John 14:15-21

Better Call Paraklete

Paraklete is the Greek word that Jesus uses to describe the Holy Spirit whom he will send after his death, resurrection, and ascension. Paraklete, which has nothing to do with parakeets, is a difficult word to translate. Literally, it means something like “the one who is called to one’s side.” Sometimes it is translated as “comforter,” or “helper,” both of which get at important aspects of what the word means. But the translation our text uses, and one that reminded me of that crooked TV lawyer Saul Goodman, is “advocate.” At the time, the word paraklete had a legal connotation: a paraklete could be someone who would stand up on your behalf in court to plead your cause before a judge — what we might now think of as an attorney.

I’m struck by the image of the Holy Spirit as an advocate in the legal sense — it’s a much more forceful image of the Holy Spirit than we might glean from words like “comforter” or “helper.”