We’re going to make a toy, a thaumatrope, to illustrate how Jesus is with us now, even though the disciples thought he was leaving them.
You will need some stiff paper about twice as tall as it is wide. One third of a sheet of A4 works well. You will also need pens, scissors, a glue stick and a straw.
You can use the ready-made images here, (thaumatrope PDF) or you can make your own. Use the image to see where to draw the figures. If you are using the ready-made PDF, simply print it out and cut into thirds. Colour one picture to represent yourself and the other to represent Jesus.
Fold the paper in half with the images on the outside. Put the straw between, sticking out the bottom, then glue the two sides together, sandwiching the straw between.
To make your thaumatrope work, hold the straw between flat palms and roll it back and forth rapidly. The pictures should merge as if the figures are together
Although Jesus left this earth in his physical body, he sent the Holy Spirit to take his place so that Jesus can be with us all, always.
I have fond memories of Scooby Doo – all the inept villains who ‘would have gotten away with it’ without our meddling heroes. Today’s reading sounds like it has one of those inept villains in it, a … wait for it … ghostly avocado parakeet!
Before you think I’m being too flippant, let me redress the balance with a little New Testament Greek. ‘Parakletos’ (παράκλητος) is a peculiar word, for which no complete English equivalent exists, but it is the very heart of our reading.
Paraclete has many aspects, reflected in the various translations of the word. In the NIV it is ‘advocate’ and is a name, or rather a role, of the Holy Spirit. Hence the ghostly avocado parakeet. You with me?
But, since we’re not talking Scooby Doo villain, what exactly does paraclete mean?
If you look in your Bible you may have one of many words: advocate, comforter, counsellor, intercessor, teacher, helper, consoler. With such a range of meaning, you can see why it so hard to translate.
In the sense of ‘comforter’ it is used of Job’s friends (though they did a rubbish job of comforting). Jesus used it in this sense in Matt 5:4 when he said blessed are those who mourn, for they will be ‘paracleted’. So here there is a sense of sitting with someone in trouble and giving them a listening ear and a cup of tea.
Another aspect is that of teacher. Jesus says that the Holy Spirit ‘will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.’ For the disciples this was particularly useful when they came to write down what Jesus had said and done in the Gospels. For us it is more in bringing to mind scriptures, applying them to our hearts and minds, illuminating the written word so that we hear the living word.
Intercessor. We read in Rom 8:26-27 that the Sprit intercedes for us, praying when we do not know how. There is another sense in which the Holy Spirit prays for us, and that is in praying for our benefit rather than on our behalf. It is in this sense that we use the word advocate.
An advocate is someone who speaks for you in a court of law. Indeed the modern Hebrew word ‘praklit’ means attorney or solicitor. This is good. Someone to defend us before the judge. John uses this sense also in his later writings. ‘My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.’ (1 Jn 2:1)
This Is Jesus himself pleading our cause before the Father on our behalf, laying his righteousness over our sinful rags that we might be acceptable through him.
But hold on a minute. In our text is not Jesus talking about the Holy Spirit as being this advocate? Yes he is. So why is Jesus the advocate later? The answer is a few verses earlier. Look at verse 16, where Jesus says that he will send ‘another advocate’ (or you may have counsellor or comforter). If Jesus is referring to the Holy Spirit as another advocate, then there must be one already. There is. Himself!
Jesus was the ‘paraclete’ for the disciples in all its many meanings – teacher, comforter, intercessor, advocate – and this whole chapter is him preparing them for the time when he would no longer be with them. He starts by talking about when he will return to glory and prepare their home in heaven. But he says some seemingly paradoxical things. ‘You heard me say to you, “I am going away, and I am coming to you.” ‘ (v8) ‘I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.’ (v 18)
In what way was Jesus not leaving them? I mean, he did leave them. He left. And he’s not here now. But with the exception of an actual physical body that you can poke and eat barbequed fish with, Jesus is here – as teacher, comforter, intercessor, advocate. The Holy Spirit, the ‘another counsellor’ is the replacement for the first counsellor, Jesus. And he comes with the huge advantages of not being limited to time or place or language or culture.
It’s ‘Jesus 2 – The Return of the King’. Only this time the sequel is just as good as the original.
Imagine yourself as one of the disciples here. Hear Jesus saying to you, “I am going away and I am coming back to you. … Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. … Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
Loving Lord Father,
may I know the true peace of living in your family
Blessed Brother Jesus,
may I share the power of your resurrection
Faithful Friend Spirit,
may I walk in your presence
Day by day by day
John 14:23-29 New International Version
Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
‘All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
‘You heard me say, “I am going away and I am coming back to you.” If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.
New International Version – UK (NIVUK)
Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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