Weekly Bible Reflection
Luke: Signs of the Kingdom
Text: John 16.12-15
"Three-in-One and One-in-Three: vital truth or pointless conundrum? "
Begin by using the Bible Study method as outlined
Isn’t the idea of God as Trinity just too complicated, and better left to the theologians? Does it have significance or relevance today in your experience?
A Window on the Text
In these four verses, all that Jesus says and does in Chapters 14, 15 and 16 of John’s gospel comes to a climax. Having been with his disciples for three years, and now about to leave them, Jesus offers reassurance. They will not be abandoned; he promises that he will always be with them, as their guide and companion but in a completely new way through the Holy Spirit.
It was hard to grasp, though ‘later’, through the Holy Spirit whom Jesus would send, they would recall and understand what he had been saying to them. In these three chapters we begin to get a glimpse into the mystery of God and the inter-relationship between Jesus, Father and the Holy Spirit. We still struggle today to comprehend God’s self disclosure as three persons, in the Trinity
Jesus had been asked by Philip, “Show us the Father and then we shall be satisfied” (John 14.8ff). In exasperation, surprised that even after all that time he could be asked such a question, Jesus replies: “Anyone who has ever seen me has seen the Father.” As we look at and listen to Jesus, we see what God the Father is like: the whole point of the incarnation was to reveal God in a way that would communicate with human beings: not as remote deity, but as loving Father.
Very soon the disciples would experience their severest test, in the dramatic and shocking events of Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. Dismayed at the news that he will not remain with them, they can only wait for the promised Comforter in his place (described by St Paul variously as the Spirit of Jesus, the Spirit of Christ, ‘Christ in you’ or the Holy Spirit (Romans 8.9-11)). Jesus tells them it will be better if he does leave, because otherwise the Spirit will not come. Only by that means would he be present and accessible in every place, and for all time, unseen by the world, but known and recognised by them.
The disciples did not work out a Doctrine of the Trinity (though academics have been trying to do so ever since!) but their understanding of God grew through their experience of the Holy Spirit and of Jesus, as recorded in the New Testament.
Trinity is a way of expressing how we experience God.
Responding as a community
- How was it better for the disciples that Jesus physically left them, rather than remaining with them; and what does that mean for us today?
- How can we discover what the Holy Spirit is saying; and does the Spirit guide us as a group today? How does your group ensure that it is the Spirit who is guiding and not a dominating character in the group?
A single candle placed on a table is lit
C: The Lord is here:
All: His Spirit is with us.
Silent reflection for 5 minutes.
Read Ephesians 2.18: ‘Through Him, we have access in one Spirit to the Father.’
Through Jesus let us bring our prayer to the Father:
Prayers of intercession; tea lights may be lit for each petition
Conclusion (all say together):
The Lord’s Prayer.
‘We believe and trust in one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.’
‘Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit’ as it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be for ever.’
‘May the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be among us and remain with us always.’ ‘Amen.’
The complex relationship and nature of God are revealed in community
John Ch 14. 7-26. The Father, Jesus the Son and the Spirit are interrelated. Together they reveal the unity of the communion of Father, Son and Spirit of God .There is a unity and identity but also distinctiveness in the relationship between Jesus and the Father and the Spirit as an eternal dance between the three. The traditional ‘hierarchical’ model of God is replaced by a inter-related inter-penetration community model (perichoretic).
Leonardo Boff argues that ‘Trinity’ is the basis for personal social wholeness and freedom (integration and liberation). His understanding of God as Trinity proposes a model of ‘perichoresis’ or inter-relatedness of the Father the Son and the Spirit with an equal interpenetration of one by the other two, rejecting the pyramidal hierarchical model of God (with dominating monarchical figure of the Father at the top’). See Leonardo Boff ‘Trinity and Society’ Orbis Books, 1988.
John Ch 16.13-15. The Spirit will communicate and speak not as an autonomous source of authority and truth, but only what comes from the Father and will glorify the Son Jesus. The Father is revealed here.
John Ch 17: The Unity of the Father and the Son. This is not a ’mathematical unity’ but a union of communion, fellowship and love and the relationships within the community of disciples to be reflection of the community of God as Trinity.
- Another Counsellor, the Spirit of Truth
John 14.16. Use of the word for ‘another counsellor’. There are two words for ‘another’: ‘heteros’ meaning a different one, ie as in one human being is a man and a heteros human is a woman; and ‘allos’ meaning another of the same kind, ie one human is a man, an ‘allos’ man is also a man.
Applied to Jesus sending ‘another’ counsellor, this means another of the same kind ie ‘I have been your counsellor and guide.’ When he says, “I will send another counsellor” he means another one like me, ie of the same as the me’ you already know.
- St Paul speaks of the Holy Spirit as a ‘guarantee and foretaste’ (2 Cor 1.22) of our inheritance.