Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter (parakletos) will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. (John 16:7 KJV)
I shed secret tears when I say goodbye to close friends. It’s hard. We mourn the loss of each others company. We worry that we may not meet for a long time. However, Jesus said His departure would benefit His followers. My friends and I never say that as we hug and wave! So what did Jesus mean? How was the departure of this wonderful teacher and miracle worker an advantage? Clearly, Jesus knew that the presence of the Comforter would be somehow better than His own.
Comforters are pleasant. When I think of comforters, I think of people that I can relax with and be real with in every way—the weak things and the strong. They listen. They do not quench my gifts and passions, nor control me. They free me and accept me. My comforters do not grate against me or grieve me because of different values or style, and I can relate to them in the same way. They join in my interests and probably share many common interests.
If that sounds like a good mother on steroids—a super-mum—there’s a reason. Some Bible translations clarify that Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit. In a sense, good mothers do reflect God’s comfort. However, some comfort can be too protective. It can indulge and immobilize, stroke and smooth us. We need something more; something that strengthens and rallies us to health and mature action. In a way it’s the masculine side of comfort.
English translations struggle to capture the meaning of the Greek word parakletos. It means, “One called alongside to help”. The King James Version uses “Comforter”. Some versions call Him the Helper, others the Advocate, or the Counselor. He comes as the Spirit of the risen Jesus, our ever-present companion (John 14:16). But He also comes to remind us of Jesus’ teaching, and to convict of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 14:26; 16:8-13). We work alongside Him, witnessing about Jesus (John 15:26).
The Holy Spirit gives gentle encouraging comfort, but He speaks truth we can act on. When we make the tough, but right, choices, He reinforces us. With Him we become more like Jesus in character and action. Jesus’ departure was an advantage because the Parakletos is within us forever, but also because He covers the world and spans history through the people of God.