v.26 But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness about Me.
Alleluia! Christ the Lord is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Dear friends in Christ, we live in an age of great comfort. Even in the midst of a pandemic wherein we have been urged for months to stay home and stay socially distant from one another, we have all sorts of wonderful things to make life easier, more relaxing, more enjoyable and comfortable. We have Lazy-boy recliners, microwave popcorn, HD TV, cell phones, computers, etc. We enjoy food from around the world—crab from Alaska, wine from Spain, grapes from Chile—everything and anything we want is quite literally right at our finger tips. And we should thank God that we live in a land where we are free to receive and enjoy such wonderful things of God’s good creation. We also thank God for the many men and women of our armed forces who have served so faithfully and given their lives in service to their country to preserve the freedoms we so readily enjoy.
However, there are times when we need a different kind of comfort. For during this time of social isolation we have often been left alone with our thoughts—and focused on our sinfulness in light of God's Word. Therefore, we need to feel secure, safe, loved, forgiven. And this is not always so easy to find. Jesus, of course, knew this. In looking at our text for this morning, which again comes the night in which He will be betrayed into suffering and cruel death in a most agonizing way, He seeks to prepare His disciples for what is to come. Indeed, He knows that even after His glorious resurrection He will ascend to heaven to be with the Father. His disciples will then be left to carry on the work of spreading the Gospel—but will have to do so in a most hostile environment as both the Jews and the Romans will actively seek them out to persecute and kill them.
So, to give them hope, to give them courage, to comfort them—Jesus says He will send the Paraclete—translated here for us as Helper, but also having the meaning of Advocate, Defender, and Comforter—He who is God the Holy Spirit. He will come and He will be with them and help them through their difficulties.
Dearly beloved in Christ, this promise of Jesus was not just for His apostles, but is for His whole church—indeed, for each of you, personally. The Spirit of God has come upon you in your Baptism and now resides in you. He is with you at all times—from your moments of greatest joy—to your moments of deepest sorrow and despair—when the world appears to be unraveling. He is with you to comfort you—to reassure you—to give you the mercy and grace that Jesus earned for you on the cross.
How does He do this? How does He grant you comfort and hope in your most desperate hour—when you are beset by evil on every side—when the world and the devil are trying their very best to tear you apart—enticing you to forsake the truth of God's Word—to accept the sin in the lives of others, rather than call them to repentance—when your conscience is overridden by guilt at the things you have done...and not done—when you must face the ugliness of death? What then? What help can the Helper give? By doing what He does best—what He always does—bearing witness of Jesus.
For you see, no matter what evils the world may throw your way—no matter how they may suck you in to their deadly traps of sin that lead to everlasting death and hell—no matter how often the devil may whisper or scream at you—laying bare your many faults and sins against God and neighbour—heaping ever more guilt upon your already weighed down shoulders—terrifying you with the fear of God’s just wrath for sin—there is only one way to comfort, strengthen, instruct, and defend the Christian’s conscience from these attacks of devil and the world—and that is by pointing sinners to Jesus.
To be sure, the devil has the upper hand in terms of the Law, which rightly points out that we are dreadful sinners. But Satan cannot infer from this that we are therefore to be damned and be his slaves. For the Holy Spirit comes and offers us a comforting sermon about Christ, assuring you that though you are indeed a sinner, Jesus has shed His blood for you, blotted out all your sin, has overcome your death, and has extinguished God’s wrath and hell, and has in Baptism made you an heir of eternal life solely through His own life, suffering, death, and resurrection. This message—this sermon—preached by the Holy Spirit—through lowly undershepherds (pastors)—in Word and Sacrament—is a message that the devil and all his hordes of evil angels cannot abolish, undo, or go against. For the Spirit’s Word of Truth He proclaims concerning Christ reigns supreme and has the ultimate and final say. The blood of Jesus cries out –you are FORGIVEN! You are saved! You are free!
Though the Devil has two powerful weapons that he uses against Christians: sin and the penalty for sin—which causes untold terror for the Christian in his heart and mind and spirit—God has blessed us with a divine Comforter—who, as God Himself, is much stronger with His comfort than the devil is with his terror. Whenever the devil brings to mind your many sins—whenever the world is against you—tempting you to forget about Jesus and forsake His Word—the Holy Spirit is here to grant you comfort with the Gospel—by pointing you to Jesus Christ crucified—who died for you. He paid the full penalty for all your sin—so that you are no longer accountable for them—Jesus has taken them into His own flesh on the cross—and sacrificed His life to pay for your death. Remember, beloved in Christ, no matter how bad things may be in your life—Christ and His love and righteousness and mercy is greater than all your sins and those of the whole world. His life and His consolation are stronger and mightier than your death and hell—let alone any virus or pandemic.
And it is this truth alone that makes the Christian heart happy and glad—granting us comfort and peace—though all around us be chaos and confusion, hurt and suffering, fear and despair. This truth makes us bold to proclaim Jesus no matter how the devil and world may try to frighten us.
For, if sin wishes a hold on you—it must first go through Jesus. If death seeks to devour you—it must first devour Christ. If the devil and world want to torment and frighten you—they have to get past Jesus first. So dearly beloved in Christ, fear not! Because all of Jesus Christ—His suffering, His death, His resurrection and life—are yours. They belong to you and have been given by the Holy Spirit—sealed unto you in your Baptism—placed into your mouths with bread and wine along with Jesus’ own body and blood—echoing in your ears at the pronouncement of Holy Absolution. The Holy Spirit, His comfort and hope are yours, together with the Father and His grace. For the Father has sent the Holy Spirit to preach Christ into your heart and to fill you with His consolation and peace. That is His job. That is His joy—and yours too. For Alleluia! Christ the Lord is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Thanks be to God in Christ Jesus. Amen.