The Advocate of Comfort and Reassurance
(Heard, Seen and Handled 4)
In a Nutshell
John speaks out of his personal experience of Jesus Christ to tell his readers of his advocate's personal comfort.
* * * * *
How did John come to know this so personally?
My dear children, I write to you like this so that you may not offend, but [to let you know that] if anyone does offend, we have a personal advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and he is the atoning sacrifice for our offences, and not for ours only but also for the offences of the whole world. 3 And since this is so we may be sure that we know him, as we obey his commandments. 4 Whoever says, "I have come to know him," but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person there is no truth; 5 but whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. And so, by this we may be sure that we are in him: 6 whoever says, "I abide in him," ought to walk just as he walked.
This is not to be read as a recitation of theological propositions as if their purpose is for us to read them and then give our assent by "signing on the dotted line", in order to logically derive the conclusion of the matter. John, we recall, went through the arrest, trial and crucifixion of his "personal advocate". He writes out of the comfort that this same person - Jesus, the Messiah, God's Righteous One - has conferred upon him. He goes with us, He comforts us, He intercedes with the Father for us, He walks with us. He stands by our side pleading our cause with His Father. That is His task. That is His task for us. And what is our task in response as we walk in His way? We keep His commandments, the precepts by which he lived and by which He walked. This is a description, by one of Jesus' first disciples, of how he had been put back, well and truly, on that path when "his foot had almost slipped". Indeed, says John, God in Christ Jesus reveals Himself as thoroughly on the side of the upright (Psalm 73:2, 1).
We have already said that this should be read in the context of what John tells us about his involvement, albeit on the sidelines, when Jesus was being interrogated after His arrest. He had said:
"I have spoken openly to all the world. I have taught at all times in synagogue and in the temple, where all the Jews congregate. Not a word have I spoken in secret. Why are you questioning me? Ask those who heard me what I have told them; they know what I have said." (18:19-25)
John was not speaking up at this point. To do so would have been to put His own life in danger. So what does this say about his response at that point to Jesus' word:
"If any person desires to walk in my steps, he or she must set themselves at nought, take up the burden of my cross, following me. In fact, anyone who desires to save their own life will suffer the loss of it, while if there be someone losing his or her life, and that for my sake, they will save it. Indeed what advantage will a person reap if, by gaining the whole world, he or she suffers the loss of their true life. Or what is there that a person can offer in exchange for his or her own life?" [Matthew 16:24-26 adapted from Cassirer God's New Covenant 1989 rendition].
In his Gospel and Letters John writes as one who "comes clean" and sets the record straight. This "disciple whom Jesus loved" had been reassured by his advocate before the Father that He was indeed His friend (John 21), just as He had told his disciples (15:13-16). But let's also recall that what Jesus had said to His disciples, about His impending death, and their need to share in it, was shocking in the extreme. Was that the way God's Kingdom was going to come in their lives? Surely not. But then after Jesus had died He had been raised. If anything was more shocking than the terms by which Jesus had invited them to "Follow me!" that was it. And so, as a disciple of Jesus, John was gobsmacked into the awareness of just how feeble his own faith was and was taken on a steep learning curve that indeed "God is greater than our hearts when they condemn us" (1 John 3:19-20).
John may have been incapable of stepping forward to be this One's advocate [PARAKLETON 2:1], but here he confesses that this One is actually his Advocate, with the Father in heaven, and furthermore, not his alone.