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By Sigrid Fowler
The word relevant has several meanings, one of which is “appropriate to the times.” A few synonyms of relevant cast more light on the meaning–pertinent, material, applicable, connected. Is Jesus connected and pertinent–even to the times we’re living in? Maybe he seems a figure of the past, the very opposite of all that. However, some of the promises he made would suggest otherwise.
First, Jesus promised peace, telling his disciples in a final encounter: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you, not as the world gives do I give you. Do not let your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14: 27 ~NKVJ and below). It isn’t necessary to live in a war zone like Ukraine to see an offer of peace as something desirable. Everyone needs it, whatever our circumstances.
Jesus’ disciples would soon be without him, and he made another promise as material with to these days as it was to theirs: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Helper, that he may abide with you forever” (John 14: 16). Who doesn’t need helpers? To say otherwise is to admit to a kind of self-sufficiency more akin to dreams of glory than a reasonable assessment of the needs everyone has.
Jesus was describing the third Person of the Trinity–God the Holy Spirit, and his promise brings to mind Isaiah’s Immanuel prophecy with its Messianic title meaning “God with Us” (Isa 7: 14b). In some translations of the Greek, Jesus’ word for the Holy Spirit is rendered “the Comforter” rather than the Helper. However we read this passage, the promise is a mighty one: God himself is to be with us, to help, to comfort, to be our Advocate, which is another way the Greek word is translated. Who doesn’t need quite a bit of all that in these uncertain times?
Jesus said something else about this Helper he promised to send. He called him “the Spirit of truth,” saying: “But when he, the Spirit of truth has come, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16: 13a). The real/fake question is one of the hottest topics swirling around us these days. We question the news, the integrity of our leadership, the policies of those whose authority impacts our lives. Certainty about the truth was never more needed. Paul wrote to the Christians of Corinth about the gifts the Holy Spirit brings (I Cor 12). Among them are gifts of knowledge and discernment. This isn’t the kind of knowledge obtained from schooling but supernatural knowledge, the kind that drops down unexpectedly and explains something puzzling. Discernment is similar–the ability to perceive the meaning of some puzzle. Again, this gift is supernatural help we need and it is available.
Finally, Jesus said this to his disciples when he told them to remain in Jerusalem after his departure: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1: 8a). Again, this is a promise we can only see as pertinent to everyday experience. We are all powerless in many ways–unlike God, one of whose names is the Almighty.The only thing left is to believe Jesus’ promises.