Someone To Take The Place of Jesus: Companion by Maxie Dunnam

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The Holy Spirit is certainly one of the most common and most important issues of faith and doctrine in the Church. We use the term and talk about the subject assuming that people know what we are talking about — when, at most, their understanding is limited and vague, and at best, they don’t have the faintest notion of what you’re talking about.

In Chapters 14, 15, and 16 of John’s Gospel, there are telling and descriptive words of Jesus about the Spirit, the nature and ministry of the Holy Spirit. It is significant that this is in the context of his announcement to his disciples that he is going to leave them. He is preparing them for his crucifixion and resurrection, and he promises that he is going to send someone to take his place.

Contemplate that for a moment. Someone to take the place of Jesus. Remember the setting. It is Jesus’ last week with his disciples. He knows the cross is coming. He knows that he must physically leave the earth, having accomplished God’s great mission of redemption through the cross and the resurrection. So, he promises his presence beyond the grave; the Holy Spirit will come to take his place.

Remember Jesus was limited to time and space. He was confined by human limitations. The coming of the Spirit, following his death and resurrection, was the fulfillment of the promise, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.” (Mt. 28:29)

In this series of articles, we will consider the different expressions of the One who is to take the place of Jesus. I urge you to read Chapters 14 and 15 as our Scriptural content and foundation.  

Different translations express the dynamic of this presence in different ways. The King James Version translates John 14:16 in this fashion: “And I will pray to the Father, and He will give you another comforter, that He may abide with you forever.”

In terms of our current use of the word comfort, that is not a good translation. We think of comfort basically in terms of sorrow and sadness. The Greek word is parakletos, and it literally means, “someone who is called to help.” So the Phillips translation is a very good one, “I shall ask the Father to give you someone else to stand by you, to be with you always.”  Isn’t that beautiful…and encouraging?  Let it settle in your mind..someone to stand by you, to be with you always.

Never in my lifetime has there been an occasion when we needed more desperately to claim this promise of someone to stand by us, to always be with us. The experience of the coronavirus was tough, complex, and challenging enough. A confounding, mysterious virus impacting the world. Then wham! the death of George Floyd, a public lynching with people looking on. Overlaying the mysterious pandemic, we had a social justice struggle more vividly felt than anything like it since the initial launching of the Civil Rights Movement sixty years ago. Following this are profound economic hurdles rising through inflation, massive migrations, and harrowing reports of war from Myanmar, Ukraine, Sudan, the Maghreb, Gaza … How long, O Lord! 

We are not a long way from the disciples when Jesus gave them his promise of companionship and comfort. They were bewildered and grief-stricken. Their minds were caught on the paralyzing thought that they were going to lose Jesus. It was hard, almost impossible, for them to even hear Jesus when He told them that he was going away physically, but that that was going to be the best for them. He was going to send someone to take his place, someone to be with them forever. 

The Holy Spirit which drove them onto the streets crying out in strange languages on Pentecost is the same Holy Spirit which still proclaims the good news of God’s presence today.

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