“What is your only comfort, in life or in death?” begins the Heidelberg Catechism of 1563. It’s a very good question to ask ourselves, given the proliferation of this word throughout our culture to describe the shoes we walk in, the food we eat, the hotel rooms we sleep in and also the God in whom we believe.
“What is your only comfort, in life or in death?” that narrows things down a bit. The Catechism affirms that our only comfort is our “faithful Savior, Jesus Christ,” to whom we belong completely: “body and soul, in life or in death.” But what is the basis for this blessed assurance, this deeply-comforting claim?
In the 14th Chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus is with his closest followers on the night before his crucifixion. He knows that tomorrow he will die. His purpose now is to pour out the full measure of his love—and his life—into them. “If you love me,” he said, “keep my commandments. And I will pray to the Father, and he will give you another Comforter to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth…I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (Jn. 14:15-18). In this tightly-Trinitarian promise, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit act in unison to bring forth a divinely-appointed outcome in the hearts of believers: we were meant to find comfort together; we will never be orphaned alone.
The word translated as “Comforter” from this passage can also be translated as “Counselor,” “Advocate,” “Helper,” and “Friend.” All these words describe the Paraclete, the One who is “called alongside” us in living and dying. The Paraclete is the Holy Spirit, and where the Spirit is, Christ is present also. “I will not leave you orphaned,” he says to those he loves so deeply and so well. “I am coming to you!”
In a world of broken promises, lost relationships and the fear of being alone, Jesus’ words to his followers bring surpassing comfort and peace. “I will never leave you!” “I am running to your side!” “I’m giving my peace to you!” “Don’t let your hearts stay anxious or afraid!”
Come and worship this Sunday and learn about the heart of God. “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you…” God has made us and claimed us as a family where we belong to Christ and to each other. In living and dying. In body and soul. Can there truly be any greater comfort than this?