This week I want us to continue a look into the book of John by looking at some key teaching that occurred during Jesus’ last night with the disciples before His arrest and crucifixion. John shares more with us about this last night than any of the other gospel writers. He begins telling us about these critical moments and the teaching that occurred that night in chapter 13 with Jesus washing the disciple’s feet after the Passover meal. John continues sharing about this last night through chapter 14, 15, 16, 17 and leading to His arrest in chapter 18. The other three Gospel accounts all follow the example set in Matthew’s Gospel sharing several chapters of what Jesus preached in Jerusalem the days leading up to Passover after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem riding a donkey colt. This last night though is shared very briefly in these other three Gospels only telling us about the meal, Peter’s denial, going to the garden to pray and being arrested. Matthew’s account of the last night is in part of chapter 26, Mark’s in part of chapter 14, and Luke’s in part of chapter 22.
Why John takes a different approach with his written account regarding this last night is not known but thankfully he did. Due to that, we have great insight into what was on Jesus’ mind these last hours with His disciples before being arrested. The thing I want us to look at is the great emphasis which Jesus places upon “The One” whom He was sending to us after He leaves this earth. We know this One to be the Holy Spirit. Jesus knows He is about to be arrested and die but His disciples are still clueless to this. They remain unaware of much of what Jesus came to do and who He really is even after spending three years with Him. He spends these last moments sharing with them what they can expect as He leaves and whom He is sending to help them through and after His departure. More importantly, whom will help them remember all He has taught them and then to use that to change the world. John uses a particular word to describe “The One” in John 14:16, 14:26, 15:26, and 16:7. That word in the original Greek is “parakletos”. The word means to call or direct while coming along side someone. The NIV translates the word as Advocate. Other translations may use Comforter, Counselor or Helper. John uses the same Greek word in 1 John 2:1 but in that passage, John is applying the term to Jesus Himself. John in essence says we have two Advocates – Jesus is the first and the Holy Spirit is the second. This note today is the first of a seven week look at the Holy Spirit.
Today I want us to look at what I want to call our first Advocate. Next week we will look at the “other Advocate”, as Jesus describes the Holy Spirit from these passages in John. As an introductory basis for today, let’s look at the two passages below from the NIV:
John 14:16 – And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you, and be with you forever.
1 John 2:1-2 – My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2) He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
Reading these it is very clear that John spoke of Jesus as our first advocate with the Father. John in his Gospel account then explains that when Jesus says He is sending “another advocate” that He is describing the Holy Spirit.
So, what is an advocate in the first place? Why is this term used? It is likely not one you use every day unless you happen to work in a lawyer’s office. There are several things about an advocate we need to consider. Your defense attorney is sympathetically on and at your side, to be sure. But he or she is not there merely to comfort you. Indeed, your defense lawyer may have hard and challenging things to say to you, but always in order to help your case and cause. And he or she does not merely speak to you—but also speaks to the powers-that-be for you.”
What did Jesus do on the cross? You may say, “That’s easy. He died for our sins and that means we can be forgiven.” But Jesus, by calling himself our Advocate in John 14:16 in the upper room, is showing us that his death was a more radical act than that. The first thing the term implies is that there is a bar of justice somewhere—a kind of universal, divine court before which we all stand.
The second thing it implies is that Jesus Christ is not primarily an example of moral behavior (though he is), nor primarily a loving supporter (though he is that, too). Those things would be helpful, but on their own they would fall short of what we need. If that bar of justice exists—and our consciences bear witness to the fact that it does—then we need a true Advocate.
The theologian Charles Hodge once said, in court you disappear into your advocate. If you stammer but your lawyer is eloquent, what do you look like in court? Eloquent. If you are ignorant but your lawyer is brilliant, what do you look like in court? Brilliant. In some cases, you may not be required to speak or even to appear personally in court. Your attorney appears in your place, as your substitute. So, what do you look like in court? You look like whatever your advocate looks like. If your advocate wins, you win. If your advocate loses, you lose. In short, you’re lost in your advocate—you are in your advocate.
John says to us in 1 John 2:1, that if you are guilty before the bar of justice and even before your own conscience, what do you need? A good example? A supportive helper? Do you need somebody who can show you how to pick yourself up and try harder? Someone who comes alongside and says, “You can do it!” Someone who knows the law and can tell you how you’ve broken it? Yes, you need those, but they are not your “primary need”. You need not just a good lawyer but a perfect Advocate to appear for you before the Father.
