Pentecost - John 14:23-31

May 21, 2018


Jesus answered him, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me. 25 "These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 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. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, 'I am going away, and I will come to you.' If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.


We sing in the Offertory Verse in one of our Services:  

Cast me not away from Your presence and take not Your Holy Spirit from me. 

Restore unto me the joy of Your salvation.  


We confess there the truth, that to have the Lord take His Holy Spirit from us is to be cast away from His presence. What a sobering thought that is. We are reminded of God’s anger over sin, and His warning to anyone who would mock or rebel against Him, as Saul had done in our Old Testament text. To be without the Holy Spirit who restores unto us the joy of our salvation, and upholds us in saving faith would be a dreadful state. According to Jesus in our text, the Holy Spirit is the one Who teaches us all things and brings to our remembrance the things that Christ has said.


And the Bible is so clear that God’s earnest desire is that we have His Holy Spirit, and the life-giving comfort He brings, of forgiveness and salvation in Christ. 


As thousands of God-fearing Jews were gathered in Jerusalem (on the Feast of Pentecost as recounted in Acts chapter 2), the Holy Spirit came. He came with amazing signs. Among these signs: the apostles were able to speak so that people could understand no matter what their native language. The Holy Spirit used this practical means (as He does), this language-specific testimony to bring 3,000 people to believe on that day. 

  • Three-Thousand came to trust that Jesus is God’s Son. 

  • Three-Thousand to trust that Jesus brought God’s mercy for people by putting Himself in their place for punishment and death. 

  • Three-thousand to know that they could inherit God’s kingdom instead of what they deserved: punishment in hell for their sins. 

  • Three-thousand had the Holy Spirit restoring unto them the joy of their salvation, as the Offertory says.


But the disciples’ experience with Jesus had to be changing in order for it to take place. They would be - not seeing, and yet believing, as Jesus famously said to Thomas after He had risen from the dead: Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (John 20:29)


You and I are in this situation too, of not seeing Jesus. We might be inclined sometimes to think like the disciples were probably thinking: If He wants us to keep His Word, to consider it our most precious possession, wouldn’t it be easier to do if we could see Him? We can kind of understand the disciples’ need to be told over and over by Jesus, that His going away (to the Father, as He had said) was actually going to be a good thing. 


The Word and the Sacraments are, all-important, then, aren’t they. God deigns to work through these means in order to restore unto us the joy of our salvation, in order to bring us to faith in Christ that saves us. 

  • “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe (John 20:25).” Those were Thomas’ words that seem to make so much sense to us. Jesus’ response was to rebuke him, though, and to tell him that he should believe the testimony about Jesus, without having to see for himself.

  • ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent (Luke 16:30).’ Those were the words of the rich man who was in hell in Jesus’ parable. His argument was that his brothers couldn’t possibly be expected to just believe the testimony of Moses and the Prophets (the Scriptures). They needed to be able to see something that would convince them. “No,” was Father Abraham’s answer. The power to create faith in dead hearts is in that testimony. It is the Spirit’s power. 

God help us when we doubt this power, and discount its benefit. God help us when we ignore His Word. God help us when we look for something else - be it some sort of sign, or whatever it may be. God help us when we insist on more than the simple Word and Sacraments. Then we must join our hearts with the man whose child Jesus freed from an evil spirit, who cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief (Mark 9:24)!” That’s what our doubting of the power of God’s Word and Sacraments is; unbelief.


And, of course, the peace that Jesus gives in our text - that, that is not as the world gives  - true forgiveness in His name is for us in our doubt, as well as in all our other sins for which we mourn.


The large gathering of new believers on Pentecost is confirmation that the Holy Spirit is what we need if we are to keep Jesus’ Word (that is if we are to protect it as our most precious possession). We need the Holy Spirit to work in the preaching and teaching of God’s Word, and in the powerful connecting of the Word to the water of Baptism, and in the bread and wine of the Supper. The Spirit Whom Jesus calls “The Helper” helps us to know God’s mercy, whereas we otherwise would know only His judgment and His anger over our sins. 


Martin Luther writes: In addition to what is thus preached, something else is needed; for even though I hear the preaching, I do not at once believe. Therefore, God adds his Holy Spirit, who impresses this preaching upon the heart, so that it abides there and lives….[having heard the Word] the treasure lies yet in one pile; it is not yet distributed nor Invested.…the Holy Spirit must come and teach our hearts to believe and say: I, too, am one of those who are to have this treasure….Since the Holy Spirit has impressed upon the heart that God is kind and gracious toward it, it believes that God can no more be angry, and grows so happy and so bold that, for God’s sake, it performs and suffers everything possible to perform and to suffer.


It is often said that the Christian Church properly began on the day of that particular Pentecost. 


There had been believers in Christ before that, of course. Jesus had been preaching, and healing people of diseases - even raising some from the dead, and doing other miraculous signs. He had been doing it for three years. And many had come to believe in Him as God’s gift of grace. 

John writes in the second chapter of his gospel (11) that 

  • His disciples believed in Him after He had turned the water into wine. Later, he writes that 

  • many Samaritans believed in Him on the testimony of the woman at the well. Later, he writes that 

  • many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue (12:42). 

  • Matthew writes that as the time approached for Him to be crucified, the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered…and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. 5 But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.” There would be an uproar because…many believed in Him. 

The Holy Spirit is the person of the Triune God Whose work it is to bring people to faith by means of Word and Sacrament. He had been at this work since the beginning of the world. He had been at work in God’s Words to Adam and Eve, and to Noah, and to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and to every other person who has ever come to believe in God’s mercy in the promised Messiah, Jesus.


On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit gave special power and authority, so that men could go forward with what we call the Great Commission. They would, as Christ commanded, Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that [Christ has] commanded (Matthew 29:18-20). The Holy Spirit would work through practical gifts that He gave them to proclaim the message of salvation in Christ to people everywhere. With the Holy Spirit’s power, through Word and Sacrament, they would convince many who were naturally hostile to God (as we all are), that the only true God has forgiven their sins in His Son’s sacrifice on the cross. 


We are blessed beyond comprehension that St. Paul can say also of us that God’s Spirit dwells in us (1 Cor. 3:16), and in his letter to the Ephesians, that we are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. The Spirit makes a home in us for the Father and Son to dwell, as Jesus talks about in our text. 


We wouldn’t want Him to be taken from us, because that would be to be cast away from God’s presence. 


That isn’t the Spirit’s desire. He has invited us in Baptism. He strengthens us in God’s Word and Supper. He nourishes us within the Church that He established on that special day of Pentecost. He guards through Word and Sacrament what we have entrusted to Him until that Day. We have not seen Christ, as Peter writes, but, we might say - as a result of the Holy Spirit’s work - we believe in Him, and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory (1 Peter 1:8). God be praised.




Other lessons for this Sunday:

Acts 2:1-11

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language.7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”

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