Why did Jesus portray the Holy Spirit as his advocate from the Father?
In a previous podcast on John 14, we heard Jesus introducing us to the person of the Holy Spirit. In this podcast on John 15–16, Jesus introduces us to what the Holy Spirit does. Together, John 14–16 provide a theology of the Spirit (pneumatology): the person and work of the Holy Spirit, according to the founder of our faith.
So, what does the Holy Spirit do? What is his mission as the Advocate, the Spirit of truth? This 27-minute podcast was recorded at Riverview Joondalup, 26 September 2021:
My translation (compare NIV) highlights the courtroom metaphor that permeates these chapters, as Jesus was about to be put on trial by the powers that claim to run the world:
If God isn’t visible to our physical senses, so how do we see him?
Where do you look to find God?
This podcast (34 minutes) suggests the answer is relational — in the relationships that exist between Jesus, the Father, the Holy Spirit, the people who recognize Jesus’ authority, and the world that doesn’t.
The great commission begins with all authority. Without understanding who is king and how he uses his authority, we’re likely to misuse that authority.
We’ve heard that it was said:
Go into all the world and convert everyone to Christianity.
What he said was more like this:
All authority in heaven and on earth has been entrusted to me. On that basis, everywhere you go you are to train the nations, plunging them into the leadership given by heaven for the earth: the authority of the Father, his Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Your role is training the nations to obey what their king has commanded. And I promise you I will always be backing you my servants, until the goal of the era is fully accomplished (i.e. heaven’s authority is fully restored to earth).
— paraphrase of Matthew 28:18-20.
Begin with his authority, and his commission takes meaningful shape.
Being aware of how we use language helps us understand each other. And Scripture.
No, that’s not today’s headline. But it will be familiar if you follow AFL (Australian football).
On 15 August 2021, Fremantle Dockers defeated West Coast Eagles (70-64). It was the first time Freo won in 12 derbies (clashes of the local teams). In one of the 2019 derbies, the Eagles almost quadruples the Dockers’ score after Fremantle went on a spree of kicking behinds: 2.19 (31) to 19.8 (122).
This language is so familiar to us that we don’t even consider that “kicking behinds” could have other meanings. But imagine a researcher in 2000 years trying to make sense of our history. Our news headlines have been preserved in a database, but they know nothing of AFL.
So, they read the headline, and consult their English lexicon for the meaning of the words. It tells them that an “eagle” is a large predatory bird, and a “docker” is someone who works on the docks loading and unloading ships. They wonder if “Derby” is a port. And there it is on their maps — on the northwest coast of Australia. Can you imagine the picture forming in their minds of what the headline means?
This is exactly the kind of problem we face when reading the Bible. The Bible is not some kind of encyclopaedic wiki on spiritual truth. It’s a record of God interacting with humans in various times and places, so it’s a revelation of God: his faithful character and unswerving purposes for us. But since it’s rooted in particular people struggling in particular settings, we cannot understand what it means if we misunderstand what it meant for them.
Writing to Rome, Paul spent eleven chapters explaining who Christ is in relation to us, and then five explaining who we are in relation to each other under Christ’s leadership. Short answer: Christians are the community in Christ. Our identity derives from the leader God appointed for us.
This podcast draws on the transitional chapter of Romans, in fresh translation. Recorded at Riverview Church’s Joondalup campus, 15 August 2021 (34 minutes).
What do we mean when we say Jesus is the Christ? Is it merely part of his name? Or did Peter have something more in mind when he declared Jesus to be the Christ?
This is no minor matter. It goes to the heart of the Christian faith. It needs to be discussed in our churches, since Jesus’ identity and mission defines our identity and mission. So, how do we teach on this for a Sunday congregation?
This podcast (24-minutes) is from the message delivered to Riverview Church’s Joondalup campus on 8 August 2021.
The night he was arrested, Jesus expected his friends to abandon him. He knew they would because the prophets said so.
