Sermon - May 19th, 2013 - That's the Spirit
26 …the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (N.I.V.)
This morning, we have come to the festival of Pentecost. This morning, in our second service, we celebrate the baptism of two children and the confirmation of one of our young people – Luke Weber. The words of our text this morning are part of Jesus’ farewell message to His disciples. His ministry was winding down and the cross was drawing near. Our text this morning has words of encouragement for Jesus’ disciples – and for us, today. Before He departed, Jesus prepared His disciples for times when their faith would be severely challenged. His words are just as much for us today as they were for the original disciples. I pray that God would bless our consideration of His most Holy Word this day!
In our text this morning, Jesus, as I say, had an important discussion with His disciples. He knew very well what was coming, but they did not. Knowing that He had come from God and that He was soon to return to the Father, He did several things. First, He ate a special meal with His disciples – a meal we now know as Holy Communion. Secondly, He washed their feet, and then He gave them a new commandment – a commandment to love one another. That night, among other things, Jesus spoke about His relationship with His Heavenly Father and with the Holy Spirit, as well as His relationship with His followers. He said that the disciples’ trust in Him would be shown by their love for Him and by their following His teachings. We need to remember that, up to this point, Jesus Himself has been their Advocate before the Heavenly Father. Up to this point, Jesus Himself had been their Helper and their Counselor. But now, Jesus was asking His Father to send “another Advocate,” one Jesus called “the Spirit of truth.”
In just a few hours, Jesus would be arrested and tried. In just a few hours, He would be brutally beaten and crucified. Soon after this important discussion, Jesus’ disciples would be overwhelmed with fear. Repeatedly in the Gospel of John, Jesus challenges His followers – then and now – to believe that He is one with the Father. As Easter Christians, we know, and we believe, that Christ is risen from the dead, and we know that He has ascended into heaven to be with his Father once again. But this new reality leaves us with some important questions. How is it that we, we, who were not with him, we, who did not hear his teachings, we, who did not see him face to face, how is it that we can believe? According to Jesus in our text this morning, our faith in Him is made possible by the Holy Spirit.
As Jesus’ disciples sat with him in the upper room that night, they worried about threats from the Jewish religious leaders and also from the Romans. Jesus told them that he was “going to the Father,” but they weren’t sure what that was supposed to mean. At this critical time, Jesus offered His disciples words of comfort. Little did they know how much they would soon need His help. Jesus surprised His disciples by telling them that he must to go away. They didn’t know all the details, obviously, but He would soon return to heaven to be with His Father. And there, in heaven, as we heard last week, He would pray for them – and for us.
The apostle Thomas had said to Jesus,
“Lord, we do not know where you are going. So how can we know the way?”
Jesus told Thomas, clearly and unambiguously, that He is the way. Not just that – He is also the truth, and He is the life. Several times in His ministry, Jesus had predicted future events. As we have just heard, He said that He would soon be leaving His disciples, but that He would someday return. In the meantime, He said, His disciples were to serve him, they were to reach out with His word, and proclaim it to all who had ears to hear. In the meantime, before His return, His people were to be about His Great Commission – preaching, teaching, baptizing – making disciples of all nations, and then the end would come. We are part of that process this morning.
Our text reminds us that we love Jesus and keep His commandments because of the Holy Spirit He has sent to us. In John’s Gospel, Jesus declared to His disciples – and to all the believers who would someday follow them – that the Spirit of Truth would be with them forever. The Holy Spirit would enable them to recall the words of Jesus, after he had gone back to be with His father. According to Jesus, the Holy Spirit (John 14:26):
“… will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.”.
The Holy Spirit, said Jesus, will
“abide with you, and … will be in you.” (John 14:17).
The word used here for the Holy Spirit is “paraclete.” A paraclete in those days was an individual called alongside to provide help and assistance. In Greek law courts, a paraclete was one who helped in court. In the Greek law courts, your Paraclete was your advocate, one who would plead your case for you. So, according to Jesus, after His departure back to be with His Father, the Holy Spirit would come alongside His people to bring them help and comfort. Help in knowing God’s will. Help in understanding God’s word. Help in applying God’s word in day-to-day life. Help in loving one another. Help in loving God.
The Holy Spirit has several names or titles in the Scriptures. He’s called, among other things, the Advocate, the Comforter, and the Counselor. By means of the Holy Spirit, working through God’s word and the sacraments, God changes people – He transforms them. By means of the Holy Spirit, working through God’s word and the sacraments, sins are forgiven. Broken relationships with God are restored. Individuals are empowered to love God and others. The Holy Spirit brings peace and makes it possible for God’s people to keep His commandments.
Earlier on, in John chapter 14, Jesus had said,
“Whoever has seen me has seen the father.” (14:9).
This theme is repeated often in John’s Gospel. In John’s Gospel, people come to see the Father through Jesus. In John, chapter 3, for example, Nicodemus doesn’t understand how he can enter his mother’s womb and be born again, when he is a grown man. In John chapter 4, the woman at the well doesn’t understand how she is supposed to get living water when the well is so deep. (4:11) As we heard a couple of weeks ago, a man sitting by the pool of Bethesda thinks healing comes from bubbling water while, in reality, the Healer he really needed stood right next to him. (5:7). Time after time in the Gospel of John, when people see Jesus, they were actually seeing God.
