Welcome to the Upper Room Discourse.
As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, we are now standing on the precipice of Jesus’ passion — Judas’ betrayal, Jesus’ arrest, Peter’s denial, Jesus’ incarceration, His trials, His Crucifixion, climaxing of course in His glorious Resurrection.
What should have been a night primarily of celebration — of the Passover, and all of its rich meaning — quickly morphed into an evening of last-minute and desperate instruction. Jesus had to prepare His men for the tumultuous and turbulent events of the coming hours, culminating in the crucifixion, the tipping point of redemptive history, after which human history would never be the same again.
As you might suspect, Jesus in the so-called Upper Room Discourse (You’ll understand why I say “so-called” as you listen.), Jesus hit on the themes most important to Him.
There are three principle themes in the Upper Room Discourse. The first of which we will discuss now and next week. The remaining two we’ll dissect and discuss in the coming weeks.
The discussion of tonight’s theme — the Ministry of the Holy Spirit — was so immediately practical for them and for their spiritual survival; so equally vitally necessary for us and our spiritual survival.
A theme triggered by this sad-but-certain reality:
“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of world, so it hates you.” (John15:18)
Jesus called His Disciples – and us – out of the world. He chose us. Consequently, since the world hated Jesus, so it will hate us.
Now listen: I am not given to pessimism. I am, however, very much attuned to realism. What I am about to tell you in this podcast is very real, so real that this will hardly come as a shock to you. Yeah verily, in the deepest darkest recesses of your mind and heart, you know this to be true.
The Disciples had already faced a world where they knew that they were hated. They were forced to run and escape for their safety many, many times over the course of their three years together. This also explains why they all – with the exception of John – fled in fear when Jesus was arrested, beaten and crucified.
As for us living in the 21st Century United States, up until now Scriptures have graced the columns and walls of our governmental buildings. Presidents have been sworn into office with their hands unapologetically placed upon a Bible. Our pledge to our nation’s flag currently contains the phrase, “One nation, under God…” Our currency proclaims the words “In God we trust”. Churches and other houses of worship enjoy exemptions from paying taxes on their offerings or properties. During the seventh-inning-stretch at many of our nation’s baseball games (before “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”), thousands of fans sing “God Bless America” in unison. And weekly, if not daily, congregations are free to meet, worship, pray, study and fellowship together in Jesus’ name and without any fear of arrest or intimidation. Even this little podcast is considered Constitutionally protected free speech here in America. Considering all this and so much more, we Christ followers in the United States of America have had it so good!
But, the winds may be changing.
Our precious Biblical values seem to be eroding at an unprecedented pace, heralding a cultural collapse of national proportions.
In fact, I won’t be surprised if we eventually see the day when little enclaves of faith might become the new normal in regards to Christians meeting together, as larger churches may face so much persecution they are dissolved. I think those “precious days” of Acts may be coming back to the Christian Church – right here in the U.S.A.
However, Jesus gave His Disciples then, and us today, this promise:
I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. 18 No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. (John 14:16-18)
So the first theme of Jesus’ Upper Room Discourse is this: the Holy Spirit will minister to our needs. He will come alongside us and never leave us. As an advocate, He stands before God on our behalf, praying for us nonstop. As a helper, comforter, counselor, encourager, and strengthener (as He is described in many translations), He is right there alongside us at all times doing all these things for each and every one of us.
Now, keep this in mind: the very thought of an Advocate (part of the Godhead Trinity) who would NEVER leave us was mind blowing to those Disciples in the Upper Room. Another revolutionary concept was the Holy Spirit who would live in us.
Not that the Disciples were unfamiliar with the Holy Spirit. He was very active throughout the Old Testament, and they would have known this, dating all the way back to the second verse of Genesis:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. (Genesis 1:1-2)
The Holy Spirit was also involved in the lives of many of God’s heroic Old Testament servants – Moses (Numbers 11), Joshua (Numbers 27), Gideon (Judges 5), Sampson (Judges 14), Saul (1 Samuel 11), David (1 Samuel 16), Ezekiel (Ezekiel 2), and Daniel (Daniel 4), just to name a few.
But, while God’s Holy Spirit did come upon some of His choice servants, it was exceptionally rare. By no means was it the norm. It was the exception, to say the least.
And, on those rare occasions when the Holy Spirit did come upon one of God’s servants, He did so temporarily, not permanently… remember, King Saul is on that shortlist.
So, in the Upper Room, in anticipation of preparing His Disciples for a world that would despise them, Jesus made an amazing three-fold promise concerning the Holy Spirit that dramatically changed their entire theological paradigm. His entire role in human history was about to change.
Instead of just a select few of God’s servants, all of us committed Christ followers are promised the Holy Spirit as our Advocate, Helper, Comforter, Counselor, Encourager, and Strengthener. We all have the Holy Spirit, universally! All of us!!
Jesus’ second promise is in John 14:16,
I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.
The Holy Spirit will never depart! We will never have to pray like David did in Psalm 51:11,
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
In John 14:18, Jesus promised that He would not leave us like orphans. That’s both revolutionary and amazing!
And, in John 14:17, Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit lives in us forever. Previously, God resided in the Tabernacle, then in the Temple. Now, He lives IN YOU!
And, as Paul wrote in Romans 8:27-28, the Holy Spirit is actively working in us, for us, and through us for God’s glory!
The Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. 28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
Finally, in the words of John,
The Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world. (1 John 4:4)
The Holy Spirit is greater than anything that may seem to threaten us here on earth!