Gospel: John 16:5-15
5[Jesus said:] “But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 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: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 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. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
Cantate Sunday (Easter 5)| John 16:5-15| Pastor James Preus| Trinity Lutheran Church| May 7, 2023
Jesus goes away to the Father, so that He may send us His Holy Spirit. In few words, Jesus gives us a vivid description of the work of the Holy Trinity. The Father sends the Son. The Son returns to the Father by way of the cross. The Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit. Yet, in this Gospel lesson, Jesus focuses especially on the work of the Holy Spirit, whom He calls the Spirit of Truth and the Paraclete, that is the Helper or Comforter.
The Holy Spirit is God. His work in our salvation is as important as the work of the Father and of the Son. If the Father does not send the Son to take on our human nature and to suffer, die in our place, and rise again, then we cannot be saved. And if the Holy Spirit does not deliver to us Christ’s victory, then we cannot be saved.
Jesus tells His disciples that it is to their advantage that He go away, because if He does not go the Paraclete, that is the Helper or Comforter will not come to them, but if Jesus goes away, then He will send Him to them. By “go away” Jesus means go to the Father by means of the cross. Jesus will be taken away from His disciples, beaten, tried, condemned to death, crucified, and buried in a tomb before He finally departs to the Father after rising from the dead and ascending to the Father’s right hand. By suffering and dying, Jesus paid for the sins of the whole world. Jesus returns to the Father having accomplished His mission on earth: winning salvation for all.
If Jesus does not go to the Father in this way, then He cannot send the Holy Spirit to comfort the disciples. If He does not suffer and die for all sins, then the Holy Spirit has nothing to bring them to comfort them. And if the Holy Spirit does not come to them, then Jesus’ suffering and death is for nothing, because only through faith can we receive the forgiveness and salvation Jesus won for us. If the work of the Holy Spirit is taken away, then the work of Christ is taken away. And so, we must not ignore the work of the Holy Spirit, but pay careful attention to what Jesus says the Holy Spirit will do.
Jesus says that the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, will convict the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment. Convict is a legal word. Jesus is put on trial by the chief priests and Pontius Pilate. He is found guilty by wicked men and condemned to death. Now, the Holy Spirit comes to put the world on trial on account of Jesus, and this is the verdict the Holy Spirit will give.
The Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin, because it does not believe in Jesus. Most people agree on the second table of the law, that is, the command to love one’s neighbor as oneself. People agree that you should obey the proper authorities, that you should not murder, that you should not commit adultery, that you should not steal, and that you should not slander. People may have different criteria for each of these commandments, but in the world’s eye, you are righteous if you refrain from these crimes. And for this reason, the world does not believe that we need Jesus. If Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and even atheists can agree on basic moral laws, who needs to believe in Jesus to be a good person?
But the Holy Spirit convicts the world of the greatest sin. The greatest sin is rejecting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The world combats this assertion by saying, “If I’m a good person, why do I need Jesus? Are you saying that if I am a good person, but don’t believe in Jesus, I’m going to hell?” Of course, the flaw in that argument is that no one is a good person. We’re all miserable sinners. And those who do not follow Jesus do not perfectly love their neighbor, but twist the command to love, so that they can still get away with mistreating their neighbor and serving their own lusts. The world is filled with hatred, murder, sexual immorality, theft, and slander. And everyone has been found guilty.
But even if you have kept yourself from such sins, you are still not innocent if you reject Jesus. Jesus is the one and only God. He clearly manifested Himself to the world with great signs and miracles, which are attested by multiple witnesses. He died for the sins of the whole world and rose again from the dead, being seen by hundreds. Jesus has fulfilled all Scripture, proving Himself to be the Christ. To reject Jesus is to reject the clear Word of God. To reject Jesus is to break the first and greatest commandment, “You shall have no other gods.”
Christ Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, so that whoever believes in Him may not perish but have everlasting life. Yet, if you do not believe in Jesus, then you remain in your sin. Only through Jesus can your sins be taken away.
