The Fifth Sunday of Easter
28 April Anno + Domini 2013
John 16:5-15 (Isaiah 12:1-6; James 1:16-21)
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
He Is Risen! (He Is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!)
“You will say in that day: I will give thanks to you, O LORD, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation” (Is. 12:1-2).
Thus does Isaiah prophesy some seven centuries before the day of which he speaks, for the day of which he speaks is the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is prophesying about you, O Christian. You will say in that day – in this day, the day of our Lord Jesus Christ – I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me. You will say in that day – in this day, the day of our Lord Jesus Christ – Behold, God is my salvation. And you do say this in this day, the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, precisely because it has been to your advantage that Jesus has gone away and sent the Helper, the Holy Spirit, to you. For no one says, “Jesus is Lord,” but by the Holy Spirit. No one knows how the Father’s anger toward us for our many sins has been turned away by the perfect life and sacrificial death of Jesus on the Cross, but by the Holy Spirit. No one knows how impossible it is for us sinners to save ourselves, but by the Holy Spirit. And no one knows that our Lord Jesus Christ has become our salvation, doing what is impossible for us, fulfilling every perfect command of God’s perfect Law in our place, and paying for our every failure to keep those perfect commands with His precious blood on Mount Calvary, but by the Holy Spirit.
Where the Holy Spirit is lacking, there is no truth. We see this in every other world religion, save Christianity, for every other world religion is a religion of the Law, where the way of salvation, whatever is meant by salvation according to each particular religion, is left to us. Being good, whatever is meant by good, is the way to the afterlife in every religion lacking the Holy Spirit. In these religions, God has not become your salvation, but it is incumbent upon you to save yourselves, to merit favor with God, whoever God might be, that you might gain access through your own works to whatever glory there is in whatever life that follows this one.
Where the Holy Spirit is lacking, there is no truth. That is to say, where the Holy Spirit is lacking, there is no Jesus, for He is the truth. Where there is no Jesus, there is not only no truth, but neither is there any way to salvation nor the possibility of eternal life, for Jesus is not only the truth, but also the way and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Him.
“Sing to the Lord a new song,” O Christian, “for He has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations” (Ps. 98:1a, 2b). He has revealed His righteousness to you by the Holy Spirit. For He has fulfilled His promise to send the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit has done, and continues to do, in you exactly what Jesus promised He would do. He convicts you of sin, putting the perfect commands of God’s Law before you and showing you how miserably you measure up. You have not loved God as you should. Not even close. And you have not loved your neighbors as you should. Not even close. Confessing this at the beginning of every Divine Service is not just some rote ritual in which you participate, but a confession of the truth. You have sinned. In many and various ways. St. James tells you in the epistle this morning to “be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:19-21).
He’s talking to Christians - to you. He’s telling you what you should be striving for as those who have received the Holy Spirit. And because you have received the Holy Spirit, you not only know that what St. James tells you is good, but you do strive to live as he tells you to live, and you know when you haven’t, for when you haven’t – when you haven’t been quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, but rather short-tempered and quick to hurl angry insults and hold grudges and gossip about “those people” – the Holy Spirit convicts you of sin, and then comes the guilt and shame, for you know you ought not behave like that. And when you don’t put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness, but either engage in it or turn a blind eye to it, the Holy Spirit convicts you of sin, and then comes the guilt and shame, for you know you ought not do this. And when you do not receive the implanted word, which is Jesus, in meekness and humility, as one who is desperate for salvation, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, but rather come to church to just go through the motions or, worse, skip church altogether to do something else you’d rather be doing, the Holy Spirit convicts you of sin, and then comes the guilt and shame, for you know you ought not treat the Gospel so cheaply. Repent!
But, the Holy Spirit is not only sent to you to convict you of sin, but also of righteousness and judgment. When He has convicted you of sin and lead you to repentance, He is quick to direct your attention to Jesus, to remind you of all that He has done, and continues to do, for you; to show you your salvation by taking what belongs to Jesus – holiness and righteousness – and declaring it to you. Your sins are taken away by the Lamb of God, in whose holiness and righteousness you are clothed, not by anything you have done, but by all that Jesus has done, and continues to do, for you. The Holy Spirit convicts you of righteousness, and then the guilt and shame of your sins is taken away, covered by the holiness and righteousness of Jesus. And, as the Holy Spirit convicts you of righteousness, He also convicts you of judgment, for Satan has been defeated and his accusations against you for all your sins have been silenced by the blood of Jesus, who crushed the serpent’s head on the Cross. Satan is defeated, sin is paid for in full, and death is dead, for Jesus lives and reigns and intercedes at the right hand of the Father for you. You have been judged and found not guilty for Jesus’ sake.
And so, as strange as it seems, it really is to your advantage that Jesus go away, so that He might send the Holy Spirit to you. He goes away to the Cross to win your salvation, and it is from the Cross that He hands over the Spirit of Truth, that is, His own Spirit, for just as Jesus and the Father are One, so Jesus and the Holy Spirit are One. On the Cross, Jesus hands over the Spirit of Truth along with the life-giving and life-sustaining water and blood that pour forth from His pierced side, for it is through that water and blood that the Holy Spirit will take what belongs to Jesus and declare it to you, clothing you in Jesus’ perfect holiness and righteousness through the water of Holy Baptism and continually cleansing your baptismal robes in the Blood of the Lamb distributed to you in the Holy Supper.
Isaiah prophesied about this, too, dear friends. “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” (Is. 12:3), and so you have, for, by the Holy Spirit’s gracious working, you have drawn water from the wells of Jesus’ side. And, you “shout and sing for you, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel” (Is. 12:6), for, by the Holy Spirit’s gracious working, you believe that the Holy One of Israel, Jesus Christ, your Lord and Savior, is Bodily Present upon the holy altar, giving you to eat and to drink of His very Body and Blood for the forgiveness of your sins and the strengthening and preservation of your faith.
What all of this means, of course, is that, while Jesus has departed to ascend to the Father’s right hand to be our Mediator, having finished every last work necessary for your salvation, He is not gone. The Holy Spirit directs you to where He is for you, to where Jesus continues to Tabernacle among us in His very Flesh and Blood, here in His Holy Church, at the font, pulpit, and altar. He is your strength and your song, for He has become your salvation. He is your refuge from the sorrows that inevitably fill your lives in this vale of tears, the sorrows that are brought upon you by other sinners and the sorrows you bring upon yourselves by your own sins. He prepares His Holy Church for you as a blessed oasis in the desert of this sinful world, a sanctuary, a safe-haven, that you might come and be fed upon Him, the Word of God that never passes away.
Oh yes, O Christian, it is to your advantage that Jesus has gone away, so that He might send the Spirit of Truth to lead you into all Truth, that is, to lead you into Jesus and the wells of salvation that never cease flowing from Him. Come, then, at the gracious invitation of your Savior, which the Holy Spirit opens your ears to hear, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and receive rest for your souls. Receive with meekness and joy the implanted Word, that, filled with Jesus, you might sing the new song of His revealed righteousness not only with your lips, but with your lives, “giving thanks to the Lord, calling upon His Name, making known His deeds among the peoples, proclaiming that His Name is exalted” (Is. 12:4).
Lord, grant this unto us all, in the Name of Jesus, for He Is Risen! (He Is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!)
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.