Easter 5 – April 28th and 29th, 2018 – John 16:5-15
Christ is Risen – He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia – Amen
And 40 days after He rises, Christ ascends to heaven. Jesus knows that this is what He is going to do, it isn’t a surprise to Him. And so, that Maundy Thursday night, where He prepares the disciples for the events to come – He points them to after His ascension. On that day the disciples will be slightly confused – Angels will appear to them and ask, “Why are you staring up in the sky, He will return.” Yeah - But what of the meantime? What of the time between Christ’s ascension and Christ’s return – what about the times that you and I, brothers and sisters in Christ, what about the times we live in? The disciples were confused – what do we do if Jesus isn’t standing here right in front of us. Our Lord knew that the Disciples would feel this, so He speaks to them the Words of our Gospel lesson today. In fact, note what He says. “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.” Christ here speaks of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost – that is the Helper, the Comforter, the One who is to come.
Christ today teaches us about the Holy Spirit. Now, I tremble to start talking about the Holy Spirit – not because it is difficult to talk about the Holy Spirit – but rather because so many people blather on and on and say sometimes stupid, sometimes down right blasphemous things about the Spirit. To use the “hip” lingo, half the time stupid junk people say about the Spirit “triggers” me. As such it could be very easy for me to turn this sermon into a nice long rant about people who just don’t get it. But that’s not what this sermon is to be about. Rather than focusing on the foolish, empty words others spew forth about the Spirit – let us instead give heed to the Words of Christ Jesus our Lord, and from them learn what the Spirit does.
Today we're going to start at the end of Gospel reading consider the last three verses first, for they are very important in understanding how the Holy Spirit works – and once we see how He works, we’ll look at what He actually does. Our Lord 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 the that Father has is Mine; therefore I said that He will take what is Mine and declare it to you.” Twice, two times our Lord uses the word “speak.” Thrice, three times, our Lord uses the word “declare.” Do you see the emphasis here? How does the Holy Spirit guide, how does the Holy Spirit accomplish everything and all the things that He does? By the Word – by Speaking, by Declaring – these are actions involving the Word. The Spirit takes that which is Christ’s, that which belongs to the Very Word of God incarnate and declares it unto us! The Spirit takes that which He has heard, that which the Word, Christ Jesus, has said to Him, and that alone is what the Spirit speaks.
There is a connection, dear friends, a connection which we cannot emphasize enough – a connection between God’s Word and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit isn’t a loose cannon just bouncing around all over the place looking to smack people upside the head. The Holy Spirit works through the Word of God. The Spirit has tied Himself to the Word – not because He has to, but for our benefit. You see, God could do anything – but you and I, we can’t. We're limited. So what God does is He ties the Spirit to the Word – so that we know where to look, so we know where to listen, so that we don’t wander blindly, vainly searching for God – rather we know that God comes to us through His Word. You never have to wonder if God is active in your life, you never have to wonder if God is present here. It’s simple – wherever the Word of God is present, there the Holy Spirit is present and active. We don’t grope around blinding searching for the Spirit – the Spirit is found where He has been promised – wherever the Word of God is spoken, wherever it is declared.
And ponder this – when I say Word of God, I’m not just referring to reading Scripture. I am referring to whenever God’s Word of truth is declared, indeed, even when we speak out God’s truth, the Spirit is there. We are taught in Scripture that no man sayeth Jesus is Lord – not a one of us can say Jesus is Lord – except by the Holy Spirit. This whole service we've been declaring that Jesus is Lord, asking for mercy, singing scripture to each other. When that all happens, the Holy Spirit is present. God Himself is there at our confession, our prayers, our praise. In fact, whenever you speak out God’s truth, when you speak to a friend what the Scriptures teach, be it Law or be it Gospel – the Holy Spirit is there – God is present using your Words and making them His own. When the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity there the Holy Spirit is present, active and working in the Word.
