The theme of ‘witness’ dominates John’s Gospel. Jesus comes as the witness to his Father, and invites mankind into a relationship of trust. Both his words and his actions witness to his being God’s Son.
Before leaving his disciples for the last time, Jesus gives them an Advocate, “the Spirit of truth” as his final gift to them. This Spirit will bear witness to Jesus.
The disciples are witnesses too. They have been with Jesus from the beginning and all of them have grown relationships of faith with him, even though this faith may be imperfect.
The Holy Spirit is therefore the Comforter, the One who strengthens faith whenever it is under strain or trial. And Jesus warns, there will be trials and persecutions, some of them grave, so that the faith of many will be shaken. Jesus is aware that his own departure will plunge the disciples into grief and confusion. This is why the Advocate has been sent – to challenge the world and convict it, because of its refusal to believe in Jesus. And to strengthen the faith of the disciples.
In the years to come, the faith of the disciples became so strong that they could witness to Jesus with their lives. We call these the martyrs, and pray that we too may receive the grace of witnessing – without counting the cost.