Matthew 26:31Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’” (NIV)
Reading Zechariah 13, it’s not immediately obvious why Jesus would apply this to himself. To make sense of how Jesus understood the text, we need to read the prophets in the context of the story they were telling.
The ideal kingdom is a wise king with a responsive community. Zechariah’s hope is for Israel’s failed kingdom to be restored after being exiled and dominated by foreign powers. He anticipates what life could be like on that day (13:1, 2, 4).
King and kingdom are reconciled as God gives them a spirit of grace and supplication, and they respond by seeing how they hurt him — looking on the one they have pierced (12:10). They stabbed God’s heart by rejecting his kingship, giving themselves to other rulers and their gods. This has been Zechariah’s core message: Return to me, and I will return to you (1:3).
So, on that day when they turn back to God’s kingship, God cleanses the house of David — the kingship God sacked because they were self-serving. On that day, God cleanses the inhabitants of Jerusalem — the people who gave themselves to other rulers and their gods.
Based on the Torah, Israel was to be a nation under God’s leadership. Their sovereign gave them his laws and defined how to remain ritually pure in his presence. Sin or impurity could make them unclean, so he provided cleansing rituals (e.g. wash occurs 35 times in Leviticus). So when they turn back to God, Zechariah declares that God will open a fountain to cleanse his people, so they’re devoted to him alone:
Okay, I’ve had my first CO-VID vaccine shot. Reactions from friends ranged from:
“Why did it take you so long?” to
“Why put something like that into your body?”
I was slow off the mark because here in Western Australia we’re so socially isolated already that it made sense to let others go first (medical staff, quarantine workers, aged care staff, people in the eastern states).
To answer the second question, let me tell you a story.
How do you understand this astounding statement from the Old Testament?
They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son (Zechariah 12:10).
There’s a strong temptation to simply read this through the lens of the cross: Jesus the Father’s only Son, God pierced for us. That may be how the story plays out (compare John 19:37), but we miss the richness if we don’t ask what it meant in Zechariah’s context.
When Zechariah says, “They will look on me”
they = “the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (12:10a).
me = God, since Zechariah is speaking for God (“the word of the Lord” 12:1).
How could they pierce me?
And how can God’s people piercing him be compared to grieving for a firstborn son?
Zechariah is unfolding a very specific story: the story of God’s anointed (the Davidic king) representing heaven’s authority (the kingdom of God) in a world where people (both the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the nations) resist God’s reign.
What does it look like to live the gospel? Romans 12:9-21 translated into life.
I’ve been meditating on Romans 12 as the-gospel-in-practice.
Romans 1–11 explains what the good news is. Romans 12–16 explains what it means to inhabit the world transformed by the gospel under the Messiah as Lord.
Here’s a fresh translation of Romans 12:9-21 from that perspective. The verbs are plural (love, detest, collaborate, etc), so the message is not so much about individual piety as it is about participating in the restoration of the world as the kingdom of God in Christ (the goal of the gospel).
Our sufferings at the hands of evil are transformative for the world, as we participate in the redemption that’s taking place in Christ.
That defines our approach to justice and our response to injustice.
So, see what you think. Any suggestions for a better translation? Any important nuances I’m missing? Any further inspiration you find in this passage? (Comment below.)
We’re looking at how Jesus fulfils the hope of the Old Testament prophets. The Gospel writers say this is how Jesus understood himself and his role, but it’s often not a straight line from prophecy to fulfilment. Israel’s history wasn’t a straight line. They took many detours to reach what God intended them to be: his kingdom.
So, to make sense of how Jesus fulfils the prophets, we need to follow their journey. Without taking those steps, it may feel like the Gospel writers were cherry-picking texts to suit themselves.
Take the classic text from Zechariah 9 about the humble king riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. Matthew says, This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet. Zechariah was talking about a son of David being recognized as king as he entered the capital to end the conflict and restore God’s reign over them (9:9-10). In all the generations between Zechariah and Jesus, this had never happened. Some exiles had returned to rebuild Jerusalem, but they were still ruled by the nations. How would God restore his reign over them?
