Fifth Sunday of Easter
[Read John 16:5-15] - “……... 7 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. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment………”
[John 15:18] – Jesus said: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”
The Holy Spirit, the Helper (by the Word)
It’s like talking to a brick wall. They won’t listen. They won’t be convinced. It’s discouraging. It even makes us doubt. You live in a world determined to call evil good and to call good evil. What is wrong the world insists is right. What is right they call unjust. And they won’t listen to you. It’s like persuading a block of wood. What Help is there?
Most recently, in the news, you’ve likely seen that many states in our nation are passing “Heartbeat bills” – laws which make it a crime to abort a child in the womb once a heartbeat is detectable, or after a certain number of weeks. These are noble laws. These laws are good and just. These laws protect innocent life. We should commit ourselves to praying that these laws are upheld.
These “heartbeat” laws are about the lives of children. As Christians we believe God is the Author and Creator of each life. To end a life in the womb is to break the fifth commandment, “You shall not kill.” We rejoice that our God-ordained civil governments may now be willing to uphold God’s commandment in regard to these smallest and dear living persons in their homes, their mothers’ wombs.
But what does the world say about these good and just laws? Good is called evil. The good of protecting children’s lives is called the evil of oppressing women’s rights. What is just is being called unjust. Focus on the child’s need is replaced with focus on the adult’s wants. Your heart breaks for these youngest children. The world says you are being unjust. Good is called evil. The evil of killing is called a reproductive right. And who will listen to what is right? Attempts to persuade are like talking to a brick wall.
You’re a Christian - you believe that marriage is the one-flesh union of man and woman, for a lifetime, to produce new life and raise new persons. Therefore, you say, adultery and divorce, and “living together”, are wrong because they do damage to this good thing. You affirm that homosexual unions are not the same as marriage, and are not holy, because they never produce life and are forbidden by the God who created men and women. For your good and just belief, the world hates you, calls you unjust, and paints your good belief as evil. Attempts to persuade run aground.
You’re a Christian - you teach what is good and right to your kids and grandkids – they call it backwards, ignorant, outdated, and even wrong. You taught the Christian faith - they know better. The same is true of your life-long friends and even siblings – they’ve become determined that the good you’ve always known is now bad. They have ears like cement when you speak the truth.
Wrong belief doesn’t just affect the world out there, but it affects your world – and home – and church. What Help is there? What encouragement or comfort is there that right speech will ever prevail? Will your right beliefs ever be vindicated – shown to be right – to this unbelieving world? Will what is good finally be called good – will evil finally be called evil? Will wrong voices ever be silenced?
Our Lord Jesus said to His disciples today, “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” [John 16:7]. Jesus promises the “Helper” whom He will send. The Helper whom Jesus sends is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth [John 14:15-17; John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:7]
We’re still in the Easter season – In today’s Gospel, Jesus is speaking here to the disciples about what He will do after His Easter resurrection. Jesus will be crucified, will die for our sins, and will be raised on Easter morning. Then He will ascend to the Father – He will “go away” to the Father – and, having ascended to the Father, Jesus will send the Holy Spirit. Jesus is promising the disciples, “you will see me no more; I will ascend to the Father; but this is to your advantage because, from the Father’s side, I will send to you the Helper, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth.”
We will celebrate the Ascension of Jesus soon, on Thursday, May 30th. Not long after that, we will celebrate Pentecost. Jesus poured out the Holy Spirit upon His disciples on Pentecost. Jesus poured out the Holy Spirit upon you in your baptism [Titus 3:5-6]. Therefore you, brothers and sisters, do have a Helper – the Holy Spirit. What does it mean for the Holy Spirit to be a Helper? What does this Helper do?
This word translated as “Helper” is the word “Paraclete”. A paraclete is one who is called to your side to speak for you – to speak on your behalf – to be your advocate before others. A paraclete speaks for you, at your side, to strengthen and encourage you and give you comfort.
The Holy Spirit is your Helper, your Paraclete, by being the One who speaks for you while your own speaking is bouncing off the brick wall. Our speaking may fail, but the voice of the Helper prevails - it convicts. The voice of the Holy Spirit convicts even a world which will not listen.
Jesus said it – “I will send Him to you. And when He (the Helper) comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” [John 16:8].
The Holy Spirit gives me help, comfort, and encouragement that, although my words fail, THE Word will be heard – because the voice of the Holy Spirit will convict.
To “convict” here, in fact, means to bring to light, to expose – to accuse ,even. It means to charge a person with wrongdoing – to lodge a complaint against someone – to express strong disapproval, to censure, to reprove, to correct. This work of “conviction” is the work of the Holy Spirit, the Helper, for a world that calls good evil and evil good.
Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will convict the world – charge the world with wrongdoing – “concerning sin, because they do not believe in me” [John 16:9]. At the root of all sin is unbelief. The Holy Spirit will expose the world’s sin so that the world’s sin can never be called good again.
The Helper will convict the world – show the world that it’s been wrong – “concerning righteousness.” – “Concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father” [John 16:10]. The world rejected Jesus Himself as evil, as unrighteous, and crucified and buried Him dead. Christ’s resurrection and ascension to glory vindicates Him, showing Him to truly be the Righteous Son of God. The voice of the Helper, the Holy Spirit, exposes to the world it’s error of calling the Just One unjust.
And this Helper, this Paraclete, will convict the world – bring to light the world’s error – concerning judgment: “Concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” The world judged Christ as evil and put Him on the cross; but, by that Cross, it was the ruler of this world, the devil, who was judged and defeated. The Holy Spirit encourages you, testifying to you that this worlds’ ruler has been judged and defeated by the Cross of Jesus. The Holy Spirit exposes the world’s defeat and brings to light Christ’s victory over it.
In a world so committed to calling evil good and good evil, we are not called to beat our heads against the wall. And we are never called to become angry – “for the anger of man does not produce the righteous of God”, our Epistle reading says [James 1:16-21]. Instead, because we have such a powerful Helper, even in the midst of an evil generation, we are free and have the confidence to “be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.”
In a world committed to calling evil good and good evil – even as this affects our families and churches – we do have confidence that, through the Word of God we speak, the Holy Spirit, the Helper, speaks and convicts the world in its conscience – even when we don’t see the results.
Why would we, as Christians, want the world to be convicted of its sin and injustice and evil judgments? So we can win? No, not in the least. Instead, we want the Helper to convict the world so that, perhaps, those convicted can now be convinced. The Helper convicts the world of sin so He can convince the world of a Savior, Jesus – who died for the world.
A world convicted of sin and wrong can, perchance, be convinced to embrace a Savior, a Forgiver of Sin. Here Jesus said the Spirit convicts. Earlier, in John 15:26, Jesus said this Helper will bear witness about Him (Jesus). The Helper that convicts us also convinces us that “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him” [John 3:17].
You and I know the world needs this Helper who convicts and convinces because we ourselves have been and are convicted of our sins and are convinced of our Savior. What God has done for you by the voice of His Holy Spirit, speaking through the Word of God, He also does for others.
Before the sermon, we sang “The Law of God Is Good and Wise”. Now, at the end of the sermon, we will sing, “The Gospel Shows the Father’s Grace.” The Law of God which convicts and the Gospel which shows a gracious Savior, Jesus, together are the Word of this Helper, this Encourager and Comforter, Who alone is able to speak to a world hard of hearing. So, in a world committed to wrong, let’s not beat our heads against the wall, but let’s be patiently faithful and trust the Helper who has been sent. Amen.