The Holy Spirit convicts the world concerning righteousness. To be righteous means to be innocent of all sin and to have a right relationship with God. When Jesus stood before His human judges, they condemned Him as a sinner and mocked the claim that God was with Him. If God were with Him, why didn’t He rescue Him from the cross? Yet, the Holy Spirit now convicts the world concerning righteousness, because Jesus goes to the Father. Jesus does not remain dead, but He is risen from the dead and returns to His heavenly Father to sit at His right hand and live and reign forever. The world condemned Jesus as a sinner. The Holy Spirit vindicates Jesus as the Righteous One.
And as the Righteous One, Jesus is the only one who can make you righteous. This is the verdict of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has already convicted the world of sin. None is righteous, no not one. Yet, through faith in Christ you escape the verdict of sinner and receive the verdict of righteous. Although you are a sinner and deserve to be condemned with the world, through faith you receive Christ’s righteousness as a gift, because Christ has already paid for your sins. Jesus has gone to the Father. After bearing your sins, He is righteous. So, through Jesus alone, you are declared righteous by the Holy Spirit.
Finally, the Holy Spirit convicts the world concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. The ruler of this world is Satan. What does it mean that Satan is the ruler of this world? It means that he influences this world and leads people in sin and unbelief. St. Paul writes in Ephesians 2, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (vss. 1-3) That is the condition of the whole world before they are rescued by God and granted faith in Christ.
Before Jesus was arrested, He said, “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” Satan rules this world with lies, but when Jesus dies for the sins of the whole world, He undoes Satan’s lies. He undoes sin. He plunders Satan’s kingdom. All those who cling to Jesus escape the judgement of the world. But those who reject Jesus will be condemned along with Satan.
This is the work of the Holy Spirit. By convicting the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment, He proclaims Jesus’ victory, so that whoever believes may be saved. But where, when, and how does the Holy Spirit do this great work? Jesus told His Apostles that the Spirit of Truth would lead them in all truth. This means that the words of the Apostles are the words of the Holy Spirit, the words of God Himself. This is why St. Paul says that the Church is built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Christ Jesus being the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). The Apostles and Prophets refer to the Bible, which is written by the Apostles and Prophets. The words of the Apostles are the words of the Holy Spirit. This means that the New Testament is God’s Word even as the Old Testament is God’s Word. When we read the words of the Bible, we are reading the very words of the Holy Spirit.
And so, the Holy Spirit works wherever the Gospel is proclaimed in all the world. The task of a faithful preacher, is to proclaim the whole council of God from Holy Scripture, so that he knows that the Holy Spirit is speaking through him. When you hear a sermon preached in faithfulness to the Bible, proclaiming the work of Jesus to save, then you are hearing the Holy Spirit convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. Then you are hearing the Holy Spirit deliver Christ’s victory to you.
The Holy Spirit also works in the Sacraments. We must not separate the Sacraments from God’s Word and from Christ’s institution in Holy Scripture. You should hold fast to the promise God made you in your Baptism. Holy Scripture tells you that in Baptism your sins are forgiven (Acts 2:38) and you are saved (Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21). That means that in your Baptism, the Holy Spirit convicts you of the righteousness of Christ. Holy Scripture says that the Lord’s Supper is Christ’s true body and blood given to you for the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:26-28). That means that when you receive the Lord’s Supper in faith, you are receiving the verdict of the Holy Spirit that you are righteous before God.
The Holy Spirit continues to do His marvelous work in His Church through the ministry of the Word and Sacraments today. And Christ is glorified in the work of the Holy Spirit. Christ is glorified, because the Holy Spirit takes what belongs to Christ and declares it to us. Christ came to earth to save sinners. He died not for His own sins, but for ours. Yet, the salvation He labored for cannot be given to us except by the Holy Spirit. Because of the Holy Spirit’s work, Christ’s work is not in vain. So, the Holy Spirit glorifies Christ by converting sinners to faith through the Gospel. When you repent of your sins and believe in Christ as your Savior, Christ Jesus is glorified. His work is glorified. That is the work of the Holy Spirit.
So, if we want Christ to be glorified in us, so that His labor is not in vain, we must listen to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit works through the proclamation of the Gospel and the Sacraments. We should not neglect the work of the Holy Spirit, because without His work, we cannot be saved. Yet, when the Holy Spirit works in us, so that we believe in Christ, Christ is glorified and we are saved. Amen.