Easter 5 – John 16:5-15
Christ is Risen (He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia) Amen
Christ is Risen (He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia) Amen
This passage of John is part of what our Lord taught the Disciples in the Upper Room on Maundy Thursday, on the night when He was betrayed. Jesus knew that His earthly ministry was coming to a close. Soon would be His death and resurrection, and soon would be His ascension. And our Lord says this – “I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper would not come to you.” Christ tells us that the Holy Spirit is going to come, something we see on Pentecost, something that lasts to this day. So then, why is this an advantage? Why is this better than just having Jesus walk around and preach? Why? Because there is a change – because the disciples are going to be apostles – because they are going from mere students who follow Christ to those who go and preach and proclaim Christ, sent out into all the world. The Church would not just stay there in Judea, but Christ will send the Holy Spirit, and that Spirit would work through the Word of God proclaimed by these Apostles, proclaimed by those who follow in their work and teaching until the Church would spread to all nations, even to us today. There would be a shift – it would no longer be that disciples gathered together to only one place to hear Jesus, but that the Risen and Ascended Lord would send His Workers all over the world, and all over the world people would be gathered in to Churches, just like this one, and people would hear the Word of the Lord preached, would receive the True Body and Blood of Christ for their forgiveness, and in this way, Christ would be with us always, even unto the end of the age. Christ is going to spread His Church – He is going to make it be universal, throughout the whole of creation, and He does that by ascending and then giving the Holy Spirit, the Helper, to see that the Church grows through the proclamation of the Word in all lands, to see that congregations are established around God’s Word and Sacraments. This is the advantage – that we don’t have to find the one spot in all the world, the one town or temple where Jesus happens to be – but that He will come to us wherever we are gathered together around His Word, His Font, His Supper.
This dear friends, is the work of the Holy Spirit. By the Gospel, by the Word, the Holy Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and provides every congregation with everything that they need. Right now, we here in this place have the Holy Spirit – He is here doing His job of focusing us on Christ and causing us to grow in faith. Everything we need for life and salvation is right here – everything that makes a Church a Church is right here – even right now in little old Herscher. This is the gift of the Spirit, this is the advantage the Helper brings.
But it is important for us, dear friends, to give heed to the words which Christ Jesus speaks to us this day – because in this Gospel lesson He tells us precisely what the Spirit will do in this place, what His job is. You see, many people make claims on the Holy Spirit, many people shuffle off their foolishness and crackpot ideas and schemes onto the Holy Spirit. Some people use the Holy Spirit as though He is some sort of trump card – I’m gonna do this cause the Holy Spirit told me to! That’s not what Jesus says the Holy Spirit’s job is. Listen to Christ Jesus, who sends us His Spirit – “And when He comes, He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” The Spirit will come and “convict” the world. What does that mean? It means to speak to, to speak about. When the Holy Spirit is present, there is always the Word of God, and not the Word of God talking about abstract dreams and visions and powers and might – but the Word of God speaking directly, with conviction, about sin and righteousness and judgment – the Holy Spirit is there and makes the Word of God hit home. Makes the Word of God hit you right here in the chest. When you hear the word “convict” it means speaking the Word of God decisively, to drive it home.
The Spirit will use the Word of God to convict us, to hit home concerning sin. “Concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me.” God’s Word speaks bluntly and decisively about sin – and all sin is ultimately an ignoring of God’s Word, of refusing to follow, refusing to believe what God has said. The Holy Spirit’s job is to make it so that we see and know this when we hear the God’s Word of Law preached to us. And this is true – sin is always about unbelief. Think back to lesson 1 of the Catechism – what is the First Commandment? You shall have no other gods. . . Thou Shalt have no other gods before Me. What does this mean? We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things. If we did this – if we feared God above all things, if our highest respect was upon Him at all times, we would not sin. But sometimes we fear other things more – we fear what our family and friends might say, we fear not being in control, we fear not having our way – and we sin. If we loved God above all things, we would never sin – but we can love ourselves more, love money more, love the respect we get, love popularity and praise more – and we sin. If we trusted God above all things, we would never sin – but we put our trust in our own strength, in our own power, in our own plans – and we sin. Sin always happens whenever we fear, love, or trust something above God. And the Holy Spirit speaks about this with conviction – we might want to dance around our sin, to play it off as not that bad, it’s not that terrible, oh, I was nice over here, surely that makes up for that little bad there. And the Holy Spirit hits us over the head with the Law – no, your sin is vile and it is against God. Every sin, even the ones you like to poo-poo and treat as inconsequential – it is sin against God. Repent. That is what the Spirit does – and if you ever hear someone downplaying their sin, minimizing sin, saying that sin is okay – they aren’t speaking the Word of God and the Holy Spirit is not there. He convicts the world concerning sin.
