I enjoy watching American Crime drama – shows like Law and Order, Bones, Major Crimes and others. And one of the things that I’m always intrigued with is what they call the Miranda Rights and if they are not said at the alleged criminals arrest then any evidence or testimony gathered from them is inadmissible in court even if they confess outright. In 1966, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the historic case of Miranda v. Arizona, declaring that whenever a person is taken into police custody, before being questioned he or she must be told of the Fifth Amendment right not to make any self-incriminating statements. As a result of Miranda, anyone in police custody must be told four things before being questioned:
- You have the right to remain silent.
- Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
- You have the right to an attorney.
- If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.
As I read our bible readings it seems that they are saying something quite similar. Jesus speaks about the Holy Spirit coming and refers to him as our Advocate. An Advocate, like an attorney, speaks and acts on our behalf .He does so because he is well versed and experienced in the coming proceedings. Last week Jesus said to his disciples – don’t go anywhere until I have sent you the Holy Spirit – the power from on high. And today we find out why – because the Holy Spirit is the one who testifies to the truth: ”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 Holy Spirit is the one who knows what to say – just like an attorney who protects his client so they don’t say the wrong thing and get themselves in trouble. Jesus says: When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” Sometimes we don’t know what to say into a situation which is where the Holy Spirit comes in as your Advocate. Maybe you don’t know your bible all that well. Maybe you don’t know how to look things up quickly. Or maybe you don’t know what the bible says about a certain situation.
How many times have we said the wrong thing or made things worse by what we have said. Do you know the story of Job’s friends? Job was a person in the Old Testament who underwent great suffering and was trying to work out what he had done wrong to deserve his suffering. His friends came along and for 7 days said nothing. As soon as they began to speak and tried to work out what God was doing it all went wrong. They should have taken the right to remain silent. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; sometimes we don’t know what to say and perhaps just being with the person, praying for them, letting them know you’re with them without trying to explain is all that is needed.
It can be hard, and God knows that – that’s why he has sent us his Holy Spirit to be our Advocate: And that’s what Paul highlights also about the Holy Spirit: He says: the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. An advocate plays an important role is defending the rights of the vulnerable. The advocate knows the right words to say. The advocate knows the rights of the one they are representing. And that is the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian. To be there beside the person. To defend and support them in their time of need.
The devil plays a different advocate role – and we often hear people say – I’m going to play the devil’s advocate. The devil’s advocate tries to undo good work – brings up doubt – brings up questions – in much the same way that the serpent did in the Garden of Eden as the Devil’s Advocate when he raised doubts with Adam and Eve – “did God really say you can’t eat the fruit”? Surely you won’t die; so God sends us the Spirit of truth as our advocate to correct the accusations of the Devil’s advocate – and he highlights 3 areas: sin and righteousness and judgment. Sin: The Holy Spirit, God’s Advocate, deals with sin differently to the Devil’s Advocate. Satan uses our sin to cast doubt in our relationship with God. He convinces us that God couldn’t possibly love us. Or he convinces us that sin really isn’t that bad.
The Holy Spirit uses our sin in what we call Law and Gospel. The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin but then he directs us to God’s love and mercy so we can hear God’s forgiveness and experience his peace. When it comes to righteousness, the Holy Spirit, God’s Advocate, again deals with us differently to the Devil’s Advocate. Cleverly the Devil uses our righteousness rather than Jesus. When we feel discouraged – guilty – ashamed – the devil guides us to make things right and then come to God. The problem is that it is an unpayable debt that we owe. We never feel that we’ve done enough. We never feel as if the debt we owe to God is finally paid off and we end up in more and more despair. The Holy Spirit, God’s advocate, guides us directly to Christ’s righteousness as St Paul says: God made him who had no sin to be sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God. When it comes to Judgment, again the Devil’s Advocate plays a different role to the Holy Spirit, God’s advocate. The Devil’s Advocate uses Christ’s delay to make us complacent about our Judgment. We’ve always got tomorrow to change our ways: live life now and don’t worry about tomorrow; but tell that to the rich man who built bigger barns to store his wealth and told himself to eat, drink and be merry but that very night his life was called upon. Or tell that to the Rich man who ignored the needs of poor Lazarus begging outside his door and then when his life was called upon his own pleas for relief were ignored. Even his change of heart to warn his family of the coming judgment so they could avoid his agony were ignored. The two rich men never thought of a coming judgment and neither do people today. They simply lived for themselves.
The Holy Spirit doesn’t deny the coming judgment as does the Devil’s Advocate, but the Holy Spirit is our Advocate at the Judgment point constantly to Christ’s sacrifice for our sin. He has appointed for us the ultimate defence attorney in Jesus Christ our Lord. When the devil’s advocate accuses us of our sin, the Holy Spirit, God’s Advocate cries out “objection my Lord” and points the judge to Christ’s blood that has already paid for our sin. He points to Christ’s righteousness that has been granted to us as asylum so we are spared the judgment we deserve. This is the work of the Holy Spirit – our Advocate, our Comforter. I don’t care if I never speak a word of tongues or experience miraculous healing as is often associated with the gifts of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. But knowing that he is my Advocate, standing beside me on Judgement Day, and until then interceding for me and ensuring God’s forgiveness of sins is more than I could ever ask. And when the sun turns to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day, I will only be concerned for the work of the Holy Spirit that assures me that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ ”