Sunday, May 2, 2021

Sermon for Easter 5 - Cantate - Jn 16:5-15


                                                                                                Easter 5

                                                                                                Jn 16:5-15



            At the beginning of the sermon this morning, I want to do something a little different. I would like you to join me in taking part in a little mental experiment.  I am going to say a word, and then you note what is the first word, impression, or emotion that arises.  Are you ready?  Here is the word: Zoom.

            Now my initial reaction is: Yuck!  Actually, the old Adam in me probably calls to mind some other phrases and statements, but they are not sanctified, and certainly not appropriate for a sermon.

            For many of us, since the spring of 2020 when the Covid pandemic hit, the word “Zoom” has meant the internet platform that allows groups of people in different locations to meet online.  Through the cameras and microphones on our computers the program allows everyone taking part to see the video of others at the meeting and to hear and speak with them.

            Now on the surface, this sounds really good.  And to be honest, it is a good thing that can be very useful.  However, as the pandemic dragged on, and we were often forced to hold every meeting or Bible class via Zoom it soon became clear that there is no substitute for actually being in the room with other people.  You simply cannot have the same personal interaction, if you are not in person.  The fake stand in for this can enable you to get some things done, but I have certainly reached the point where I never want to attend another Zoom meeting for a very long time.

            We know that in person is best.  Separation is not a good thing.  Facetime, Skype, Zoom and other means may allow us to see and talk to another person. But they don’t change the fact that we aren’t there with them.  You can’t hug someone, or put your arm around their shoulder, or touch their hand.  We miss the physical presence of another person that is so important to us.  Technology may have given us some tools to help alleviate separation, but they can’t solve it.

            We don’t want to be separated from people we care about.  And so Jesus’ words in our Gospel lesson this morning are very surprising.  Our Lord says that he is going away.  He is returning to the Father. But then he adds that this departure – this separation – is actually a good thing for the disciples and for us.

            Our text this morning is from the portion of John’s Gospel in which he tells us about Jesus’ conversation with the disciples on the evening of Maundy Thursday – the night when he was betrayed.  Much of the discussion took place as Jesus and the disciples made their way to the Garden of Gethsemane.

            Jesus begins our text by saying, “But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, 'Where are you going?' 

But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.”  Our Lord says that he is returning to his Father who sent him into the world.  He is leaving. When Jesus’s ascension occurred forty days after Easter, I am sure it was a surprising event.  But it wasn’t something for which the disciples had received no preparation.  Jesus had told them in a very straightforward way that he would be leaving.

            Naturally, the prospect of Jesus leaving them brought the disciples grief. Being with the Lord was the most amazing experience.  His teaching and miracles were a constant source of wonder and awe. But beyond this, to be with Jesus was to be with love incarnate. John tells us that God is love, and Jesus was God in the flesh. 

            Our Lord acknowledged that his departure would bring sorrow to the disciples.  But then he says something very surprising as he adds: “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.”  Jesus says he is going away, and that this is a good thing for us.

            There are two things here that we probably find puzzling. The first is the idea that it is necessary for Jesus to return to the Father in order for the Spirit to be sent.  John’s Gospel makes it clear that the mission of the Son of God is one that descends from the Father and then returns to the Father.  In the prologue to the Gospel, John tells us that the Son of God – the Word – was in the beginning with God and was God.  As true God, the Son entered into our world in the incarnation as the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

            The Father sent him to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  He did this because we are people who, as we confessed earlier in the service, sin in thought, word, and deed.  We think covetous and lustful thoughts.  We speak angry words as we seek to hurt others.  We act in selfish ways as we ignore the needs of others and only look out for ourselves.

            Though without sin, Jesus Christ took our sins as his own and died for them.  He received the judgment that we deserved.  When he cried out “It is finished!” from the cross and died, he announced that he had completed this mission given to him by the Father.

            But the Father’s will for Jesus did not end in death.  It could not, because the incarnate Son of God’s mission also included the defeat of death.  On the third day – on Easter – Jesus rose from the dead.  And so John’s Gospel tells us of how Mary Magdalene saw and touched him; and how the Lord appeared to the disciples on the evening of Easter, and then the evening a week after that; and how he was seen by seven disciples at the Sea of Galilee where he gave them fish and bread to eat.

            The Son of God’s saving path led him down into our world, through the cross and into the depth of the tomb.  But then it led in life up out of the tomb and in a return to the Father in his ascension.  If we ask why it was necessary for Jesus to depart, it is because Jesus Christ poured forth the Spirit as the exalted Lord seated at the right hand of God.  This was the working of God’s saving plan for us.  It is as the crucified, risen, and now exalted Lord that Jesus Christ has given us the Spirit.

            The second puzzling thing we find is that Jesus states his departure is a good thing for us.   In our text Jesus says, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 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.”

            Our Lord says that the Spirit’s role is to guide the disciples – to guide them into all truth.  Of course, earlier in this same conversation Jesus had said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  The Spirit guides into all truth, because he points to Jesus; he makes known Jesus.  Our Lord says in our text “He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.  All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

            The Spirit’s role is to glorify Jesus.  He takes what Jesus has done and makes it known. And this morning we are experiencing the results of this.  We are experiencing this as it happens.

            In chapter fourteen Jesus said to the disciples, “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.”  Jesus promised that the Spirit would teach his apostles, and bring to their remembrance what he had said.  Then in chapter fifteen he added, “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.”

            In the working of God’s salvation, the Father sent the Son into the world to die for our sins, rise from the dead and be exalted in his ascension.  This was so that the exalted Son could then send forth the Spirit – the Spirit who guided the disciples into all truth; the Spirit who called to their remembrance what Jesus said; the Spirit who bears witness about Jesus, and by whom the disciples bear witness.

            The very words we consider this morning are the result of this.  We experience the Spirit glorifying Jesus, and taking what belongs to Jesus and making it know to us through the Gospel of John. The Spirit who taught the apostles all things and brought to remembrance what he said, now speaks to us through these inspired words. The Spirit now guides us into all truth, and takes what belongs to Jesus and makes it known to us.

            In this work, the Spirit strengthens and continues what he has already done for us.  Jesus told Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  Then when Nicodemus was perplexed by this statement, Jesus added, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

            You have been born again of water and the Spirit in Holy Baptism.  God has called you to be his own through the work of the Spirit. In this we have eternal life.  But at the same time, it means that we must expect challenges and struggles.  Jesus said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” 

            To sustain you in this faith, the Spirit sent forth by the risen exalted Lord continues to speak to you through words of the apostle John.  He takes what belongs to Jesus and makes it known to you, because what belongs to Jesus is victory over sin, death and the devil.

            Our Lord has ascended and given us his Spirit.  This defines the time in which we presently live. For now, the Spirit takes what belongs to Jesus and makes it know to us. But it will not always be this way.  Just after out text, the Lord went on to say more about his departure to the Father. And there he promised his return on the Last Day.  The separation will come to an end. He said, “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 into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 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.” 









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