defendant.” The advocate is a court official who would plead the case of the defendant before a tribunal or judge. He would provide the evidence needed to gain freedom for the client based on his expert skills in the courts of the day. The Holy Spirit promised to the disciples will function in a similar manner. The Advocate is the truth-telling agent of God who will inspire and direct the lives of the believer. The Advocate sent from the Father will teach them everything and remind the disciples of all that they had been told. Their training as disciples will be completed when they experience this indwelling of the Holy Spirit on the evening after the resurrection and even more fully on the Feast of Pentecost.
Before they leave the Upper Room, Jesus promises the disciples his peace, his Shalom from God that will come upon them when the Advocate is welcomed in their lives. Jesus counsels them not to worry, not to be troubled or afraid. They will each receive this Spirit when the events of the passion are complete. Jesus expects the disciples to rejoice in the fact that he is going leave them to rejoin his Father. His departure allows the Father the opportunity to send them the Holy Spirit in return. The Advocate is on the way.
It is time to leave the Upper Room and make their way through the city and across the temple mount. They will exit the city and find their way into the olive grove called Gethsemane. Judas is also on the move and Jesus needs to get ahead of the guard that he has hastily assembled. That is why the chapter ends with the words of Jesus, “Get up, let us go.” Jesus will have a great deal to teach them along the way.
“Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.”
What are we to make of these words that Jesus spoke to his disciples on the night that they shared the Passover meal in the Upper Room? Love is an action word that demands a decision followed by activity. That decision to act and follow through in the normal course of our lives reveals the depth of our commitment to the Lord. If the disciples truly love Jesus they will keep his word by living according to his teaching.
We dedicate our lives to live according to his teachings by the actions that demonstrate our faith. Jesus and the Father take up their dwelling within us. We become the new temple of God in the world. The Jerusalem temple was the house of God, but it was destined for destruction. The new temple of God is in the hearts and mind of each believer. The evidence of God alive and active in the world is the lives of Christian men and women who live out of God’s life and follow his teachings. This is how we can share a peace in the world that the world cannot give.
“Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle within them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be re-created. And you shall renew the face of the earth.”
Jesus promises to leave us the gift of peace, his “shalom,” a term that conveys the sense of wholeness when God is ever present and in charge of the concerns of men and women of faith. The world cannot provide anyone this profound “shalom” of God. The world can at best offer only prolonged periods of relative calm, not this peace promised by Jesus; a true and active peace that “surpasses all understanding.”
Julian of Norwich was a saint and Christian mystic. One of her most memorable sayings is, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” The saint’s saying captures the meaning behind the kind of peace Jesus promises us in the Gospel. Take this to heart as you prepare for worship. The peace we know as Christians is a gift from God. When we experience that unique “shalom” from heaven we gain the spiritual confidence that in the end all will be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.