Sermon Text: John 14:25-27
Date: May 19 & 20, 2018
The Day of Pentecost, Year B
John 14:25-27 (EHV)
“I have told you these things while staying with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I told you. “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, and do not let it be afraid.
Come, Holy Spirit!
1. Calm our fears
2. Focus our hearts
The couple stood outside, faces downcast. Both had an idea of what was coming but neither wanted to say anything. Finally one of them spoke. “Look, you know that I love you, but I have to go. I have to leave you now. This can’t go on like this anymore.”
“Why?!” the other demands. “It doesn’t have to be this way. If you loved me, you wouldn’t leave. If you loved me, you’d stay here with me.”
The other replied, “I can’t. I’m sorry, but I can’t.”
Maybe it feels like the scene out of a movie, but in many way this conversation is akin to the one Jesus had with his disciples on Maundy Thursday evening. He was leaving, he told them. Things were going to change. Thomas had piped up first. They didn’t know where he was going; they didn’t know how to find him. How could they get to him again? Where was he going? Why? Even though Jesus answered many of these questions, they sounded like non-answers, nonsense in their state of mind. All they could hear that Jesus was leaving. How would they ever get by?
How do we get by? How do you survive abandonment? What do you do when you Savior has left and you don’t see him anymore? How do we press on, how do we survive, how do we get back to him?
One of the things that parents have to help their kids learn (and if we’re honest, adults have to continually check themselves on) is working to evaluate a problem and consider whether it’s a big deal or not a big deal. For a small child, a parent simply going to the store can be a giant deal. The parent knows they’ll be back in an hour or two, but for the child, this is a catastrophic event. They are terrified that they’ll never see mom or dad again. What will happen to them? How will they feel? But it’s all much ado about nothing in the end, right?
You get the sense that Jesus is kind of like the parent and the disciples are the kids, right? Jesus knows that everything is going to be ok, but he also knows that their hearts are in turmoil; they’re scared. What is going to happen?
Jesus’ encouragement, from his omniscient parental perspective is to have them just calm down. It’s going to be ok. “Do not let your heart be troubled, and do not let it be afraid.” They don’t need to be worried. They don’t need to be afraid. But why?
We recognize something familiar in the disciples, concern, don’t we? It’s the same fear we have felt when thinking about God. It’s the same fear that we see so clearly displayed in the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve sinned against God. They had been created in God’s image. By design they had perfect harmony with God. But in their sin they lost that image, that harmony. So great was this change was that the people who had been created to dwell in peace with God now hid from them at the slightest indication of his arrival in the garden.
That’s us, too. The thought of meeting with God is terrifying. Is he going to make me answer for my sin? Is he going to punish me for what I’ve done wrong? We know we deserve it and we’re terrified to get “what we’ve got coming.”
For the disciples, then, you could see how they would’ve felt safe with Jesus. Surely God wouldn’t do anything bad to them with Jesus around! But if he was gone? All bets were now off.
But Jesus was leaving them that evening to accomplish the real safety they needed, to end the fears that were so real and so unavoidable. Jesus was going to solve that broken relationship with God. He was going to his death to pay for his disciples’ sins, for your sins, for my sins. That’s why Jesus could say that they didn’t need to be afraid, that their hearts need not be troubled. Because he was going to solve that problem. Their relationship with God would be repaired, just as your relationship with God has been repaired because Jesus lived and died for you.
That solves the other problem, right? The concern that Jesus has abandoned us is a total misconception. Jesus has not abandoned us; he just completed his work. It’s done. Sin has been paid for, but as he promised his disciples before he ascended, he reminds us that he is still with us always. He’s invisible but not gone. He’s still with us, and the evidence of that is the gift he has given to us: the Holy Spirit. He’s the one who calms our fears because he’s the one who brings us the faith to trust these promises as true and certain. He’s the one that Jesus promised and we have received. He’s the one that brings us clarity and peace to our life that is so naturally out of focus and misguided.
Peace is something so desirable that we often go looking for it in any place that we can. However, that can be dangerous because there’s a lot of counterfeit peace out there. The world longs for us to lean on and latch onto the false peace it has prepared for us. Money! Fame! Power! Comfort! Entertainment! Food! Vacation! Sports! Health! The world has more offers of peace to pull at our hearts than we can even fathom or process. But all of that peace is temporary. It all has an expiration date. All of the world’s peace is fragile. It can be here one moment and gone the next. All it takes is one trip to the doctor for a diagnosis, one hiccup in the stock market, one bad meal and suddenly the world’s illusion of peace is shown for the fraud that it is.
Our prayer, then, is, “Come, Holy Spirit! Focus our hearts!” Jesus promised a peace that was different than the world’s. But on our own, we can’t get at it. On our own we can’t stand against the world’s temptations for different peace. On our own we’re powerless. We need God’s help; we need what Jesus had promised the Holy Spirit would do for his disciples and for us, “I have told you these things while staying with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I told you.”
One evening this week at bedtime, Oliver asked me what it was like to not wear my glasses. I suddenly became very aware that describing with words something being out of focus is very tricky. Finally, I used my phone to pull of a picture of an out of focus picture of a skyline. You could see the buildings and the lights, but nothing was quite right. For anyone who’s taken an out-of-focus picture, or if you’re blessed to need glasses or contacts, you know the look those get.
Isn’t that kind what our spiritual life is like sometimes? We know the vague outlines, we know the basic ideas. But sometimes applying them to our daily lives or our specific situations is difficult or feels impossible. We know how important everything Jesus has said and done is, yet how often don’t we let other things take the priority? How often, in the heat of the moment, don’t we forget what God has said and done for us? How often don’t we get distracted from the heavenly things and instead focus our hearts on the earthly things.
There’s one solution to that, one thing to solve our misaligned spiritual optics: the gospel. The message of God’s love and forgiveness in Jesus is the solution to all of that trouble. And it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to work the change. He’s the one who highlights our sin in the pages of Scripture and shows us what a disaster we’ve made of our lives. He’s the one who underscores the love of God shown clearly in Jesus life, death, and resurrection all accomplished for us. He’s the one who then takes that reality of Jesus’ forgiveness and makes it ours by faith. He’s the one who then takes God’s law and changes it from being a slog of something we “have” to do to being the most wonderful way to show our thanks to God for what he’s done.
The Holy Spirit brings us Jesus’ words, reminds us of what he’s said and done. He reminds us at times that we need it the most. He reminds us when we get in that argument, when we’re not really sure what our financial future looks like, when we are an emotional wreck for no discernible reason. The Holy Spirit works through the means of grace, through the gospel in his Word and the sacraments, to bring us closer to him, to assure us of his forgiving love, and to be clear that we have no reason to fear.
The clarity, the focus, the Holy Spirit brings, means that then we are shielded from the world’s false peace. We have no reason to think the lies this world tries to sell us our worth any of our time and attention. We can see clearly through the schemes and scams this world tries to sell as positive and call them as they are—threats to our eternal well-being.
My brothers and sisters, we are not alone. The Holy Spirit has come and brought the calming to our fears and the focus for our hearts that we so desperately need. Let us continue to make God’s Word the priority of our lives, because there the Holy Spirit brings these blessings because there the Holy Spirit points us back to all our Savior has done and continues to do for us. Rejoice in your God’s love now and forever! Amen!