Easter 5 – John 16:5-15 – May 6th, 2012
Christ is Risen, He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia +
So often human beings want to tell God what to do, how God should go about Him business. Ever since the fall we have wanted to be in charge, to be the ones in control. And one of those thoughts, those sinful based ideas that pops in my head often enough is this one – why can’t Jesus be running around today like He was back then. Oh, that would be great, and man, if He wouldn’t make all those mockers be silent. Because, of course, Jesus was never mocked or hated during His earthly ministry… yeah. My ideas aren’t always the greatest. But this is a common one, I think. So often we think how neat it would be to have Jesus be hanging out here, but Jesus tells us better this morning, tells us not to be jealous, not to even think for a moment that things would have been better if He had just stayed here on Earth after His resurrection. “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth; it is to your advantage that I go away.” Jesus here is speaking of His ascension, speaking of what He is doing now, interceding for us before the Father. This is for our benefit – and there are other texts that deal specifically with what Jesus is doing – you know, in My Father’s house there are many mansions – verses like that. But today, Jesus tells us that it is for our immediate, direct advantage, here and now, that He ascend. And why? “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth; it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.” Jesus gives us something good, He gives us the Helper, the Holy Spirit, and this is our great benefit now.
See, it’s not just the world, the mean people out there that disdained Jesus in His ministry. Think if you will, for just a few moments, on the disciples in Scripture. How often do they just not understand? How often do Jesus’ words slide by them? How often do they run off in the wrong direction? We can forget that fact on occasion, and we can romanticize the idea of being there with Jesus like the disciples were. We can forget that we would have been just as clueless as they were, that we would have probably made the same mistakes they did, and probably made more. Jesus’ teachings don’t make sense to our human mind. Love your neighbor – bah says the sinful human mind. I will take what is coming to me, come hell or highwater – or if I do show “love”, its love that seeks a reward, an “I’ll wash your back if you wash mine” sort of love – not the purely sacrificial love that demands nothing, not the love that Christ teaches. Or when Christ teaches that the power of God is shown in this sacrificial love – bah, I’ll show you the power of God, Lord, shall we call down fire from heaven on these unbelievers? The Son of Man must be crucified – bah, Lord, you don’t need to do that, you should just beat your enemies up, give them a good pounding, call out the angels and give them a good smack down.
We have it better than the disciples did – better than they had it until Pentecost. Whereas they saw but did not understand, from our birth as God’s Children, from our Baptism, we have had the Helper with us, we have had the Holy Spirit in us giving us guidance and understanding. Now, this isn’t to say that we are infallible – this isn’t to say that we don’t make mistakes. In fact, quite often our old sinful nature will put hands over our ears and not listen to the Spirit, and we will rather bound off into stupidity and follow our own plans – this is why we have Scripture, this is why we have the examples of the folly of the Disciples recorded for us – so the Spirit can convict us concerning sin, can point to the Word and say, “See, you’ve got the wrong idea there, already been done.” But this is our benefit – that God has given us the Holy Ghost, that Jesus has sent His Spirit to His Church to guide and lead her, so that by the Holy Spirit we might understand the Word, that by the Holy Spirit we might pray, so that by the Holy Spirit we might confess that Jesus is Lord.
