First Lesson Acts 17:16-31
Second Lesson 1 Peter 3:13-22
Gospel Lesson John 14:15-21
Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. The text for our meditation this day is the Gospel lesson just read. [John 14:15-21]
It’s been a couple weeks since I announced that I’m retiring. Seeing the Pastor leave, while we’re still looking for a Principal; it can be unnerving. And why shouldn’t we be concerned? What’ll happen to Peace Lutheran Church and School? Has God abandoned us? Of course not. I’ve always told you that Scripture holds the answer to our questions.
In the lesson today, Jesus is speaking to his disciples during his last supper with them. He tells his disciples that they’ll be OK, even though he’s about to be taken from them and crucified. Imagine the shock; Jesus says he’s going and they don’t know where. He says they’ll be OK, but he’s going away to a place where they can’t follow. They thought he’d come to be a worldly king, the King of Israel; and now he says he’s returning to his Father.
But, Jesus tells them not to worry because his Father in heaven will send another Helper to take his place. I’m sure that went over great. These were Jesus’ disciples, not some other Helper’s disciples. Will this other Helper be someone they can easily accept? How could anyone ever hope to replace Jesus? And how would they recognize him? How will they know it’s really him and not an imposter?
Isn’t that what we want to know? How will we know? Will we feel it in our hearts? If that’s the case, how will we know we’re following the Holy Spirit and not just having a bad case of indigestion? How’ll we know we’re doing the right thing? How’ll we know God’s will and how’ll we know we’re really following it?
That’s the question we’re left with as we read the passage today. Jesus says the Father will give us another Helper; but just what does that mean? It could mean the Father will give us another Jesus; or it could mean he’ll give us something completely different. It all depends on that word ‘another’. With our good old English language it’s hard to tell. If I ask you, “Would you like another sandwich?” I could mean, “Do you like the first one and want another just like it?” or I could mean, “Do you want to try something different; another kind of sandwich?”
But in Greek it’s crystal clear. The Greeks have two different words for another; allov which means ‘another of the same kind’ and `eterov which means ‘another different one’; and in Greek the word Jesus uses is allov. Jesus says the Father will give us another like the other.
Just as the Father and the Son are one, the Holy Spirit is another Helper like the One the disciples already have. Jesus and the Spirit are the same; not ‘one and the same,’ but identical in that they have the same qualities about them.
Just as Jesus is our Helper and Advocate, so the Holy Spirit is our Helper and Advocate. Just as Jesus is called Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, so the same can be said of the Holy Spirit; and that’s good news for us.
In four more days, we celebrate the day when our Lord and Savior ascended into heaven, disappearing from our sight as he returned to his throne in glory. But, we need his good counsel. We need his powerful, protective hands guarding us from evil; even from the evil of our own sinful nature. We need him guiding us, leading us, because without him, in our sinfulness, we know that the very things we ought not to do are the things we will do, and the things we should do are the very things we refuse to do.
And yet, he had to return to his Father’s side. His work was complete. His journey here on earth had come to an end, and it was his Father’s will that he be seated at his right hand, in the throne of glory that rightfully belonged to him.
But, Christ had promised to be with us always, and we need Christ with us always; every day. And, in fact, he’s kept his promise. He’s with us every day in his Spirit, his Holy Spirit. God the Father’s sent us another like the other; One who helps us. Christ helped us by taking our sins upon himself and making them his own. He paid for our sins, with his life; and with his life, he restored the justice that had been stolen from his Father in the garden.
But, this forgiveness, won for all mankind, is of no benefit to you unless you believe. Unless you believe that God’s own Son came down from heaven and became true man for the sole purpose of forgiving your sins and covering you in his righteousness so that God the Father sees you as pure and holy … even though you’re still a sinner; unless you believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, the forgiveness he earned for you has no benefit for you.
But, in our sinfulness, there’s no way for us to believe. Our sinful nature sees no need to believe. No, for us to believe, we need help. We need a Helper, another Helper; one that’s true God like Christ; one that’s another like the other; one whose mission it is to reveal the one he’s so much like; one who speaks of Christ as he opens our hearts and minds with the faith we need to believe.
That’s why Jesus’ promise that the Father would send ‘another’ is so important to us. Without the ‘other’ we’d remain blind to the truth, ignorant of the truth. Without the ‘other,’ even though Christ accomplished his Father’s will in full, we’d still be dead in our sins. Without the ‘other’ we’d have no way to believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord, or come to him; not by our own reason or strength, not by our sincerest devotion and desire, not by anything that we could possibly do.
But God did send the ‘other’; the One who calls us through the Gospel, enlightens us with his gift of faith, sanctifying us, making us holy by delivering the forgiveness already won for us by our first Helper, Jesus Christ.
Now we have Helpers on two fronts: One who’s in heaven interceding for us with the Father; reminding him of the forgiveness already accomplished for us in the sacrifice of his own precious body and blood. And One here on earth; gathering, enlightening, protecting and defending us against all evil each day of our lives. This One, like the other One, daily and richly forgives our sins and the sins of all believers.
So, the Holy Spirit, this ‘other Helper,’ isn’t really someone new; someone different from Jesus. There’s Unity in the Trinity, and so we know him and recognize him, as he comes to us, calling to us through God’s holy Word; that we might know Jesus and recognize him.
Just as we confess: the Father and the Son are one. The Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father. The Son came to be our Helper and when he rose back into heaven to be with the Father, he sent his Holy Spirit, another Helper, another like the other; another who continually witnesses to the other, to Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior, for all time, forever.
The whole three persons are coeternal with each other and coequal, so that in all things, the Trinity in Unity and the Unity in Trinity is worshiped. Through the study of God’s Word; through partaking in his sacrament; through the means of grace by which we receive the forgiveness of our sins; we can be certain of our salvation no matter who the pastor is; no matter who the principal is. God is following the plan he’s had since before the beginning of time; a plan that includes you and me. He hasn’t abandoned us. Whether it’s the Son or ‘another like the other,’ he’s with us always; just as he promised.
In Christ’s service,