And this dear friends, is how you can tell if the Holy Spirit is present, how if what is spoken is from God or if it the babblings of egotistical men. Does it agree, does it come from, is it centered in the Word? Listen again, “He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak.” There’s the way it works. What’s the sign of the Spirit? Is it whooping and hollering? Nope. Tongues? No. Nein, Nyet, eeih. Is it big, powerful, emotional speaking? Nope. It’s simply this – is what is Spoken in agreement with the Word of God? Not is it flashy – for God doesn’t promise Himself to come with flashy words, nor is it a dynamic speech – for all sorts of charlatans can speak with pretty words – but does it declare what God has taught in His Word? If it does, if a person speaks rightly about the Word – about what you have been taught and trained in – if it agrees with Scripture, the Creeds, the Catechism – then it is safe. Otherwise, it ain’t from God, no matter how much a person might jump up and down and insist that it is. The Holy Spirit always works in and with and through the Word – He has tied Himself to the Word, so that we might not be led astray, but rather into truth.
So what is this Word of God that the Spirit speaks? Christ tells what the Spirit will say, what right and proper preaching will deal with. And when He comes 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. That’s what the Spirit speaks about, that is what our preaching is to be about. It’s not to be about wealth and power, it’s not to be about 7 simple steps to whatever. Our preaching is to be about Sin. God is concerned with Sin – because all sin pushes us towards unbelief – all sin pushes us away from the Word of God. All sin tries to kill faith. And so the Holy Spirit will speak concerning sin. He will warn us of it – for sometimes we slip into it without thinking, and foolishly harm not only our neighbor, but also our own faith. He will speak of sin to show us that we have a need for a Savior, lest we become too prideful, and in our folly start to forget God and go off on our own. The Spirit will speak out a Word of Law, so that those who hear the Law will be crushed, will despair of their own righteousness, their own goodness – and so that they will be prepared to repent, to be turned by the power of God away from their sin. This we need, for our lives are to be ones of continual repentance. If sin, if our sin is not condemned, then the preaching is not of the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit will also speak of righteousness – and note here – because Christ goes to the Father. When the Word of God speaks of righteousness – it’s not talking about how you are a nice person – remember that whole convicting of sin thing? Rather Christ is righteous, and we have the proof – See, He rose. See, He ascended to the Father – the Father is well pleased with what the Son has done – the Son is righteous – and the Spirit takes what belongs to the Son and declares it to you – the Spirit takes that righteousness that is Christ’s and by the Word delivers it to you. In other words – forgiveness – justification – the fact that because Christ is holy and righteous He can speak His Holy and Righteous Word of forgiveness and life unto us. Christian preaching will give the forgiveness that is ours through the death and resurrection of Christ. The Word gives and declares forgiveness. That’s why preaching should always be centered on forgiveness. That’s why when we think of the Sacraments – what are they for? One baptism for the remission of sins. Take and drink, this cup is the new testament in My Blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. The Word is given to us for forgiveness on account of what Christ has done – and the Spirit declares this by the Word.
Finally, the Spirit will speak of judgment. There is judgment. For the ruler of this world – indeed, for those who reject God, reject God’s Law, reject God’s Gospel – there is condemnation. Judgment is there, and the Spirit warns people of that. Satan is defeated. As Luther would have us sing, “He’s judged, the deed is done, one little word can fell him.” But also this – you have been judged – but judged righteous, declared, that wonderful word, declared righteous on account of Christ. This world is judged, Satan is judged and condemned – but you, dear friends, you have been declared righteous, declared forgiven, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus – the blessings that Christ has won have been given to you – and so you can stride through the trials of this life boldly knowing that your salvation rests solely upon Christ.
This is the help, the comfort that Christ gives to us, this is the comfort that we are to use and rely upon now in this time between Christ’s ascension and His return. We live by the Word of God that the Spirit declares to us – and we live only by that Word, we trust only what the Spirit declares. For that is life, that is our hope, that is our help and our salvation. God grant that we always give heed only to His true Spirit, and cling solely to His Word. Hearing that Spirit filled Word, we have joy and by the Spirit say: Christ is Risen, He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia – Amen.