The Day of Pentecost
[Read John 14:23-27]
“He Will Teach You All Things”, for Your Peace
Jesus answered him, “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.”
“If a person loves me, he will keep my word …. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.” You love Jesus Christ. You can say with confidence that you love your Lord Jesus Christ, just like you can say confidently that you love your mother or father or wife or husband. You love Christ.
Yet, if I say I love my mother, father, or spouse, but find myself despising their words and hating it when they speak, there may be something hypocritical and untrue about my claim that I love them. The same is true of your love for Christ and God His Father.
You cannot love Christ, yet not love His words. You cannot love God, yet not love what God has spoken - the commandments and the teachings of Scripture.
The point is this: Much of what God has spoken has now become “hot button” and political. Keeping Christ’s words and certain teaching and commands found in the New Testament (not just in the Old Testament) means holding to unpopular opinions. Keeping to God’s Word means many in this world will not be at peace with you. You lose your peace. Keeping God’s Word can mean being disliked or painted as hateful or bigoted - barbaric, outdated, on the “wrong side of history”, and so on.
But Christ has said it: “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word”; and also, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me” [John 14:21]. Christ also told us ahead of time: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” [John 15:18].
We struggle to keep God’s Word in the face of the world’s rejection because we break the First Commandment. We fail to “Fear, love, and trust in God above all things”. We want the peace that the world gives and are afraid to lose it.
How can I endure when I am so often and so strongly tempted to find approval and peace with this world? And, in addition to this, what if I have truly begun to doubt God’s Word? What if I now struggle to understand how God’s Word can be right?
Much in God’s Word runs contrary to our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5) and to our natural reason. Perhaps I desire to be faithful to God’s Word, but how do I come to understand it and to see it as right? What if I, as a person who does love my Lord Jesus, legitimately struggle to be at peace with what His word says in certain places? What help is there for me?
Here is the truth: By nature, you and I cannot believe in God’s Word. By nature, we cannot accept God’s Word. We are not able. God’s Word is contrary to our carnal reason. God’s Word is contrary to our own understanding. Or rather, Natural Man’s sinful nature is contrary to God’s Word.
“Natural Man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolish to him, and he is not able to understand them” [1 Corinthians 2:14]. To accept the things that are spiritual, to accept the Word of God, to comprehend and to love the teachings and commands of Scripture, and to know and to love Jesus Himself – “to accept the things of the Spirit of God” – we must have the Spirit of God. We must have the Holy Spirit, the Helper. We must have the Spirit of Truth.
Jesus said in today’s Gospel, “the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things.” And Christ said, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth” [John 16:13]. And today Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; MY peace I give to you.” “Not as the world gives…” – but my true peace I give to you. [John 14:27]. The Holy Spirit teaches us for our peace.
Today is, of course, the Day of Pentecost [Acts 2:1-21]. Today is the day, 50 days after Christ’s resurrection, when Christ, having ascended to God’s right hand, poured out the Holy Spirit from heaven onto His disciples. You remember from the reading, the Holy Spirit came as the sound of a mighty rushing wind and in the appearance of tongues of fire.
Many centuries earlier, mankind, at the Tower of Babel, for his sin, had been dispersed into speaking the many languages that separate us. On the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit caused the disciples to speak in the tongues, the languages, of many so that what is spoken by the Holy Spirit can be heard by all.
And now, today, the Holy Spirit speaks to all in the many languages of mankind as the Word of God is preached among all the nations. What mattered on the Day of Pentecost wasn’t so much the miraculous tongues, but the message that was preached to people of many languages. It is by the Holy Spirit that man can now know and understand and love the things of God, including God’s Word.
In a hostile world – among friends and family who are increasingly hostile toward or put off by the Word of God – in a hostile world, can you endure in love for Jesus and therefore love for God’s Word? Only by the Holy Spirit, yes. Can I endure through my own doubts? Only by the Holy Spirit, yes.
The Holy Spirit was poured out in a spectacular way on the Day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit was poured upon you in a more ordinarily miraculous way in Baptism. The Apostle Peter, who had just received the Holy Spirit, on that very same Day of Pentecost, preached to the crowds saying, “BE BAPTIZED every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” [Acts 2:38].
Why are you called to believe so differently than what the world believes? Because you, brothers and sisters, are not Natural Man. You are Re-Born-Man – Men & Women reborn in the Holy Spirit by Baptism [John 3:5].
By the Holy Spirit alone, you all are those who love Jesus and therefore keep to His word. The Holy Spirit is a true Helper by whom you endure loving and believing God’s Word in a world that doesn’t. The Holy Spirit is a true Helper, the Spirit of Truth, who will help you understand even those things in God’s Word which seem hard to accept. Can you love Jesus and therefore love all that is written in God-His-Father’s Word? By the Helper, by the Holy Spirit, given on Pentecost, given to you in Holy Baptism, yes, you can.
The hardest thing to believe in God’s Word is the true promise that our sins are forgiven. The hardest thing to believe is that Jesus has forgiven and loves you and me, even as we have failed so much to love Him and keep His word at all. It’s hard to believe that God is at peace with us. Only the Holy Spirit can teach us that He is.
The Holy Spirit, the Helper, gives us our faith and teaches us that God is indeed at peace even with sinners. The Holy Spirit persuades and teaches you that the death and resurrection of Jesus is for you and that, by His death on the Cross, you, a sinner, do indeed have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. The Holy Spirit teaches, by God Word, that God is at peace with you because your sins are forgiven in Jesus. This is the peace that Jesus gives. This peace endures no matter what the world says or does.
The Holy Spirit is given to you in Baptism. The Holy Spirit is renewed to you in the hearing of God’s Word and in receiving the Holy Supper – therefore that peace of Christ is renewed to you in this very place.
To end our Pentecost sermon today, let’s hear what our Small Catechism says, drawing from the Scriptures, about what you and I cannot do, but about what the Holy Spirit can do for you and me. Here is what our Small Catechism says about what it means to say, “I believe in the Holy Spirit”:
“I believe in the Holy Spirit.” What does this mean? [It means] “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.”
“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word.” By the Holy Spirit alone, you, even guilty sinners, are able to believe, keep, confess, and love Jesus Christ to the end and, therefore, to love all that His word commands and teaches – and to have peace. Thanks be to God for the Holy Spirit given. Amen.