Start Yelling at Me
The Holy Spirit has been called the shy member of the Holy Trinity. He is in the background in Scripture. Jesus says His mission is to "take of Mine and give to you." He searches the deep places of the heart. He cries out continually in the Christian's heart, "Abba, Father." He is the Guarantor, the Promise, the Spirit of all that is to come. Our short text is about the Holy Spirit. It should be read like a text message that's in all caps. All caps can mean yelling. No one likes to be yelled at, but if am heading for danger or missing something very important, start yelling at me.
Jesus is very emphatic in our text. The first thing He is emphatic about is the Holy Spirit is sent only by HIM. Jesus says, "I will send to you." See the I' in bold, italicized, underlined, because that's how Jesus says it. You don't entice the Spirit to come to you by pious thoughts, by deep religious insights, by intense prayer. The Spirit is not the Great Pumpkin who comes to the most sincere, most enthusiastic, or for you millennials, the passionate, the authentic. "No," says Jesus, "I ALONE send Him."
Here we get right to the Law and the Gospel. You can't deserve or get the Spirit apart from Jesus. The Man Jesus received the Spirit without measure. You saw that for yourself at His Baptism. The Spirit descended in the form of a Dove and landed on Jesus. He couldn't / wouldn't land on anyone else because while vultures and crows land on a dead body a dove won't. And when heaven is opened and the Holy Spirit comes out, He only sees dead bodies on earth except for Jesus.
God the Son received the Spirit as a Man, and then won the right to send the Spirit upon those dead in their trespasses and sins. That was the purpose of God taking on our flesh and blood. The Spirit had left flesh and blood when the first Adam ate and died. Now the Second Adam came and He was perfect in body and soul, and He lived a spotless life. He was the perfect Man. The Spirit never had occasion to depart from Him. But in order to win the Spirit for fallen mankind, Jesus had not only to live the holy life we must, He had to pay for our unholy one.
And pay He did with His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. Pay He did for your sins of unbelief, misbelief, and other great shame and vice. Pay He did with every strike of the lash, every shed of a tear, every cry of agony, every drop of blood. If you won't admit to ever having been so mad that you saw red, you won't get what it means to say that Jesus was a wrath removing sacrifice for the sins of the world. If you have never pounded or beaten something or someone till your wrath was spent, you don't know what it means to say Jesus suffered at the hands of an angry God till God's wrath was spent.
Jesus ALONE has the right to send the Spirit upon dead sinners. You know how He sent Him the first time. There was rushing wind, there were tongues of fire drawing the crowds to the apostles who were speaking of the mighty acts of God. These itself weren't the Spirit but indications where the Spirit was. So how about now? More about that later. First we move on to more yelling.
Twice Jesus tells us the Spirit is with, by, beside the Father. The insert translates "from the Father" but there are 2 other Greek prepositions that indicate movement from' or out of the father.' There is a verb here that does indicate "goes out;" Jesus does send the Spirit out of the Father. After having completed His work of redemption He ascends to the bosom of the Father and sends the Holy Spirit out, but here the emphatic part is that the Sprit is right next to the Father.
The Spirit beside the Father is the Comforter, not the Counselor. We hear counselor' and we think lawyer' or therapist.' And He is the Spirit of the Truth. The articles are important. He's not a' Spirit but the' Spirit. He's not of a truth' but the Truth. Have you ever needed someone to just tell you the truth? The truth would be better than what your fears were concocting, better than the unknown, better than the falsehoods that tormented you. The Spirit is the Comforter and He comforts with the Truth.
Once more Jesus is yelling at us. He says, "That Spirit will testify concerning ME and ME alone." Is that really what you want? I want a spirit who testifies concerning me, myself, and I. I want a spirit to tell me of my future. I want someone a la Doris Day to tell me will I, or my loved ones, be happy, be healthy, be wealthy. Why do you think palm readers, spiritists, fortune tellers, psychics, and astrologers do a gangbuster business? Because that's what people want to know!
Or if you have had tragedy, have worries, have confusion in your life and who among us does not have one or all three you want a spirit to testify concerning all you don't know. You want a spirit who can answer the multitude of why' questions that sprout like weeds from every bad, terrible, nightmarish thing that happens in life. And here Jesus is shouting in your ear, "The Spirit of the Truth that I alone send to you will testify concerning ME and ME alone!"