Jesus knew that His disciples would not understand what He said to them that night. But, eventually, they would, because the Holy Spirit would teach them everything they needed to know and would enable them to recall His words. The Holy Spirit hasn’t changed. In our day, He still enables us to hear the word of God. He empowers us to do God’s will. In a very real sense, the Holy Spirit is our ultimate teacher. As a pastor, when I prepare a sermon, I always pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. You might say that the Holy Spirit is an important part of the input process for the preacher as he studies the Scriptures and prepares his message. And the Holy Spirit is also an important part of the output process as God’s word is proclaimed, and takes root in human hearts.
According to Jesus, the Holy Spirit “will teach you all things.” According to Jesus, the Holy Spirit “will remind you of everything I have said to you.” Without the Holy Spirit, we would not have the Bible. Without the Holy Spirit, the Christian church wouldn’t exist. After Jesus’ ascension into heaven, by the guiding and enabling of the Holy Spirit, His people wrote down His words. Some of them, like the Apostle John, were privileged to hear His words in person. But even though some were there to hear Jesus words, they didn’t always understand what he was saying. Only later, as the Holy Spirit had time to work, they did understand.
As I mentioned earlier, in our second service, we will celebrate the baptism of two children as well as the confirmation of one young man, Luke Weber. The Holy Spirit will have an important role to play in both of those events. At the time of our baptism, the gift of the Holy Spirit is bestowed upon us. And then, later, when we confirm our faith, the Pastor prays that the Holy Spirit would be poured out on us in greater measure. Baptism is an initiation into the Christian faith. It’s a rite of passage. In Holy Baptism, God adopts us into His family. Holy Baptism establishes a saving relationship between us and our God. In Holy Baptism, God washes away original sin. That sin keeps us and Him apart, if it is not forgiven and dealt with. But it was dealt with – at the cross and the empty tomb. As baptized believers, the Holy Spirit is with us and dwells in us. In our hearts. And in our minds. Because of our baptism, we have not been left alone to fend for ourselves. We are now adopted members of the family of God. We are children of the heavenly father. Fellow Christians are our brothers and sisters. We are members of an amazing worldwide family called the church.
This morning, we celebrate Luke Weber’s confirmation. Let me ask you. Do you remember the day of your confirmation? Do you remember what happened that day? Do you remember the significance of the day? At the time of our confirmation, we confirm the faith that was sparked in us at our baptism. As you know, confirmation is preceded by a lengthy period of instruction. And confirmation isn’t the end of our faith journey. It’s simply a transition from one part of the journey to the next. In our confirmation instruction, we learn the basics of our Christian faith. We learn that God is the creator of the universe. We learn about humanity’s fall into sin. And we also learn about salvation – that is, the forgiveness of our sins – made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We learn about the Christian community called the church.
In our text this morning, Jesus speaks of the peace His people experience. In the world around us, peace often means absence of war and conflict. In the Bible, on the other hand, the peace that comes from God overcomes the trouble and the fear we have in our hearts. One Bible word for peace is the Hebrew word “shalom.” Shalom has to do with well-being. It has to do with wholeness, and healing, with spiritual and physical health. Shalom means everything’s going well. In our text this morning, Jesus says, “do not let your hearts be troubled.” In other words, “Don’t let yourselves be shaken by life’s difficulties and troubles.”
One of the titles for Jesus in the New Testament is “Prince of peace.” The peace He brings is God’s gift to us. The apostle Paul spoke of “the peace that passes all understanding.” He said that this peace “guards our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.” In Christ, because our sins are forgiven, you and I have peace with God and with one another. That peace is not dependent on our circumstances. It’s dependent on our relationship with Jesus Christ.
The world around us doesn’t understand the Holy Spirit, and doesn’t let the Holy Spirit work. As the apostle Paul says in the book of first Corinthians,
“Those without the Spirit of God cannot understand the things of God, because they are spiritually discerned. These things seem to be mere foolishness to them and they cannot understand them.”
According to Jesus, this world – and, by this, he means the world of unbelievers – cannot receive the Holy Spirit because it neither “sees” Him or “knows” him. The followers of Jesus, however, do know the Holy Spirit because he abides in them. He remains with them forever. In our text this morning, Jesus warned his disciples that “the prince of this world is coming.” Christ’s people have a great adversary. That adversary is Satan, the ancient evil one. That evil one challenges us at every step on our faith journey. He does his best to confuse us. He does whatever he can to snuff out our faith. But Christ has sent us his Holy Spirit. And His Holy Spirit comes alongside to bless us, to enlighten us, to travel with us on the journey, and to protect us on the way.
John’s Gospel often speaks of love. That word appears 57 times in the Gospel of John. According to Jesus, the two greatest commandments are to love God and to love our neighbor. In John’s Gospel, love for Jesus is the foundation for the Christian life. In our text this morning, Jesus reminds us that we give evidence of our faith by our obedience to His commands. As God’s adopted children, empowered by the Holy Spirit, we obey His teachings. We hear God’s word, we understand it, and we put it into practice in our daily lives. On this festival of Pentecost, we thank God for His gift of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Let’s Pray: DEAR HEAVENLY FATHER – With King David, we pray:
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence,
or take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.
We pray in Jesus our Savior’s name. Amen.