6th Sunday of Easter: John 14:23-29
Jesus has, on several occasions, been preparing the disciples for his departure; he has not kept them in the dark about this fact (verse 28). But knowing he will be leaving them soon and understanding what that meant for them personally were probably two different things.
Into this reality of impending absence comes the Spirit, the Advocate, sent by God in Jesus’ name to be present with the followers of Jesus (verse 26). This is the first time we read about this presence as the Holy Spirit. The Advocate is a presence the disciples will need in order to love as they are called to love. It will, as Jesus promises, be as if he is still with them. Additionally, the Spirit will serve as their teacher in Jesus’ absence (verse 26). Jesus as teacher has been a profound presence in the Gospel message and continuing this teaching — his teaching — will be the Advocate’s role.
Having a teacher who makes a difference in your life is an important thing. Countless stories have been told of teachers making an impact on a young person’s life in ways that turned them around or helped them fulfill their potential in profound ways. Mine was my mom who spent hours with me trying to overcome some serious learning issues I was having in school as a child. She was my champion and my teacher. She made the path I am on today possible. And I never felt alone on that journey. She was with me through it all.
Now, clearly she is not on the level of Jesus as teacher and mentor, but all of us need someone present “in our corner” to embody the Teacher who leads us to be our fullest selves. Jesus did that for the disciples. He taught them in ways that lead them to leave their previous lives to follow him in ministry and to change the world in so many ways.
Jesus does more than gently wish them peaceful lives — he gives them peace (verse 27). This is not a wish. This is a gift. It is a gift of profound importance at this moment in the journey of Jesus and the disciples. He must have known the turmoil they would face when he was gone and he does all he can to prepare them for the next part of the journey. Peace is an important element of John’s gospel (along with love that has been examined in the previous weeks’ lectionary readings). And like love, peace is a mark of true discipleship that is required of the disciples — then and now.
Into this moment we are called to preach a word about peace and presence. After this discourse, Jesus intended for the disciples to feel his peace and presence always — through the Spirit, in the continued teaching to come, and in the connectedness of the community of believers.