I personally like this definition of Christ’s role as our Advocate which Tim Keller provides in his short study guide “The Two Advocates”. In it he states the role of Christ as our first advocate is to say before the Father, “Look at what I’ve done. And now, accept them in me.”
The passage from 1 John 2:1-2 says that Jesus, the Righteous One is the “atoning sacrifice” or the “propitiation” for our sins. In our first of these weekly notes published at Easter of 2020, we looked at the term “propitiation” or “atonement”. There we saw that Christ literally is the final sacrifice that was offered to satisfy the wrath of God for our sins. Jesus stands before the Father as our advocate, our intercessor, and says to the Father, “look at what I have done and now, accept them in me”.
We may get this part about what Jesus did but what is this part about accepting them “in me”? Earlier in this note we mentioned that Charles Hodge says that we get lost in our advocate. We are in essence in our advocate. Jesus is saying accept this person, this child of Yours and my brother or sister, “in me”.
Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” That means that just as Jesus was not personally sinful but was treated as sinful and punished on the cross, now we who believe in him, while not personally righteous and perfect, are treated as righteous, beautiful, and perfect by the Father, for Jesus’ sake because we are “in Him”.
Let’s go back to some legal proceeding type example to help us with this further. Getting this is critical.
A good lawyer would rather not have to base his case off of spin or emotional manipulation. He would rather have a real case to make. Something concrete and irrefutable. And that is just what Jesus has.
What is his case? First in 1 John 2:2, the Apostle John says, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” When Jesus goes before the Father, He is not actually asking for mercy for us. Of course, it was infinitely merciful of God to send Christ to die for us, but that mercy has now been granted, so Jesus does not need to beg for it. 1 John 1:9 says that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.” Notice it does not say that if Christians confess their sins God forgives because he mercifully gives them another chance. No, it says he forgives because he is faithful and just. To not forgive us would be unjust. How could that be?
The best way for you to get an acquittal for your legal client is not to hope you can get some sympathy from the court. The best way is to show that your client must be acquitted under the law. You want to be able to say with integrity and conviction, “This is the law, and the law demands my client’s acquittal.” You want to make a case that is not based on how the court feels at the time but is open and shut according to the law. And Jesus has one! Jesus Christ can say, in effect, “Father, my people have sinned, and the law demands that the wages of sin be death. But I have paid for those sins. I shed my blood as the token of my death! On the cross I have paid the penalty for these sins completely. Now if anyone were to exact two payments for the same sin, it would be unjust. And so—I am not asking for mercy for them; I’m asking for justice! Jesus knows the Father is faithful and just.
Every other philosophy and every other religion in the world essentially looks at life like the scales of justice. Remember the lady wearing the blindfold and holding the scales? In this metaphor, you’re on one side of the scale. And on the other side is the law of God. It says, “Put God first. Love everyone. Obey the Golden Rule.” And the law of God is stacked against you, dragging down the scale. You then have to spend the rest of your life desperately piling good works and merit and a disciplined life on your side of the scale to offset the weight of the law of God. In other words, the law of God is set up against you, and you had better live a good life or else it’s going to outweigh you and be your doom. The law of God is constantly pointing toward your condemnation, and you must offset it.
But guess what? If Jesus is your Advocate, the law of God is now completely for you. It’s on your side of the scale. When you receive Jesus through the faith God imparts, you are in essence saying, “Father, accept me because of what Jesus did.” As a Christian the Father sees you “in Christ.” In yourself, alone on your side of the scale, you are a sinner; but in him you are perfect, just, beautiful, righteous. You’re lost in your Advocate.”
I hope you see today what Christ, as our first advocate, has done for us. Without seeing this truth, it is doubtful you can truly see what this “other Advocate” can do for you. That will be the focus of our study for the next six weeks. If you want to study ahead for next week, please read John, chapters 13 – 17. Here, in this last night with His disciples, our first Advocate tells us what this second Advocate is coming to do for us.
Remember, when you received Christ you became a child of God, a child now born not of natural descent, nor of human decision, but born of God (John 1:12-13). You are now literally born-again and are “in Christ” and that is how the Father looks at you all the time. What a glorious place to be. No wonder Ron Corzine loves quoting 2 Corinthians 5:21 so much.