Our Lord also tells us that the Holy Spirit will convict the world “concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer.” The world has many messed up ideas about what is righteous, about what is good. And then Christ came – and when you looked at Christ, you saw conclusively what righteousness is, what it looks like. And even then, the world hated this righteousness. They hated Christ’s righteousness so much that they crucified Him – but even in that, even in going to the Cross Christ showed us what righteousness is. He went to the cross to win forgiveness – to see that we sinners receive mercy and forgiveness and eternal life from God. That is righteousness – He does what is right in saving you, even at the cost of His own life. And now we live in the time of Christ’s Church, we live as those who await His Second Coming – and in the meantime, the Holy Spirit will use the Word of God to speak directly and with conviction towards Christ’s righteousness. We do not physically see Christ right now, but the Holy Spirit holds the Gospel before our eyes and says, “See the righteousness of Christ Jesus, righteousness that He showers upon you and gives to you.” The Holy Spirit speaks with conviction the Gospel, the Good News that Christ Jesus is the spotless lamb who has died for us and risen for us. The Holy Spirit declares that Christ is giving us His own righteousness through His Word of forgiveness, through Baptism, through His Supper. The Spirit is the One Who focuses us upon this, Who opens our minds to understand this, Who opens our hearts to believe. And so, we know that whenever one doesn’t point to Christ as the Savior, whenever anyone points to what we must do to win God’s love, what we must give to earn our salvation – we know that they are not speaking with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit speaks concerning Christ’s righteousness, the righteousness by which we have life.
And finally, our Lord tells us that the Holy Spirit will convict the world “concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” Christ Jesus has won the victory over the world, over the devil, over the powers of evil. But right now, we don’t always see that. We look around and see wickedness and vileness and evil. We see Christians persecuted, we see Christians mocked. And we ask ourselves – why doesn’t Jesus just hurry up and come back? The Apostles and the Early Church, they asked themselves that. Luther wanted Christ to return quickly. We do ourselves! Thy Kingdom Come. Come, Lord Jesus! That is the prayer of the Church. And why does Christ delay – I can’t answer fully. It’s good that He does – If Christ had returned in Luther’s day none of us would be here, so we know that God’s love for us had some part in His delay, that He’s waited for us to be brought to faith. How long – that’s in His hands – we trust in Him and pray as He has commanded us. But in this meantime until His second coming, we see the world, and it can be easy to become depressed. We see dog eat dog to get ahead, and we can wonder if our suffering is worth it. And the world continually calls out to us, offers us vain, fleeting promises. And we are tempted. And at those times, the Holt Spirit comes and uses the Word of God to speak to us directly and with conviction this truth – that the ruler of this world is judged. The Holy Spirit points us to the true victory that we have in Christ, the eternal victory. This is why Luther has us sing in A Mighty Fortress “This world’s prince may still scowl fierce as he will – he can harm us none – he’s judged, the deed is done. One little word can fell him.” Or even our sermon hymn, as I can’t just have us sing A Mighty Fortress every Sunday – verse 7 – “To me He said 'Stay close to Me, I am your rock and castle. Your ransom I myself will be; for you I strive and wrestle. For I am yours and you are mine, and where I am you may remain; the Foe shall not divide us.” Pay attention to what we will sing in a few moments – if you're too bashful to sing, at least open up the hymnal and read along. This Hymn is all about what the Holy Spirit does. The Holy Spirit takes the Word of God and makes us to see the victory we have in Christ – even now, even in spite of the world. This is the job of the Holy Spirit.
And so yes, my dear friends, the Holy Spirit is active today, He is the Helper we need today – but He doesn't work necessarily with flash and spectacle. Not necessarily with wonder and awe. No, the Spirit uses the Word of God to speak decisively and with conviction that which we need. The Spirit with boldness proclaims the Law, so that we repent of our sin, all of our sin. The Spirit with boldness proclaims the Gospel, the righteousness of Christ, so that we might cling to Christ alone. And the Spirit with boldness proclaims Christ’s victory over the world, that we might live in confidence and joy. We are part of the Christ’s Church, spread through the world, yet united to our Lord through the working of the Holy Spirit. Let us now then see the fullness of this, and join in with our brothers and sisters in all times and in all places, with angels and archangels even – in our Lord’s most Holy Supper. Christ is Risen (He is Risen indeed, Alleluia) Amen.