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LSB Easter 6A Sermon – John 14:15-21

May 27, 2014

May 25, 2014 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever….”

Jesus continues to address His disciples on the night of His betrayal. He speaks of them being devoted to Him, as people who love Him. That love and devotion had been shown through the years that the Twelve had been with Jesus. They had been followed Jesus for years. Their time with Jesus began in the first days of His ministry, when He had traveled among the villages and cities along the Sea of Galilee.  They had been present when Jesus preached to great crowds. But they had also witnessed the times when the people had fled from Jesus and His teaching. They heard the opposition that Jesus faced in Jerusalem. Even the attempts to stone Jesus were seared into their memories.

That is the love and devotion that these disciples had for their Lord. But what had caused that love and devotion? It was the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word that Jesus spoke. In His call to them, His identity was revealed to them. The truth that the Father had sent Him to speak had been heard and believed. The disciples were bound to Jesus through this.

So on that night when He was betrayed, Jesus speaks to them. Jesus gives them various commandments: He instructs them to do as He had done to them; He commands them to love one another; He directs them to eat and drink in remembrance of Him; He notes that He will be sending them into the world. And along with these commandments, Jesus says: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever….”

This is not Jesus making a new demand on His disciples. No, this is Jesus speaking about the relationship that He has created and founded between Himself and His disciples. He had loved them to the end; they had been devoted to Him in the same way. This love that they possess for Jesus leads them to keep what He has said. And to enable this to be so, Jesus speaks a promise: that He will ask that the Father grant a Helper to be with them forever. This will seal the bond that the disciples have with their Lord. And it will secure the great truth of Jesus’ identity that will be revealed at His resurrection: “Yet a little while and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.”

But why is this necessary? Why must this helper be given? Because the love that the disciples have for Jesus can be lost. Because the commandments that Jesus gives to them can be abandoned. It is a dreadful fate. But it may indeed befall individuals. Think even on that night when Jesus speaks these words. Remember that He reveals that He will be betrayed—not by someone He doesn’t know, but by one who had been with Him, who had been numbered among His disciples. And while that may be a drastic example, the annals of the LORD’s people throughout history record others who have forsaken their identity and promises that were given to them.

The same relationship that the disciples had to Jesus is what He has created and founded between you and Himself. He has loved you to the end, giving His life for you. He has loved you to the end, opening the way of everlasting life to you. This bond has been established; you have been made His disciples: being baptized into the Name of the Triune God and taught to keep everything that Jesus had commanded. The importance of this was noted by one of the Twelve to whom Jesus spoke on that night when He was betrayed: “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone to heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to Him.”

So Jesus can say to you: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” That statement has as much integrity and applicability as it did when He first spoke it in the Upper Room. As you love Jesus and are devoted to Him, you will keep His commandments. You will hold onto His words. You will honor what He calls good. You will follow the way of life that He lays out for you, including where He places His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation. That is the way the relationship that Jesus establishes with you is meant to function.

But Jesus’ statement goes further. Not only does He say to you: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” He also makes a promise to you: “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. You know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” This promise has been made by the One who has given all He had for you. This promise has been made by the One who is in the Father. This promise has been made by the One who has risen from death and has all things in subjection to Himself.

And why is this promise made? So that you will remain in the bond of love and devotion that you have with your Lord and Savior. Through Him, you have sought God the Father and found Him. Through Him, you have appealed to God the Father and received a good conscience. Through Him, you have been declared righteous before the sight of God’s justice. That is what Jesus has accomplished for you. Jesus does not want you to abandon or forsake what He has won for you.

So Jesus asks the Father to grant you a Helper to be with you forever, One who will always make known the truth about what is good and righteous, so that you may be zealous for it. That Spirit of Truth has been bestowed to you. You have received the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit who has been poured out on you richly. You have had the Lord and Giver of Life breathed into you, so that you are reborn from above, reborn by the Spirit. So now you are God’s temple with His Spirit dwelling in you. This is not an “unknown God” but a deity that has made Himself fully known to you: “You know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”

This Helper that has been given to you has a job. The rest of John 14 won’t be read in the Divine Service lectionary this year, but Jesus’ words didn’t stop where our Gospel Reading did. He speaks about the work that the Holy Spirit will do: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” This explains how you will keep the commandments that Jesus has given to you. The statements that Jesus made forms the basis for what you learned in the Small Catechism about the Holy Spirit: “The Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” He establishes the bond of love and devotion between Jesus and you. And not only does the Holy Spirit establish it; He is involved in maintaining it.

The maintenance of that bond of love and devotion is so vitally important. For it is what grants you a righteous status with God the Father. It is what prepares you for what Jesus will do, as He completely fulfills the identity that He possesses: “[God] has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a Man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead.” You have come to know that Jesus is in the Father and that you are in Him and He is in you. That is what the Spirit of Truth has revealed to you. That’s what makes Jesus the only Mediator through whom you appeal for a good conscience. That’s what makes Jesus the reason for the hope that is in you. That’s what makes Jesus the One whom you honor as holy.

All this isn’t what you established. All this isn’t what you created or made. You do not have a god formed by your art or imagination. But you do have a Lord whom you love and to whom you are devoted. The Helper that He has asked the Father to give you makes you zealous for what is good. So that even when people slander and revile your good behavior, you maintain that love and devotion to Jesus and His commandments. You hold on to them because that is where your hope for forgiveness, life, and salvation is found. And even all the things that the world may be zealous for pale in comparison to what the Eternal and Supreme Lord promises: “Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.”

That is the result of the divine work done for you. Jesus has loved you to the end. And He has a Helper sent to you, so that you may show your devotion to Him to the end. That is how the statement that Jesus makes about the relationship between Him and you is fulfilled: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of Truth….”

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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