This Sunday before Pentecost is a Sunday that looks forward, towards the coming Pentecost. The texts talk about something to come: about the Holy Spirit, the helper, who will come to people and stay with them when Jesus himself is not there.
Perhaps that was a small consolation for the disciples – they would certainly have preferred to keep Jesus. But Jesus was clear: He himself had to leave them, but they would not be left alone. They would receive something in his place, a new and ever-present power, a Holy Spirit, who, like himself, was a part of God. What this Holy Spirit would do was as clear as today’s Gospel text is short. John the Evangelist writes:
Jesus said: “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, then he will testify about me. But you too shall bear witness, for you have been with me from the beginning.”
It is a message almost in telegram form, as if the message cost per letter. Short and precise. Simply. “When the Advocate comes, he will testify about me.” Bang, boom.
We know that. We who sit here with results in hand two thousand years later. For us it is self-evident that God is Father, Son and Spirit – we know what enormous help the Spirit can give us in our daily lives. For us, the Spirit is a natural part of the Christian faith. It happened as Jesus said: The Comforter, the Holy Spirit, came. Today the Spirit testifies of God, so for all is well.
The second sentence is all the more challenging. “You too shall bear witness to me,” says Jesus. The first thing we can notice is that Jesus does not ask nicely about it. He does not ask the disciples if they would be so kind as to do him a favour. No, he states. “You MUST testify.” It’s not like it’s a matter of discussion – it just is of course.
And those “you” that Jesus is talking about, who are they then? Then, it was the twelve disciples he addressed. But the discovery was not time-limited, so it still applies today. Today we are the disciples, no matter how inadequate we feel. That’s you and I and all the other 2.4 billion Christians around the world. Today, we are the ones who have received the baton from previous generations, we are the ones who will bear witness to Jesus – it is part of being a Christian and it is not a difficult task or a burdensome requirement: the one who has experienced how communion with Jesus fundamentally changes one’s life, wants others to experience the same wonderful feeling.
So when Jesus says that “you must also bear witness”, he is speaking directly to you and me. Behind the words also lies another message: we cannot sit back and wait for God to fix everything. No, if we want to create a better future, we must enter into a partnership with God. God does what only God can, but we must at the same time do what is our responsibility.
Therefore, it is us who must tell about the things Jesus has done – both in history and in our own lives. We are the ones who need to be clear about what Jesus teaches, we are the ones who need to show the world that it is not over: we do not need to be afraid, we do not need to feel hopeless and we do not need to accept destructive and anti-human ideologies which have their roots in Evil.
Seen from that perspective, Jesus gives you and me an important mission: Everything rests in God’s hands, but for the Christian message to reach out, both the Spirit’s witness and ours are needed.
So what Jesus is saying is that we are needed, you and I, no matter how weak and flawed we are as individuals, we are needed. It is precisely our testimonies and our stories that are needed, so that our fellow human beings can hear about Jesus, create a relationship with him and thus find the path that leads straight and home.
Remember that Jesus does not ask if we want, he only says that we must. So let’s take that mission seriously. The helper is coming, next weekend is Pentecost. But already today, Jesus commissions us to tell about him to everyone who will listen.
God bless you!