Easter 5 2022
May 15, 2022
Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID
Have you ever had to say goodbye to someone that you love? Many people try to avoid this altogether, rather skipping the awkward moments or avoiding the sadness of loss by pretending it never happens. Yet, none of that really works. The absence of the loved one is felt. Next week we will honor the high school seniors in our congregation and some will be saying goodbye to the parents, to their siblings, to their friends as they head off to college or trade school or whatever or wherever it may be. While there is excitement in times like these, anxiousness for new adventures and direction in life, it is a bitter sweet moment saying goodbye, especially for the one who is staying behind.
Our Gospel reading takes place during Holy Week, and what the disciples are hearing is Jesus preparing His disciples for the time when He will say goodbye. Now, Jesus is talking about His ascension into heaven and the sending of His Spirit on the day of Pentecost, which is why we are reading this passage in the time after Easter and before we celebrate His Ascension and Pentecost.
Jesus is telling them this stuff because His disciples are full of sorrow at the very thought of goodbye. And how could they not be. Their teacher, their Lord, who they had travelled with for three years, learned from, seen miracles performed, and placed their entire hope in the coming kingdom are listening to Him proclaim His suffering and death, and that they too would face such a future. And what’s more, He tells them that it is for their own good that He departs. What could be good about Jesus leaving them?
Christ knew His disciples would be upset at His suffering and death and He wanted to reassure them of His victory that comes by these means. There would be nothing worse when hearing of a goodbye that the One leaving was going to have to go through hard times, would suffer, even die. More that once when Jesus tells them of His suffering and death, He gets the response, “Surely not Lord. Or not if I have anything to do about it. Or we’ll follow you and never leave you, never have to say goodbye.” But Jesus had to do this, had to go the cross and to the grave, as only the Son of God could do, in order to be raised from the dead and enter into His glory and deliver of the kingdom of God to all believers.
And so He prepares them for His departure, His exodus to the cross, the resurrection, and the ascension. And yet, it wouldn’t be easy for the disciples. The Spirit of falsehood, at work in the sinful hearts of humanity, would deceive disciples of Christ. So Jesus sends His Spirit of truth to guide His disciples into all truth. The word here for guide, comes from the word for “the way, or a journey.” The Spirit is like a travel guide then, leading God’s people in the way of Christ and to the destination of the resurrection and eternal life. There are two ways, one of life and one of death and there is a great difference between these ways. The way of life is only through faith in Christ and the way of death is that of unbelief.
Christ promises His Holy Spirit to His apostles, and He will convict the world of this truth through them. He will be a Spirit that will endure until the Lord Christ comes again with a punishment of the godless, but a vindication of the faithful. He sends His Holy Spirit to call, gather, enlighten, and sanctify the whole Christian church on earth and keep it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith (Creed, Third Article Explanation).
This is the Spirit of truth, the Spirit of Christ. The Spirit doesn’t speak on His own authority, but He takes the Word of Christ and declares it to you. The Spirit does not speak on His own. He speaks on behalf of the Father and the Son and testifies about Jesus, who binds the work of the Spirit to His Word. The Spirit does not give a new revelation, a new interpretation, a new way of doing things, but proclaims the Word of the Lord that endures forever, placing that Word into the mouth of Jesus’ apostles to confess to the world. He leads believers into a clearer understanding of God’s truth in Christ as we go along the way. He does this by convicting, teaching, and comforting. He takes what belongs to Jesus and delivers it to you in Law and Gospel, in the water and the Word, in the body and blood. It is good that Jesus departs, as bittersweet as it might seem to the disciples, for in doing so He places His Word and His authority in the apostolic ministry guided by the Holy Spirit. And so the Father sends the Spirit of the Son to His people to take them from the kingdom of the devil and into the kingdom of God.
But Jesus teaches His disciples, and us, that we too enter into the kingdom through tribulation and death. When God sends us a cross to bear, when the world beats down on us, when the sadness of goodbyes hit you hard, Jesus teaches us that we are not to hope for the good old days, for the health, wealth, and happiness of this worldly life, but to yearn all the more for eternity, for the joyful reunion of those who have departed in the faith, for God’s vindication of His people against His enemies. Sin, death, and the devil are already defeated.
That means, that you as a Christian have no need to fear suffering for the kingdom, nor offending the world, nor death itself, for Christ has overcome these things. Death is evil, it is an enemy, it is not part of life. Death is the result of sin – the sin of the world and your sin. But death is defeated, for Christ is risen and hell is in ruins. Christ is risen and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen and the tombs will be emptied for the Christ is the firstfruits of those raised from the dead. Christ takes the evil of your death and turns it into a blessed entry to God’s eternal kingdom. It’s no wonder how St. Paul can say, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Would that we believe and act as if we believed like that! You, as a Christian, as one redeemed by Christ, are now in a win-win situation, and goodbyes to love ones in the faith are never for long as we await the resurrection.