JOHN 14:17-21
Paradoxes. Huh?!!?
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

John 14:17 (Holman) AHe is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive Him because it doesn=t see Him or know Him. But you do know Him, because He remains with you and will be in you.@

The Holy Spirit, Jesus’ greatest gift to our world, is the most active and most powerful Worker in human history, yet most people ignore Him. The Holy Spirit is known and owned only by Christ-followers.

Unbelievers miss His benefits. Chained to their physical senses, they are confined to Earth, relating only to what they see, hear, and feel. They have never spread their spiritual wings to soar to the Father.

A major reason people neglect the Holy Spirit is they consider His initial work in them a nuisance. The Spirit’s initial activity in us is to try to convince us we are sinners, to urge us to repent by making us sense our load of guilt.

We don’t like this painful probing. It’s unpleasant, but essential. The Spirit’s discomforting preliminary work has to precede conversion. It is impossible for people to be found until they admit they are lost, to be saved until they realize their own sinfulness, to be born again till they recognize their spiritual death.

We know the Spirit’s convicting finger has successfully reached deep into our soul if the weight of our sin crushes in on us, making us desperate for a Savior. Only the Spirit’s touch can shake a heart, and make a person’s essence quiver.

This convincing us of sin is the Spirit’s first work within us, but not His only assignment. Our text calls Him “the Spirit of Truth.” He serves as our Bible writer and interpreter. He wrote the Bible, and can thus best convey its meaning to us.

The Bible can be a difficult read if we try to study it without the Holy Spirit=s help. The Holy Book comes alive, though, when the Holy Spirit touches it.

He inspires us to enjoy the Book He inspired. The Spirit of Truth can ignite in us a passion for the Bible. John Hoover, Walk Thru The Bible’s international minister, told of a translator, Valentina. After four days of helping Hoover with a conference, Valentina showed up on the fifth day looking exhausted.

Hoover, thinking something was wrong, kept asking her questions to see if she was okay. Valentina kept saying she was tired, but fine. Finally, she said, “I’ve been reading the Book.” “What book?” “The Book you gave us the first day. I finished it at 5:00 this morning” (Indeed Magazine, July 4-5, 2009, page 6).

Ouch! I wish we would all let the Holy Spirit of Truth guide us in loving, reading, and understanding the Bible. The Spirit of Truth breathed life into the Bible, and longs to breathe life out of it for us. Let Him. If we ever sense Aa glory gilds the sacred page, majestic like the sun@ (Wm. Cowper 1770), it will be obvious the Holy Spirit is interpreting for us.

John 14:18 AI will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you.”

A paradox. Jesus would simultaneously be leaving and coming. He was going to the Father, yet would be staying with the disciples in their looming trial.

The disciples would not for one second be treated like helpless, neglected orphans. Their loving Guardian would not forsake them. Jesus would be coming to them at all times, even while He was also going to the Father.

Jesus was leaving them in order to make His coming to them better than His staying with them would have been. He physically departed from the disciples for a while in order that they might enjoy Him in a better, spiritual form forever.

Jesus never forgets us. Our lot is never like the four Senegal men who were sent with a 90-day supply of food to guard the French flag on a newly acquired barren island. The Government forgot them, and the four men starved. This kind of thoughtlessness cannot happen to believers. We are always on Jesus’ mind.

Dear believers, do not equate God’s real presence with His bodily presence. They are not one and the same. Jesus’ bodily presence is away from us, in Heaven, but His real presence abides here on Earth with us. We are not orphaned.

John 14:19a “In a little while the world will see Me no longer, but you will see Me.”

A second paradox. The unseen Jesus will be the seen Jesus. The first Asee@ in our text refers to physical sight; the second Asee@ refers to spiritual perception.

The disciples saw Christ better after He was gone than they did while he was physically present. They had truer insight after the seen One became unseen. Eyes of faith are still our only hope for genuine spiritual vision.

Faith, the sight of our spirit, is far better than the sight of our eyes. We can not always touch what our eyes see. Miles may separate us from what we look at.

Faith is more reliable. It sees, and also grasps what it is directed to. Physical vision can be hampered by optical illusion, but faith in Jesus’ Word, the Bible, cannot be deceived. Its information is validated by the Spirit of Truth.

John 14:19b-20 “Because I live, you will live too. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, you are in Me, and I am in you.@

A third paradox. The Jesus who dies will be the Jesus who lives and gives life. His resurrection guarantees death will not overcome His followers. Someday we Christ-followers will pay back to Earth the dust it loaned us. I look forward to leaving my sin nature behind. I hope unsuspecting worms won’t choke on it.

John 14:21 AThe one who has My commands and keeps them is the one who loves Me. And the one who loves Me will be loved by My Father. I also will love him and will reveal Myself to him.@

Our obeying Jesus’ commands proves we love Him. His love for us empowers our obedience. God’s commands are too alien to our nature to ever be obeyed apart from the power of His love, as poured on us via Jesus and the Spirit.

Our love to the Son evokes kind responses from the Father. God the Father loves everyone, but reserves His best favors for those who love His Son. We parents can relate to this. Any who love our children do a double kindness to us.

For the disciples, spiritual success hinged on their being willing to obey Jesus, to completely yield their hearts to Him through total surrender. Few sights are more beautiful than a believer leading a life totally submitted to God.

Franz Knigstein and Albrecht Durer were best friends from boyhood. They wanted to be artists, and their poor parents worked hard to send them to art school. Albrecht’s career soared. Franz’s never took off, but he kept trying, refusing to face reality. Albrecht did not have the heart to tell Franz the bitter truth.

The two decided to work together on a painting of Jesus. When they showed their preliminary etchings to each other, Albrecht’s was stunning, Franz’s was dull. At that moment Franz relinquished his cherished dream to succeed as an artist.

Franz buried his face in his hands and wept, saying the Lord had not given him talent like Albrecht’s. He said he would have to find some other task the Lord had for him to do. As Franz wept, Albrecht quickly etched a few lines on paper.

Next day, Albrecht showed his latest drawing to Franz. It was Franz’s hands. Albrecht explained, “I drew them as you surrendered your life so bravely. Those hands may never paint a picture, but can make one. I have faith in those folded hands. They will go to people’s hearts in years to come.”


The prediction came true. One of Christianity’s favorite works of art, Praying Hands by Albrecht Durer, pictures the hands of Franz Knigstein in the moment he totally surrendered to God. It records the instant a man gave up his own cherished dream to do whatever God wanted him to do.

Is anything more beautiful than a person surrendered totally to God? For Franz Knigstein it entailed giving up a dream. It could mean the same for us.

It may mean giving up lostness to be found, giving up a pet sin to be forgiven, yielding to a life we never expected – an unwanted divorce, a lost job, loss of health, a refusal from a mission agency, a promotion that never comes.

The quality of our spiritual lives, whether we succeed or fail for God, will be determined by the attitude we show on the detours of life. Our response to life’s disappointments should be not stoic resignation, but joyous acceptance.