Jesus spends the rest of this passage describing how the Holy Spirit works, what He does. Listen to Jesus’ Words about the Spirit. “He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin because they do not believe in me, concerning righteousness because I go to the Father and you will see Me no longer, concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” Here we see what the Spirit does, He we see how the Holy Spirit uses and comes to us by the Word. He comes to convict – the Spirit uses God’s Law to show us our sin. When we sin, when we stray, when those little bits of unbelief pop up in our life, that’s when the Spirit works using the law. When you read scripture and feel your sin, when you hear the sermon and say, “Yes, that’s me, and I am a sinner” – that’s not my doing, that’s the Holy Spirit speaking to you. But the Spirit speaks not just law, He also speaks of righteousness, He speaks the Gospel. Christ Jesus is before the Father – right now Jesus Christ, true Man, our Brother, stands in heaven as the proof that our sin has been done away with, the proof that our sin is forgiven – for He has died, and He has risen. Jesus has defeated Satan and won for us salvation – and this the Holy Spirit speaks. When you read the Word and see Christ’s righteousness and thus see your forgiveness, when you hear me speak the Absolution, when you hear me preach Christ, that isn’t my doing, but again, it is the work of the Holy Spirit. And then also, the Spirit speaks concerning judgment, for the ruler of this world is judged. The Spirit speaks in you and through you, and the Devil himself quakes with fear. The Spirit dwells in you, and when Satan comes sniffing around your doorstep, it is the Spirit who drives him off, it is the Spirit who says, “Be gone with you Satan, for you are judged. The Son of God has defeated you, and God has claimed this one as His own child.” This is what the Spirit does – He preaches His Law and Gospel to us, and He defends us from the wiles of Satan.
Jesus describes the work of the Spirit another way, so that our understanding might be deeper, might be more complete. Jesus says, “When the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into all truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for He will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that He will take what is mine and declare it to you.” It is important to note that Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the Spirit of Truth. This doesn’t just mean that the Spirit is truthful, that the Spirit doesn’t lie. That’s right, but that’s not the point. What does Jesus say earlier in the John’s Gospel? “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no man cometh to the Father but by me.” The Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, and when the Spirit speaks, He speaks the things of Jesus, He speaks of Christ. He declares to us the riches of Christ – He gives us Christ’s life, Christ’s love, Christ’s forgiveness, Christ’s righteousness. All that Jesus is, all that the Father is, we receive through the Spirit’s work. That’s what the Holy Spirit is about – speaking Christ and His forgiveness to us. And man, if sometimes we don’t want to have the Spirit do other things, especially in America. You listen to people, especially around here in the Bible Belt, and they will tell you all different things the Spirit is supposedly doing. They’ll tell you that the Holy Spirit told them to build this, tell you that that Holy Spirit says that you need to X, Y, and Z. They’ll tell you that this disaster or that thing is coming. Or they’ll tell you that the Spirit has said you’ll be rich if you just put more in the plate. Shoot, you can probably find folks preaching that the Spirit will wash your car or mow your lawn for you – if you pony up the cash. Jesus says that’s not the point. Jesus is the point. What is to come? The Spirit’s not going to pick out a winning lottery ticket for you – The Holy Spirit points to Christ and His coming – look to Jesus, for He shall return. The Spirit of Truth points to the coming One, and points to the gifts that Christ gives His Church through His Church here and now.
This is the particular trial that we as Americans have to face – that our sinful flesh is given over to the greed and wealth of our culture, and we always want more and more stuff – and we want to turn the Church in a treasure house of temporal blessing. What does that have to do with Christ? What does stuff have to do with forgiveness? I mean, if anything we in the Church should be more concerned with giving our stuff away to the poor and needy and caring for them than we are about getting more. Because we think about earthly riches, we neglect the eternal riches that we receive here from Christ through the Holy Spirit here in this Church. Everything that is Christ’s – it is declared and given to us here. The world and our flesh will try to tell us that this isn’t enough, that we should have more – and the Spirit will call us away from that, and rather once again place our eyes squarely upon Christ the Crucified so that we see Him, so that we receive Him, so that we have life in Him.
Dear friends, it is wonderful to be a Christian, to live in these times after the resurrection, to live in the times where from our birth in God’s Church we have been blessed with the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit, who works tirelessly through the Word and Sacraments of God to show us Christ and His salvation. We have been given new birth and made the children of God, and thus we rejoice and sing and give thanks to our Father in heaven, with all His Children throughout the world, speaking back to Him the glory of His Son that He has proclaimed to us by the Spirit. This is the life we lead here in His Church, until the day we sing eternally in His Presence, until the day we join Christ Jesus our Brother in the heavenly places He is preparing for us. Amen.