Easter 7 2021 Exaudi
May 16, 2021
Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID
God promised in our Old Testament reading of Ezekiel 36 that He wanted to give His Spirit to His people, to sprinkle them clean, to give a new heart and a new spirit, to cause us to walk in His statutes. So Jesus likewise promises in today’s Gospel reading that He desires to give and send the Spirit of truth to His people. Whereas the Old Testament repeatedly spoke of the Holy Spirit coming upon someone, Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit dwelling in a believer. The Spirit dwells in a believer through their Baptism into Christ, as Ezekiel prophecies about, through the Lord’s Supper, and in the revelation of God’s love and salvation in Jesus Christ.
To help prepare the disciples for the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Jesus explains their great need and the even greater gift. The disciples faced great persecution for following Jesus. And frankly, so will all those who receive the Spirit. The world is going to rant and rave against you. Those who think it is easy to be a Christian fail to understand the real consequences of following Jesus. Christ promises to strengthen and keep you from falling away.
Jesus begins by talking about how the Spirit is sent by the Son from the Father and that He proceeds from the Father. We confess this truth in the Nicene Creed about the third person in the Trinity. This word “proceed” is used in Scripture about the breath that comes out a man’s mouth. Christ wants to demonstrate that the Holy Spirit comes forth from the Father as the Spirit of His mouth. He is the breath of the Almighty God by which He breathes life into humanity.
In Greek, this word also refers to a flowing out of, like a stream that flows out of a spring. So Jesus wants to show us that the Holy Spirit is the living water from John 7:38 which has flowed forth from the essence of the Father from all eternity. So the Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of the Father and the Breath of the Almighty because He immediately proceeds from the divine mouth of the Father from eternity. Because of this also, He is a unique and distinct Person of the Holy Trinity, independently self-sufficient from the Father and the Son, co-eternal and co-equal, of the same essence of the Father and of the Son, fully God, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified.
Of what the Holy Spirit does and why we need Him, Jesus says a few things:
First of all, Jesus calls His Spirit the Helper, sometimes translated also as “Comforter.” But this is not just any kind of help and comfort. The word that Jesus uses here is “Paraclete” which is the kind of comforter who comforts someone before a judge when standing accused. Almost like a Divine Lawyer. So Jesus here points to special work of grace by the Holy Spirit that He intercedes for us before God’s throne of judgment with groaning too deep for words (Romans 8:26). When standing guilty before a holy God, the Holy Spirit helps and comforts us by directing our attention again and again to the reality that Jesus Himself has taken upon Himself the punishment that we deserve because of our sins and graciously forgives us according to His divine mercy.
So while the devil may attempt to accuse us before God, the Holy Spirit acts on our behalf before the Father and comforts us with the reassurance of the Father’s verdict of “not guilty” for the sake of Christ. When our own hearts and conscience accuse us, feeling the weight of God’s law, the Spirit holds before us the comforting promises of God about His grace, the forgiveness of our sin, and the free gift of eternal life. When the world causes us grief, He strengthens us so that we do not collapse under the burden of the cross, trials, and tribulations. Part of the purpose of Jesus sending His Spirit is to comfort you before God and to keep you from falling away because of trials and temptations, of persecution and indifference.
Secondly, Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the Spirit of Truth because He guides the holy apostles and all believers into all the truth. As Jesus is the Truth, the Holy Spirit then is also the Spirit of Jesus who delivers the very Word of God to us. As faith comes through hearing the Word of Christ (Romans 10), by the Law of God, the Spirit brings people to repentance, and by the Gospel, the Spirit both invites and enables us to believe by promising us a new life on the basis of Christ’s death and resurrection. Apart from the Holy Spirit, a person actively resists the Gospel’s call to faith and life in Christ and cannot believe. For it is only by the work of the Spirit that a person comes to believe in Jesus and only by the work of the Spirit that a person perseveres in true faith.
But what is the “true” faith? What is truth? We are bombarded with differing views on this every day. Jesus warns that a spirit of falsehood, at work in the sinful hearts of humanity, would try to deceive the disciples. People all the time confuse their own desires and wants, the message of the sinful world, even that of evil spirits with God. So how do you know if that warm fuzzy feeling inside is the Holy Spirit working or if it’s just the beginning of indigestion? Or worse, how do you know that it isn’t the devil masquerading as an angel of light whispering what your itching ears want to hear?
Jesus knows the troubles you will have with this. This is why Jesus would later pray for His disciples in His High Priestly Prayer, “Sanctify them in the truth; You word is truth.” (John 17:17). Jesus says all these things so that you would remember His Word. This Spirit of God will teach His disciples and remind them of Jesus’ words. Again, all the works that that Holy Spirit does directs us to Jesus. That is His main job, His main concern for you. The Spirit does not speak on His own. He speaks on behalf of the Father and Jesus. So He guided the prophets and the apostles and inspired them to write Holy Scripture, to preach the Good News of salvation found only in Christ. This is how they bore witness to Jesus. That means is that is your sacred duty, literally, to hear their witness, to know and hold fast to Holy Scripture, because it is the Spirit’s instrument of faith, the Word of Truth, that testifies to the Truth. May the Holy Spirit bring to your remembrance these Words of Jesus, to preserve and protect you in the one true faith unto life everlasting. Amen.