Unexpected Goodbyes (Trinity Sunday C)
Trinity Sunday C
John 16:12-15 (NRSV)
Jesus said to his disciples, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
The apostles are saddened by Jesus’ departure (John 16:4-7). They weren’t prepared for his goodbye. He keeps trying to comfort them by telling the disciples that they will be better off after he leaves them. An Advocate is coming who will lead them into all truth: the Holy Spirit of Truth.
This isn’t just a stodgy theology lesson. The disciples aren’t learning the Nicene Creed to recite it in church. It’s not just about going through the motions of repeating the doctrine of the Trinity.
Instead, Jesus introduces the concept of the Trinity in a time of distress. In the disciples’ sadness, Jesus begins to teach about his intimate relationship with the Father. Jesus speaks only what the Father gives him to speak. And likewise, this coming Spirit speaks what she hears from Jesus. The body of the Son of God may be gone, but the Holy Spirit who “proceeds from the Father and the Son” will come to these heartbroken disciples.
Pastor Timothy Adkins-Jones writes, “Maybe through tears of his own, and possibly to weeping disciples, Jesus offers hope to those that he loves. In a world where loss, anxiety, and fear are legion, there will be no shortage of disciples in our midst who are in need of reassurance. Our mission seems to be to offer ways that the relationship Jesus describes in this passage, between Himself, the Father, and the Spirit, brings hope to an anxious people” (Working Preacher).
The Father and the Son and the Spirit are one. This isn’t just a dogma, it’s a faith we cling to. The apostles spent years living with and traveling with and listening to Jesus. They knew him well. He was their teacher, mentor, and friend. At the end of his life, the disciples started to understand that Jesus showed them the Father. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Jesus reveals the heart of God to the world.
But if Jesus is gone, how will his followers carry on? How can they continue his work if he isn’t around. Well, the invisible Holy Spirit is also connected with the Father and the Son. The Spirit speaks for Jesus on this earth. The Spirit reveals truth to the disciples of Jesus at just the right time. Maybe now we cannot bear to hear the truths that Jesus didn’t share. But the Spirit knows us and the Spirit will announce these things to us when we need to hear them.
In this story, Jesus shows us the grace and comfort of the Trinity. When we deal with loss, when we are down to our last straw, when we can’t imagine how we’ll go on, the Holy Spirit is there with us. And it’s not just any old spirit. It’s the Spirit of Jesus, who says “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden” (Matthew 11:28-30). It’s the Spirit of the LORD God who said through Isaiah, “Comfort, comfort, ye my people … speak tenderly to Jerusalem” (Isaiah 40:1-2).
Jesus’ words about the Trinity — about the message of the Father and the presence of the Spirit — these come from his compassion. Jesus empathizes with the counfused sorrow of those 12 disciples. And we are his disciples too. So when we are full of sorrow, pain, and confusion, the Spirit of Jesus is there. When we are tossed about by the cruel changes and chances of this life, we can trust that God the Trinity is present with us. No matter how rough life gets, even if we watch the Son of God crucified for the sin of the world, God will not abandon us.
The Trinity means that relationships are at the heart of God. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit live in perfect unity and community. And through the Son and the Spirit, the Triune God extends this offer of relationship to humanity and to all of creation. And that means we have hope. We have hope that God really is love. God really does stand for everything that Jesus stood for. God cares for the weak and lowly, God forgives sins, God heals the broken. And the Spirit of this God — the Spirit of Jesus — dwells with each of us. If you trust in the goodness of Jesus then you can trust in the Spirit’s goodness to us now and you can trust in the Father’s goodness to the world in the age to come. That’s the grace and comfort of the Trinity. God in Jesus and God with us. Amen.
Adkins-Jones, Timothy L. “Commentary on John 16:12-15.” Working Preacher. Published June 2019. Accessed 15 June 2019. https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=4097.