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LSB Easter 5C Sermon – John 16:12-22

April 26, 2016

April 24, 2016 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the 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.”

The Easter Season now begins the path towards its close. The Church has heard the witness of those who saw the Risen Jesus. But on this Sunday, the Church’s focus begins to shift. The emphasis is not on hearing about the Risen Jesus showing Himself to be victorious over death. Instead, attention starts to be placed on what would happen after the Lord ascends to heaven. As you heard in today’s Gospel Reading, Jesus begins to speak about what the Holy Spirit will do for His disciples. Jesus directs their hearts and minds toward future events, of what will transpire after He leaves them.

Leaving and returning is a key part in Jesus’ statements. On that night of His betrayal, Jesus reveals that He will be taken way from His disciples: “A little while, and you will see Me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see Me…. Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy.” Jesus’ words describe what will take place after that Passover meal on Holy Thursday. He talks about His death and burial—the time when His disciples will not have Him present with them, when Peter, James, John, and the rest will not be able to see Him. But Jesus also foretells His resurrection: His time of separation from them in the tomb will be short; Sunday will come and He will rise and return. Then the disciples will be full of joy.

That is what you heard about earlier in the Easter Season. You heard about the great joy that came to the disciples when the Risen Jesus appeared before them. They were glad when they saw that their Master had not become just another victim of death. When Jesus showed His hands and side, His disciples knew that His words had come true: the Son of Man was crucified, but on the third day He rose from the dead. Jesus fulfills His promise: “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”

But another day would come when Jesus would be separated from His disciples for much longer. The short time in the tomb foreshadowed this. For Jesus was not going to be present with His disciples, walking and talking with them, as He had been doing for years. He was going to His Father, not just commending His soul to the Father in death, but ascending to the Father and being seated at His right hand. So Jesus prepares His disciples for that time by introducing the matter of the Spirit of Truth and the work He will perform for Jesus’ followers.

Hear again what Jesus says about the Spirit of Truth: “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the 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.” From that, it is clear that the work of Jesus and the work of the Spirit are interconnected. Jesus notes that the Spirit will be a guide for His followers, directing them in the way of life. Jesus also says that the Spirit will deliver things to His followers, taking what belongs to Jesus and speaking it to His disciples.

That is so important for you to know and remember. The Holy Spirit’s work is always tied and connected to Jesus. The prime activity that the Spirit performs is to bring people the knowledge of Jesus’ identity, work, and teaching. He isn’t some sort of novel, innovative force within the Church. Jesus states that the Spirit doesn’t speak on His own authority. The Spirit doesn’t go His own way and establish something different than what Jesus has revealed. Instead, “whatever He hears He will speak” and “He will take what is Mine and declare it to you.” That’s a much different role. The Spirit loudly speaks what the Father and the Son have already spoken. Jesus may not be right there talking to His followers, but the Spirit repeats what Jesus has said, ensuring that His word is heard and remembered by His disciples.

That’s what the Spirit of truth did for the apostles. When you read the Acts of the Apostles, you encounter times when the Holy Spirit leads Jesus’ followers into the truth. Were there times when the Church was faced with critical decisions to make? Most definitely. In fact, you heard about one of those in today’s First Reading. How were the Gentiles to be made part of the Church? Should the Gentiles be baptized and welcomed in? Those questions were posed when Peter had the vision of the tarp with all the unclean animals and when the Roman centurion Cornelius sent for Peter to come to his home.

You heard how some criticized Peter’s actions: “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” So why did Peter do this? He said: “The Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction.” But was this something new that the Spirit told Peter? Not at all! It was the Spirit reminding Peter of what Jesus had said. Jesus had given the command to make disciples of all nations, baptizing and teaching them. He had instructed His apostles to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations. Cornelius and his household were just the first of many to receive this. What Cornelius said about Peter confirmed Jesus’ words: “He will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.” So Peter baptized Cornelius and his entire household. Doing this, Peter acknowledged what Jesus had said: “I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” After hearing what Peter did, the Church is brought in line with Jesus’ words about preaching repentance and forgiveness to the nations: “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

In like manner, the Holy Spirit performs this work among you. He has taken what belongs to Jesus and declared it to you. Through the preaching of Gospel, you know who Jesus is, what He has done, and what He has taught. It happens each and every time the Gospel accounts of Jesus are read and talked about. The Church does this for both young and old, whether it’s in the Sunday School classes for children who learn the basics about Jesus’ life or in the adult courses where more details are given. You hear how Jesus has died and risen from death to procure your salvation. You receive the testimony about Jesus’ being the Son of the Most High God, the Word which became flesh and dwelt among us, the exact imprint of God’s nature, united with the Father in all things. And you have heard what this Jesus did to fulfill the Father’s good and gracious will for you, so that you may have everlasting life with Him. That’s what has been taken by the Holy Spirit and declared to you. The message by which you are saved is spoken for you to hear.

When the Spirit of truth takes from Jesus and declares it to you, He also guides you in the way of living as one of Jesus’ disciples. As you go through your lives here on earth, you are faced with numerous decisions to make. Everyday you encounter people and need to determine how you will interact with them, how you will behave toward them. The Church is faced with challenges from the world and needs to respond, particularly in moral teaching. So what gives direction? How are decisions made? This is when the Spirit of truth works, taking what Jesus has spoken and declares it again. He reminds you what Jesus has taught about how His disciples are to live. Jesus’ followers—even you—hear the Good Shepherd’s voice and follow it.

Jesus’ statements about the Holy Spirit forms what the Church confesses about Him. That is why you were taught in the Small Catechism: “[The Holy Spirit] calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.” The Large Catechism speaks further: “Through [the Church] He gathers us, using it to teach and preach the Word. By [the Word] He creates and increases holiness, causing it daily to grow and become strong in the faith and in its fruits, which the Spirit produces.” That work is just what Jesus said: “He will guide you into all the truth…. He will take what is Mine and declare it to you.”

The Spirit brought Jesus’ words to His disciples. When they proclaimed it, others heard and received it. Then those who heard and received themselves proclaim it. So the cycle is repeated throughout the generations, fulfilling Jesus’ words. But the cycle will eventually end. Not because the Spirit will run out of energy or power, but because the purpose of His work will be completed. The Spirit’s taking and declaring what Jesus has said is meant to achieve one goal: individuals come to know and believe who Jesus is, what He has done, and what He has taught, so that they receive His great benefit of everlasting life. Then Jesus’ words will be fulfilled, even for those who never saw Him on earth: “You also have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” That will come on the Last Day, as you are given entry into the new heaven and new earth.

So until that day comes, the Spirit of truth will continue His work. He will have the words of Jesus repeated for your hearing. He will guide you in righteous ways of living, to abide by the teaching that Jesus has given to His disciples. He will convince you that Jesus’ resurrection means that death shall be no more and you will be with Him for eternity. None of this is the Spirit speaking on His own authority, but taking what belongs to Jesus and declaring it to you. But because the Spirit has done that, you have been granted the repentance that leads to the life that Jesus has achieved for you. And that means the Spirit of truth has done just what Jesus said.

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

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From → Sunday Sermon

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