The Sprit testifies not to all we want to know but all we need to know for salvation, to go to heaven, so that seasons of refreshment might come from the presence of the Lord. The Ascension we celebrated last week is like a billowing summer thunderhead. Pentecost is the thundershower that breaks, but it's one without sharp lightening and only gently rolling thunder bringing fructifying, refreshing rain.
The Spirit sent only by Jesus only testifies of Him: who He is, what He does is the gentle summer thundershower. He doesn't testify of the deep things of God which would only drown you. He doesn't testify of the hidden things of God which can only scare you. He testifies how Jesus took all the reasons God had to be mad at you away. He testifies how Jesus holds your past, present, and future in His nail pierced hands and will never withhold one good thing from you. The Spirit testifies to you that in Jesus' name and for His sake you have nothing to fear from unanswered questions, unknown facts, un-promised futures.
I've been yelling, but I've left you up in the air about certain things. I'm going to move to the question that ought to be on the tip of your tongue by this last bit of yelling. First though we have to cover Jesus saying, "And you also must testify, for you have been with ME from the beginning." ME, HIM, JESUS are the yelled parts here, but there is no imperative "you MUST testify." Nor is there a future, "You WILL testify." This is simple present, indicative. "You who have been with ME from the beginning testify."
Luther said most errors in doctrine can be traced to not paying attention to whom God is actually speaking. In our text, He is speaking to the apostles in the upper room on Maundy Thursday. Now these words are still valid, true, and present tense to us. That's why I began the Gospel reading, "Jesus says" and not as your insert always incorrectly does, "Jesus said." But these words aren't directed to us but to the apostles. They are, however, most certainly for us.' We know they are not about us because we haven't been in the beginning with HIM as Jesus yells.
The apostles will testify to what they saw and heard from the beginning. We know from earlier in Acts 2 that what they testify about is the mighty acts of God. We know from the rest of the New Testament what those mighty acts of God are. They aren't the crossing of the Red Sea, the mana in the wilderness, the fall of Jericho, the 3 men in the fiery furnace. Their testimony was to be all about Jesus. So they testified how Jesus carried away the sins of the world; how while we were still God's enemies Jesus died for us. How in Jesus' name God answers better than we pray. How in Jesus' name water can wash away a lifetime of sins and rebirth a person into everlasting life. How Jesus can give us His Body and Blood as medicine for immortality.
Here's the question that you ought to be shouting at me. You've told us how the Spirit came to the apostles. How does He come to us? Where is Pentecost today? Where today is the Jesus of whom this text emphatically shouts? We confessional Lutherans answer this definitively and clearly, "Through the Word and the Sacraments as though instruments the Holy Spirit is given," (AC, V, 2) and ONLY through these (SC, III, VIII, 10).
By every hymn that sings of God in Christ creating, redeeming, or sanctifying you the summer shower of the Spirit rains down upon you. In every absolution, you are to hear the rhythm of the falling rain telling you your sins are sent away from you as far as east is from west. In every Communion service even if you don't eat His Body and Drink His Blood you are to hear the rolling thunder coming from Jesus Christ present on this altar yelling in an emphatic way "The peace of the Lord be with you always." And you are to shout back, "Amen!" that is, "Yes, yes, I have His peace now and forever."
A corollary of having the Spirit sent to you from the Father in Jesus' name is joy. "According to Rabbinical authorities the Holy Spirit dwells in a man only through joy" (The Temple, 280). St. Ambrose carries this joy to an over the top degree. He says, "'As often as you Drink [of the Lord's Supper], you receive the remission of sins and become drunk in the Spirit'" (in Chemnitz, Examination of Council of Trent, II, 354). If Christian joy expressed in these terms is too emphatic for you, it wasn't for Luther. He said that we are attached to the Vine Christ in order that we may be made drunk with the Holy Spirit (LW, 8, 251). Ambrose and Luther show how those filled with the Spirit do things that those without the Spirit think crazy, ridiculous, things only a drunk person would do.
Yes, that's true, isn't it? In the Spirit we yell, we shout such crazy' things as the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the dead, and the life everlasting. You can start yelling me anytime. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Pentecost (20160515); John 15: 26-27