How the temple valued Jesus’ leadership is no different to how they valued God’s leadership in the past.
Zechariah 11:12–13 (NIV) 12 I told them, “If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.” So they paid me thirty pieces of silver. 13 And the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter” — the handsome price at which they valued me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter at the house of the Lord.
Thirty silver pieces? Isn’t that the price Judas got for Jesus? Is there a connection? We’ll need to see what this means in Zechariah first, to understand what Matthew 27:3-10 makes of it.
The Lord will be king over the whole earth (Zechariah 14:9). That’s the theme of Zechariah 10–14, and what an astounding promise! This is the gospel Jesus proclaimed, the good news we believe.
But some find it hard to believe there’s a God taking care of us when there is so much injustice, so much evil in the world. Zechariah 11 faces that issue. God asks the prophet to role-play what our human shepherds do: acting out of self-interest rather for the justice of the eternal Shepherd.
We explained how the shepherd metaphor was used for gods and kings in the Ancient Near East. That makes it the perfect term for addressing the inconsistency between what the Shepherd wants versus what the shepherds are doing. All the wars of history — including the suffering of God’s people at the hands of the nations — it all arises from the disconnect between the Shepherd and the shepherds.
How does Jesus fulfil the promises of Zechariah 9 about dealing with their enemies and restoring divine kingship?
The humble king, riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. Zechariah 9:9 is an outstanding prophecy, worth exploring in context.
The previous eight verses say that God was opposed to their neighbours to the north (Syrians) and south (Philistines). How does that fit with Jesus? Didn’t the previous chapter promise that the nations would come to seek the Lord? (8:20-23) As always, we need to appreciate the wider context.
Zechariah uses the same name for God 18 times in one chapter. What was he saying? How does this help us understand Christ and our life in him?
What does it mean to call God the Lord of hosts? What are the hosts under his control? Angels? People? Armies? Israelites? Foreigners? How does this relate to Christ? And what is our role in relation to the Lord of hosts?
With a chapter never quoted in the NT, we see how Jesus fulfilled what God promised through the Prophets.
The hope Jesus proclaimed was deeply rooted in the promises of the prophets. Matthew keeps telling us that Jesus fulfilled the prophets, using phrases from Zechariah far more than we do today.
Many of us struggle to make sense of how the NT writers used the prophets. Read Zechariah in context, and it may not sound like predictions. For example, the blood of the covenant in Zechariah 9:11 seems to refer back to the Sinai covenant (Exodus 24:8), yet Jesus used the phrase for his Last Supper (Matthew 26:28).
Maybe our understanding of “context” is too narrow. You probably know to check a few verses either side of a quotation, so as not to take it out of context. In a limited sense, that’s true. But for Jesus and the New Testament writers, context was much broader — their place in the story of God.
When Jesus announced the good news of the kingdom, his context was the Jewish world that had not been a kingdom since the exile. Most of them lived in other countries, scattered like sheep without a shepherd. That’s how Zechariah had described them 500 years earlier (Zechariah 10:2; 13:7 etc), and it still described their context in Jesus’ day (Matthew 9:36; 10:6; 15:24).
Jesus fulfilled the prophets not merely by doing some particular thing they predicted. That happened, but it was far more: everything God promised to restore was finally fulfilled in his Anointed. That’s the scope of what Jesus fulfilled: All the promises of God find their Yes in him (2 Corinthians 1:20).
So, let’s take a chapter the NT writers never quoted. How is Zechariah 8 fulfilled in Christ?
How important is fasting? Is it crucial for refocusing our time and energy from material things to seeking God? Or does God want us focused on goals like seeking justice for those who are missing out? This almost feels like two streams of Christianity: one focused on a personal relationship with God; the other focused on justice for the world.