May 10, 2020
Sorrow has filled the disciples’ hearts. They are sorrowful, because Jesus is going to depart from them. In fact, by this time of the night in which Jesus would be betrayed, the disciples have caught on that Jesus is going to go and die. That is what Jesus means when he says that he is going to the Father; he will go to the Father by way of the cross. Yet, Jesus says that it is to their advantage that he go away, because if he does not go away, the Helper will not come to them. The Helper is the Holy Spirit. Why will the Holy Spirit not come to them unless Jesus go away? Because if Jesus does not go away, the Helper will have nothing to bring the disciples in order to comfort them.
Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will take what belongs to Christ and give it to his disciples. But unless Jesus depart and go away, the Holy Spirit cannot do this. Jesus goes to bear the sins of the whole world, to suffer punishment we deserve, to die our death, and to rise from the dead. Unless Jesus does this, our sins are still on us. Unless Jesus go to the cross our debt is not paid. Unless Jesus suffer and die, then God’s wrath is still on us. There is no victory for the Holy Spirit to give to us from Christ unless Christ go and win that victory!
It has become popular among many so-called Christian theologians to downplay the importance of Jesus’ crucifixion on the cross. It seems too barbaric and primitive for our modern age. How can we believe in a God who demands sacrifice? How can Jesus’ suffering satisfy our God’s wrath? But such voices refuse to be taught by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit proclaims to us the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And the Holy Spirit teaches us that this suffering, dying, and rising is what makes peace between God and us sinners. This is why the Holy Spirit caused St. Paul to write, “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to Greeks, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:22-24)
The Holy Spirit takes what belongs to Christ and gives it to his Church. We see this happen in John chapter 20, when Jesus returns from the grave alive and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven. If you withhold the sins of any, they are withheld.” This authority to forgive sins is rooted in Jesus’ work of redemption, when he paid the price for our sins on the cross. The Holy Spirit gives the Church this authority, because Jesus Christ has earned it himself. The Holy Spirit takes what is Christ’s and declares it to us. Yet, if Jesus does not die for our sins, they cannot be forgiven and the Holy Spirit cannot forgive our sins.
This is why the Church must always preach Christ crucified as an historical event. This isn’t a myth or a legend. It really happened on this earth. Jesus’ blood poured into the ground. His soul departed from his body. And God’s wrath against all sin was satisfied. On the third day Jesus rose from the dead as Scripture declares with many witnesses. On the basis of these facts the Holy Spirit gives to us what belongs to Jesus: forgiveness of sins, adoption by God, the Kingdom of God as our inheritance, and eternal life.
Jesus tells his disciples that the Holy Spirit will convict the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment. The Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin by convincing the world with words. In fact, the Holy Spirit will speak through these very disciples in order to convince the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment. Jesus spoke earlier on this same night, “But the helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26) After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Holy Spirit brings to remembrance all that Jesus taught his disciples. And he gives them boldness to preach what Jesus taught them. We see this when we contrast how St. Peter denied Jesus three times on the night when Jesus was betrayed, yet boldly preached Christ’s resurrection to a large crowd on Pentecost having been filled with the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit convinces the world of sin, because they do not believe in Jesus. Unbelief is the greatest and indeed the only damnable sin. This is exactly what Jesus says in John chapter 3, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (vss. 16-18)
Unbelief is the only damnable sin, because Jesus has paid for the sins of the whole world. He purchased salvation, so that it might be given to all who believe in him. But if you do not believe, you reject the gift. When you look at the passion of Christ, you see God’s wrath against sin. You see the true weight of our trespasses; the depravity of our sinful hearts. When the Holy Spirit proclaims the cross of Christ, he convinces the world of the seriousness of its sin and the necessity to believe in Christ’s passion for it. Christ’s passion on the cross brings to light the sin of the world.
Unbelief is the root of all sin. Idolatry, disobedience, murder, adultery, theft, slander, covetousness: all these sins are committed, because people do not believe in a God who provides, who loves, and who judges. Yet on Christ’s cross, this God is revealed with all his providence, love, and judgment.
The Holy Spirit convinces the same world of righteousness. This is quite remarkable, because righteousness and sin are polar opposites. How can this be possible? Because Jesus went to the Father by way of the cross. Jesus made atonement for all sins. If you believe this, then you are righteous. If you reject this, you are still in your sin.
St. Paul writes, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” By the proclamation of the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Holy Spirit persuades the world that God declares her righteous, because Jesus has removed the punishment which she rightly deserved for her sin. The same people the Holy Spirit convinces of sin, He then convinces of righteousness by the merits of Christ to be received as a gift through faith.
The Holy Spirit convinces the world of judgment because the ruler of this world is judged. The ruler of this world is Satan. He leads all people into sin and unbelief. He lures us to follow our basest and most depraved passions. And then he accuses us in order to convince us that we can expect nothing of God but judgment and damnation. The Holy Spirit convinces the world by the proclamation of Jesus’ suffering and death that Satan has lost, he’s judged and condemned. Satan bruised Jesus’ heal, but Christ crushed Satan’s head.
All who join Satan in sin and unbelief will join him in judgment and condemnation. The world is judged for following its leader. But all who believe in Christ do not come into judgment, but pass from death to life (John 5:24). There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).
The Holy Spirit uses true words that tell of historical events and eternal truths in order to convince the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. He opens our eyes and gives us ears to hear; he enlightens our minds, which were darkened by sin, so that we might recognize truth for truth and believe in Jesus’ death and resurrection for us. This is how the Holy Spirit our God works among us.
“Pastor, I think God is speaking to us.” I’ve heard this many times in the past couple of months in regard to this current virus and how it has practically made the world stop on its axis. And I agree! God is indeed speaking to us! There is a message from God in relation to this virus. But how do we know what that message is? There are many different things you could conclude by just looking at the world around you. But to find the answer, you must look to Scripture. St. Peter writes, “Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:20-21) And St. Paul likewise wrote, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16)
It is popular for people to claim that the Holy Spirit is speaking through them or leading them. But, unless they are listening to what the Holy Spirit says in Holy Scripture, they’re lying. It is common for Christians in an effort to have the Holy Spirit lead them, to fold their hands and pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Yet, they leave it at that without actually turning to where the Holy Spirit speaks to them! If you are going to pray that the Holy Spirit guide you, then you better listen to the Holy Spirit when he speaks to you. He speaks to you through his Word! And the Holy Spirit’s Word is recorded in Holy Scripture. This is why preachers must be able to back up everything they preach with Scripture.
God is indeed sending us a message with this virus. But you will not know what that message is unless you listen to what God says in Scripture. No, I don’t mean for you to comb through the book of Revelation or pull passages of the Prophets out of context to find some fulfilled prophecy. I’m saying that whenever disaster strikes we should listen to what the Holy Spirit says. The Holy Spirit says that death is the result of sin. The Holy Spirit convinces the whole world of its sin. Yet, the Holy Spirit also convinces the whole world of righteousness, because Christ Jesus has gone to the Father by way of the cross. This is what you need to hear more than anything; more than the evening news. This is what you need more than a vaccine, more than a job, more than life! The righteousness that the Holy Spirit convinces you of by the preaching of Christ’s cross.
Is this virus God’s judgment against sin? Yes. All death is judgment against sin. Repent. Judgment will come upon the whole world. In fact, the ruler of this world will be judged! But those who believe in Jesus will not enter into judgment. God is speaking to us through this virus, you bet. And what he is telling you is to listen to him.
It’s Mother’s Day. It is good to honor mothers. When you were in your mother’s womb God formed your eyes, ears, and brain along with all of your organs. God did this by means of your mother’s body through the food she ate. God gave you life by means of your mother. Mothers even have the ability to nourish their children after they are born entirely with their own bodies throughout infancy! And throughout life God uses mothers to feed, nurture, and protect children. This is one of the greatest works of man. God honors women by giving them this task.
Yet, the eyes God forms in your mother’s womb are blind to God’s truth; the ears are stopped from the truth; the mind is darkened by sin. The body that is born is corrupted with sin and will die. And no matter how much a mother nurses, snuggles and kisser her child, she cannot give him eternal life. But Christian mothers know this. That is why they bring their children to Church. The Church is our heavenly mother. In the Church the Holy Spirit works through God’s Word to open our ears and eyes, to enlighten our minds, to give us a new spiritual birth, and grant us nourishment that lasts into eternal life.
As we thank God today for the help and comfort our mothers have given us throughout our lives, let us also give thanks to God for the help and comfort he sends us through his Holy Spirit in the Church. By the convincing power of the Holy Spirit we will believe the truth of Jesus Christ and be members of his Church forever. Amen.