Easter 5, 2021

Lord God, bless Your Word wherever it is proclaimed. Make it a word of power and peace to convert those not yet Your own and to confirm those who have come to saving faith. May Your Word pass from the ear to the heart, from the heart to the lip, and from the lip to the life that, as You have promised, Your Word may achieve the purpose for which You send it; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen. (LCC #150)

God’s grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God our Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Christ is Risen!

Dear fellow redeemed, these Sundays of Easter continue to be excellent support for God’s people as we live in the struggles against our own sin and death within, as well as death all around us. Jesus prepared us for this. Today we get to hear about one of the most powerful ways that our Savior continues to be with us.

It sounds strange to those who don’t believe in the Holy Trinity, the three-in-one nature of God as He reveals Himself. “Oh, Pastor. Of course we believe in the Trinity. It’s basic Christian doctrine.” It is. But think sometime about how many of your neighbors here in the American Northwest even know what the word “Trinity” means. How many of your own acquaintances know its meaning? And how many of them believe it?

Keeping the Trinity in mind, here is a powerful way that Jesus promised in today’s Gospel to continue with His disciples: The Holy Spirit. He’s also called the Helper (in this translation), but the original Greek word here implies something more specific, like an advocate before the Law. Jesus also described the Spirit’s work. Like a good attorney in court, He would not only protect His clients, but even convict our adversary: the world that rages and strives against Jesus. Finally, Jesus goes so far in this short Gospel that He promises nothing less than the completion of the Holy Bible. 

Our time is limited. We’ll focus on something that Jesus brings up toward the beginning, right after recognizing the sorrow that His disciples felt.

But don’t let that little miracle slip away either. Jesus knew how His disciples felt. This isn’t the intuition at which some people are better than others. Now, you’d like to think Jesus knows how you feel. Maybe a gifted psychologist, pastor, or friend can figure it out. But that’s not how it works with Jesus. He knows how you feel because He knows all things, and He knows very well because He designed and made you, knit you together in your mother’s womb, and has been providing your health and well-being according to His wisdom and love. He’s bringing you to eternal life. As God, Jesus knows you better than you know yourself. And as a human being, Jesus understands you completely.

God knows our feelings; all of them, both good and bad, high and low. He knows the things that attract you or distract you. Parents, He knows your selfishness when you get frustrated. Kids, He knows your anger and disrespect. Sisters and brothers, He knows your bitterness when you’re mad or jealous. He knows it all.

Jesus knew how His disciples felt. Our Gospel is a part of His care for them. And for you. Here’s where we find the word that’s so important. “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth.

The word is “truth.” It’s very important to St. John, who used it many times throughout this book. He quotes Jesus using it many times. Jesus is teaching us something important through John. It’s important for everyone, both Christian and heathen.

These words “truth” and “true” are under attack. It’s not just now. It goes all the way back to Satan tempting Eve, when he contradicted God. He suggested that God is a being like him, or like Eve, or like you: subject to criticism by His own creatures. When we speak of the “truth” of our words, we mean that they might be true or false. Another person may be able to tell which. Satan was suggesting that God’s words are the same way, though they’re not. “You will not surely die,” he said. As if God’s word wasn’t enough for Eve. He continued, “For God knows that…” Satan claimed to give an inside scoop that God’s word couldn’t give. Not only did Eve believe the deceiver, she also believed in this new, dangerous lie about God and truth.

Jesus was about to explain something that made his disciples feel sad. Remember: He knew how they felt. And He had something to say about it. In the attacks on truth that we face, we are being conditioned to ignore what is said and instead listen to feelings as somehow more pure and authentic. That’s supposed to be where genuine truth is found: in the way you feel. Especially when it comes to values. If Jesus’ words were spoken today, His disciples might think He was belittling or contradicting their feelings by saying, “It is to your advantage that I go away.” “No, it’s not. We still feel bad about it! It must be bad!” That’s why we need to pay attention to what Jesus does here. He’s explaining matters of faith, which our world would call “values,” but it’s not about how He feels or how we may feel. It’s just truth. If you want to share your faith today, you might need to explain that your values are just truth.

Are you getting the sense that what Jesus says here is directly opposed to the way the world thinks? If so, you are now sensing something true. But it goes deeper. The comfort that Jesus gives His Church is that He sends the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit has work to do. It helps us and has the effect of fighting against the attacks of this world on our Lord, our faith, and even truth.

We can say what is true (and should!). We can listen to what people say and see what they do. But we can’t read hearts or convert them by giving faith in Jesus. We don’t even have the power to convict people of their sin. That’s the Holy Spirit’s work. The Church provides the voice. The Spirit does the work.

He convicts the world of sin because when people don’t believe in Jesus, they are perishing in their sin. They are trying to stand on the lie spoken to Eve, and it will kill them. This is the message of God’s Law. We need to know it well, because it condemns our thoughts, words, deeds — and feelings. We need to speak the same Law to those who are perishing in the lie.

He convicts the world of righteousness when it has been convicted of sin. This happens soul by soul, when you or I speak the truth of God’s Word. In this case it’s not God’s commandments, but His promises that we must speak. It’s His forgiveness. Like the Law, the Gospel relies on the Holy Spirit for its power to change hearts. Like the Law, it’s for you first. It’s your forgiveness, free and clear. You are forgiven: parents, kids, sisters and brothers, spouses, and singles. You are forgiven.

He convicts the world of judgment. This is also tough, even impossible. Because until the End, the lie will be told against the truth. The truth will appear false, and many will be deceived. But the tempter, the accuser, Satan, is already judged, and we can know it for truth because the Holy Spirit works in His Word.

Finally, we see Jesus use that word again. “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”

This astonishing promise relates to something we often take for granted: the New Testament. It’s not just a section of the Bible, it’s truth as provided by God Himself through the process of verbal inspiration. That means the Holy Spirit caused the human writers, using their own talents and efforts, to write exactly what God wanted them to write. This was also true in the Old Testament. 

Now we have Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, produced from direct witnesses of Jesus’ life, and written while that generation of witnesses was still living. Even if they were not inspired by God, you couldn’t hope for better historic testimony about a man who lived 2,000 years ago. There isn’t any better, even for men who lived hundreds of years later!

But the Gospels are inspired by the Holy Spirit, so that every word is truth. So also the rest of the NT. The devil tries to cast doubt: “Did God really say… ?” But the Holy Spirit has left no doubt if you take what He wrote seriously. We can trust the Bible not only for historical facts, but for the “values” that exist forever, because they exist in the mind of God. This is what James called the “implanted Word” — now planted in you.

The message is all about Jesus and what He has done for you. For you, for everyone you know, and everyone you meet. Or am I saying too much? How could Jesus who lived so long ago care about you or anyone today? This is our joy, my friends, and the Word of the Spirit shows it to be true: Jesus knew and cared about you since before the dawn of time! Jesus came into this world to redeem it, and that includes you. He sent His Spirit to create His Church in our time, and so here we are. He sent me to tell you that your sins are forgiven. All of them. Be they so many or so wicked: now forgiven. I tell you the truth. Jesus died in your place, and rose again to bring you into eternal life.

Dear Christians, one and all, rejoice,
With exultation springing.
And with united heart and voice,
And holy rapture singing:
Proclaim the wonders God hath done,
How His right arm the victory won.
Right dearly it hath cost Him.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Christ is risen! Alleluia!

Soli Deo Gloria