The Day of Pentecost
Sermon Text: John 14:23-31
Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Dearly Beloved of the Lord,
He was speaking to Judas… at the beginning of our Gospel text that is. It says that “Jesus answered him” but the “him” is not the Judas who betrayed our Lord. It is most likely the other disciple Judas, the son of James, who with the other Apostles is listening to our Savior speak of His impending ascension and what that means for them and for the world.
You cannot spend three years, day-in and day-out with someone and not develop a bond, a special bond… and that is with someone like you and me, but now add the fact that this someone is Christ, the very Son of God. News of His departure was at the very least, unsettling.
And in light of this, Jesus tells them… and all of us, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me.” (John 14:18-19)
Before we move on… let’s just pause for a moment and consider how comforting these words are. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” We who in this weak flesh of ours can so easily feel orphaned… abandoned… alone, so alone in dealing with tough times and situations where we’d like to cry “I want my mommy and daddy back” as would an orphan. Instead what we often cry out is, “Lord, where are you? I need you with me!”
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” our Lord says. And we can count on it. Count on Him. All the time. Each and every time.
But what’s this Lord, you say the world will not see you, but we will? How does that work?
The actual question which Judas poses is “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” (John 14:22)
In other words, “How is it that after your ascension into heaven you will still be with us, make yourself known to us and actually be among us? To US… but not to the world… not to all who are still living in sin and unbelief?”
Interestingly, the answer our Lord gives is love. Love is the key to Him, Jesus Christ, being with us… and us with Him.
Of course, anytime we talk about love between and among Christ and us, we are first and foremost talking about HIS LOVE shown toward us. And this seen most poignantly as we gaze upon the cross of Jesus. It is His love for us which took Him there. It is His love for us which kept Him there and what He endured there until the end… until His holy death there… for us.
Christ’s love for us… and then what… our love for Him… in return. And actually, in the text that we are considering, our Savior is really focusing on the latter… our love for him and how this love keeps us connected to Him.
“Oh, I get it Pastor. It is like having someone you love who is no longer with you, but not really because they are still in your heart, always in your heart.” No… that is not it at all.
My friends, we are not talking metaphorically here as if along with Grandma Schmidt, Mom and Dad, Uncle Billy and our dog Sparky, we also have Jesus in our heart.
Rather, we are talking essentially, substantively, tangibly, actually… honest to goodness Christ our ascended Lord still and always being with us here on earth.
To the question “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answers,
“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.”
To Judas and the rest of the Apostles gathered around our Lord, Jesus declares, “It is through my word.” That is how I will manifest myself to you even after ascending into heaven. That is how I will be with you always… how I will love you, guide you, forgive you, strengthen you, comfort you… and yes, see you through this world, everything you are facing and will face in this world… and bring you into the greater world to come… to your heavenly home where you will reside with the Father, with Me and with the Holy Spirit in joy and peace forever.”
It is simple. Love Jesus… love His Word and by so doing He and the Father will come and dwell with you. They will make their home with you now… not only later in heaven… but now. They residing in you and you in them forevermore.
That is a lot to take in… a lot to wrap both our hearts and minds around. It is too much in fact… too much for us to comprehend and even harder to accomplish… impossible for us to accomplish on our own. I can picture the Apostles giving our Lord this bewildered look after hearing what He said.
But look what else our Lord shares with the Apostles and with us. He goes on to say,
“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 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”
My friends, how thankful we are that as promised, God the Holy Spirit has come upon us. That He is working so mightily and marvelously in us and in all God’s Children… in all who make up the Holy Christian Church.
Working first in Holy Baptism wherein faith… true faith… living faith… saving faith in Christ is created in us… instilled in us and yes, preserved in us. Through water and the Word, Christ manifests Himself in us and is with us always… now and forevermore.
The Holy Spirit also working in the Lord’s Supper where bread and wine is connected to the Word with the result that you and I take into our mouths the real Body and Blood of Christ… His very Body that hung on the cross… His very Blood that was shed on the cross… THIS we receive for the forgiveness of our sins and the strengthening of the faith. Through bread and wine and the Word, Christ manifests Himself in us and is with us always… now and forevermore.
And then there is the Spirit working through the Word alone… working in you as you hear it read from the lectern and preached from the pulpit… as it is taught to you in Bible class… and as you read and study it on your own in personal and family devotions.
Through all of these divine means, wonderful means, the Holy Spirit is mightily at work, always at work… for our good. Accomplishing that which we cannot do alone… on our own. He makes it possible for us to love the Word of God… to love Jesus who is the very Word Incarnate. It is the Spirit who is always teaching us, reminding us that our Savior, Lord and King is with us always.
And this we desperately need, do we not? For Christ to be with us.
Picture your Lord not being with you in all that has happened in your life so far.
Picture your Lord not with you now… in your own personal life, family life, or your life in this world and in our society where the battle has now been taken to bathrooms and locker rooms.
Picture your Lord not with you in the future in what only God knows will take place.
Thankfully, my friends, these are pictures we will never have to see… for they will never be. Not in Christ and Him with us.
Take comfort in the Divine One sent to remind you of this and so much more. Take comfort in the One sent to be your helper and counselor. It is the Holy Spirit.
Our dear Lord Jesus knew we would be “in good hands” after His ascension and during these last days before His triumphal return. Jesus knew that the Spirit who proceeds from Him as well as the Father would do all things perfectly and be all sufficient in seeing to our spiritual care and our eternal lives.
That is why after mentioning the coming of the Spirt and what the Spirit will do for the Apostles and for all believers, that our Lord with the greatest of confidence declares,
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
Peace in Jesus. Peace through the mighty working of the Holy Spirit. Amen!
May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.
“If Anyone Loves Me”
5/15/16 The Rev. Mark H. Hein
St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL