Text: John 14:23–31
Alleluia! Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
In the name of the Father, and of + the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit isn’t mentioned all that many times in the Gospels. In John He’s only mentioned by name three times. The first time is when John the Baptist preaches that Jesus is the One who comes baptizing with the Holy Spirit. The second is from today’s Gospel: Jesus teaches us the name of the Paraclete, the Helper. He is the Holy Spirit. The third time is again from Jesus’ mouth, four days later, in the same upper room, when He breathes on the apostles and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
John calls Him the Paraclete more: four times. In the ESV, which we heard read today, that’s translated as “Helper.” In ancient Greek, paraclete means “advocate”; that is, someone who speaks in court on behalf of the accused. Though when John uses the word there’s a bit more to the meaning. Very literally translated it means “one who calls alongside.” The Paraclete is someone who stands next to you.
The Paraclete has been called to stand next to you, not only to speak on your behalf but also to speak words of encouragement and strength to you. This is like a father cheering on his son; a pastor speaking to you the reassurance of Christ’s promises; a dear friend who is with you day after day always building you up with their words.
So “Helper” is probably a little weak. “Comforter” is probably the best we can do in English. The Holy Spirit is the Comforter.
But He’s more. He’s the Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father and the Son in order to make us holy. He “calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies…” The Holy Spirit is actively working in and through the Word of Christ to create, strengthen, and sustain your faith. He preserves you in faith by continually speaking and reminding to you the comforting promises of Christ. In this way, the Holy Spirit delivers and bestows on you the forgiveness of sins.
The devil likes to tempt us to look at Pentecost and pay attention to the wrong thing. On this miraculous day the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Church in dramatic fashion. A supernatural sound was heard. The divided tongues as of fire were seen resting upon the disciples. The disciples’ tongues spoke forth by the spiritual gift of previously-unknown-to-them languages. Peter and the eleven declared the mighty works of God in Christ to the crowds, and they all understood what they were saying! But those are miracles only for that day. We’re tempted to look for those now – can be disappointed and doubtful when we don’t see them – but those signs aren’t for us.
Another great miracle happened that day, one which continues even now and is the chief work of the Holy Spirit: while some scoffed, 3,000 believed. They repented of their sins and were baptized, receiving the Holy Spirit and the forgiveness of their sins. They received the salvation of their souls through faith in the promises of God. That is marvelous and miraculous and still happens among us today.
The Holy Spirit took the words and promises of Christ, which had been preached into the ears and hearts of the disciples and all those gathered there, and caused them to “get it.” They understood and believed, enough to repent and stand and proclaim and gather together and worship. They gladly listened to the teaching of the pastors whom Christ had sent to them; they regularly came to receive the Lord’s Supper and to rejoice in the uniting fellowship that it caused and showed forth among them. They spoke together the liturgy which itself proclaimed and enacted the Gospel in their midst. The Holy Spirit did this and still grants this miracle among us even here, even now.
The Holy Spirit’s chief aim is to comfort us as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and makes holy. He wants to give you comfort in your sadness and pain, in your suffering, in your temptation, in your grief over sin. Yet this comfort isn’t empty words like “It’s OK” or “You’ll find someone else” or “God’s got something better in mind.” The Holy Spirit’s comfort is greater, fuller: it is the peace of Christ.
When Jesus promises to send the Comforter, He also promises that He will give His peace. Not as the world gives; not some temporary, unsatisfactory peace. This is the peace that passes all understanding. This is the peace of the corruption of our bodies and souls by sin being cleansed way; this peace is being declared and made holy by the work of the Holy Spirit as He delivers to us the fruits of Christ. Those fruits are Christ’s sacrifice, resurrection, and perfect love. They are gifts, and the Holy Spirit brings them to you. These are the things which bring you Christ’s perfect peace.
For if you have the Holy Spirit, you have everything. You have a comforter who “bears witness…that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.” You have an advocate who constantly is making your requests known to God the Father, an advocate who “helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Most importantly, you have a preacher who will remind you every day of this wonderful promise: Christ in His great love for you has died and risen and ascended, all for your sake. When you have the Comforte, you have a preacher who daily reminds you of the forgiveness of your sins.
The Holy Spirit is a tremendous gift whose rejection is the only unforgivable sin. Yet He doesn’t come to us for His own sake. He is, as Dr. Nagel puts it, the “bashful” person of the Holy Trinity. The Holy Spirit only wants us to hear about, look to, and trust in Jesus. Thus, if we reject Him we reject Jesus.
So if all this gives you a desire to have the Holy Spirit, then you’re in the right place. If you want to receive the Holy Spirit, then be baptized. If you are baptized, then come to the Divine Service and listen to the Word of Christ. If you’re already coming to the Divine Service and listening, then go to the Lord’s Supper. In all these places the Lord has promised His Holy Spirit. He comes to us in no other ways. You will find Him no place else. You’re in the right place when you’re here. Receive the Holy Spirit, who is even now working in the Word to make you completely holy in Christ Jesus. And on the Last Day that same Holy Spirit will raise you from the dead, just as Christ was raised.
Alleluia! Christ is Risen! “He is risen indeed! Alleluia!”
– Pastor Michael Schuermann