John’s gospel for Pentecost, ….and the different translations of it… include many synonyms for the Holy Spirit. Paraclete, Spirit of Truth, Advocate, Comforter, Intercessor are among the most prominent.

A synonym is a “twin” for another word. In many respects the Spirit was a twin for Christ. Both proceeded from the Father. The Spirit had appeared at Jesus' baptism at the beginning of his public ministry and Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit a number of times, in ways that indicated the closeness they shared with the Father and with one another. Note Jesus’ reference to another Advocate, like himself. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, … You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. (John 14:15-17) It seems that Jesus spoke of himself as one Advocate… whatever you ask the Father in my name he will grant you (John 15:16)… and the Holy Spirit as another Advocate.Jesus had also promised his disciples that, the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. (John 14:26) 

Reminding them of everything he had said” would be necessary because there was a lot for his disciples to take in as he spoke to them at the Last Supper when this statement occurred. As personal as the relationship seemed, the Spirit remained unseen.   


As the gospel for Pentecost opens, Jesus told his disciples, “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. The Advocate will represent Jesus and speak for him. Moreover, when the Advocate comes, he will know what Jesus had taught. His knowledge of Jesus will be true and complete. In a real sense, the Spirit was present throughout Jesus’ life.

The gospel continues, You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning…I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them. A rough paraphrase of these two sentences might be, “When the hour comes for you to be prosecuted for teaching about me and all that you heard and seen from the beginning of my works, you are to witness to the truth that I have taught you.” Jesus would, himself, say virtually the same thing, later in this gospel, When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.


…now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you..Years ago, I tried a metaphor for the youth, for this passage that went something like this. 

The neighbourhood hockey team had not been very successful until a new coach appeared one year. He worked with each player, identifying his potential and developing it. He also spotted weaknesses, too, such as skating or shooting, and helped the kids to correct them. He taught the kids position play for different situations. He had them play as a team not individuals. Practices were fun. Soon they were winning games then a championship. In the end, more kids wanted to join the team.

The players liked the coach and talked to him about school, family, friends and difficulties, not just hockey. He encouraged them in their academics and relationships. They trusted him. 

One day, after practice he told them that he was going to be moving to take a new job and he wouldn’t be their coach anymore. They recognized that he was a big reason for their success and their immediate reaction was to feel abandoned.

Then he told them that his twin brother had agreed to come and coach. They had never seen this twin. But the coach said that his father had coached both of them while growing up and that he had taught them the skills that he and his twin had learned from their father.

His twin would be different but remind them of all the things they had already learned and would take them to the next level.The players were uncertain, but they trusted the word of their coach. They were reassured by the shared experiences of their coach and his twin.


Jesus continued, He (the Holy Spirit) will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears … The Spirit will remind the disciples of Jesus’ words and actions. Christ will be the reference point. But the Spirit will fully share the intent and moreover, the Spirit will build on the instructions of Jesus. The next sentence, When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth… and he will declare to you the things that are to come, is a cornerstone of the church.

We understand these words as legitimizing the ongoing job of interpreting the good news of Jesus into future contexts and that this work will be Spirit-led. Interpreting and harmonizing scripture and science, redefining our sense of duty toward the planet, defining the rights and duties of the state in areas such as privacy were concepts yet to be determined. And how will the Spirit guide us if/when we discover life elsewhere in the Cosmos? Christ’s teaching was not set in cement. The Spirit would have to lead the church into the future to grapple with new challenges. (One of my favourite quotes from "A Man for All Seasons" captures this sense, “God made the angels to show him splendor-as he made animals for innocence and plants for their simplicity. But Man he made to serve him wittily in the tangle of his mind!”)

Jesus added,…for he will not speak on his own but will speak whatever he hears. In a sense, this sentence seems to trivialize the Spirit by making him the message-taker. However, another way of understanding the sentence is that “he will speak the truth of what he has witnessed.” That witness will be based on the loving relationship of the Father and the Son.

The gospel concludes, All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he (the Spirit) will take what is mine and declare it to you. This is an enormous promise, but it came with some ambiguity. On the one hand Jesus said that he will share all that the Father has …and declare it to you. The phrase could mean “all wisdom, interpretation and insight,” but the gospel does not make it explicit. However, the context…he will take what is mine and declare it to you… indicates that the Spirit would base his declaration on the life, words and deeds of Jesus during his earthly mission. 


  • How do you think of the Holy Spirit? As a dove? As a tongue of fire? As a clear recollection? As a sense of inspiration and insight? As energy? Or a sense of peace? As Christ’s “twin”? Some other synonym? Take time to explore your way of considering the Spirit
  • Do you experience a tension in harmonizing your understanding of the lessons of the gospel and more recent developments in science, ethics and psychology? Are safe-injection sites good? How do we understand homosexuality or transgender persons? …. Welcome to the ongoing job of interpreting the lessons of Christ in light of the Spirit!
  •  Imagine the Holy Spirit as a version of your best self, calling you forward to the life that God intends for you. The Spirit shares your most intimate history but also represents a graced and possible future. Could that be an ongoing dialogue?