Pushed Panic Buttons
It's fair to say Panic Buttons are all over. They're on car remotes, security systems, and some wear them. Our text is Jesus addressing the Panic Button being pressed in the upper room on Maundy Thursday because Jesus said He was going away. It's a fitting text for a time when the Panic Button has been pushed and held for about 6 weeks.
When a Panic Button is pushed, the first thing they tell you not to do is the first thing you do: panic. In a spiritual panic an all panics come back to this the thing you don't do is run to the law. This is where fallen man "naturally" goes. Adam and Eve try hiding from God. Peter thinks his sinfulness can be dealt with if Jesus just departs from Him. The Prodigal Son has a plan to work his way back to his Father. But isn't this where Jesus sends the apostles? Listen to the first and last verses of our text: "If you love Me, you will obey what I command. Whoever has My commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves Me. He who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love him and show Myself to him." Those of you of tender conscience can't help ping-ponging off "obey what I command" and the repeated lyric "How deep is your love?"
A couple of things: The one thing the apostles didn't doubt was that they loved Jesus. That's why they hit the Panic Button when He said He was going away from them. Second, Jesus opens the doors wide to any love for Him by saying, "If ever you should love Me in any sort of way." Third, the insert makes the plural "commandments" singular. Fourth, commands doesn't equal laws' like you think. This word entole (en-to-la'), identifies and emphasizes that Jesus is the one who speaks them, and doesn't convey prohibitions or threats like laws carry (Scaer, Law and Gospel, 76-7). Go back and read John 14:1 where the panic was first addressed by Jesus, "You believe in God; believe also in Me." All the faith and confidence they had in the invisible God's power and promises, they were to have in the Man Jesus.
If entola' are not commandments of Jesus, what are they? Luther stressed that they were not admonitions but commissions (Wendland, Series A, 199). Jesus doesn't use the Greek word obey' as the insert interprets but keep', observe', or better still to attend to carefully.' Jesus was very clear what the Law commanded. Love God with all you have and are and love your neighbor as yourself. That's not what He refers to here. He's referring to what He commissions His apostles. On Maundy Thursday it was the commission to "do Communion often." Easter evening it was to "forgive and retain sins." Later during the 40 days before His Ascension the commission was to make disciples of all nations by baptizing and teaching.
So Covid-19 got you panicked? Has the media got you going the way Orson Wells used radio to get the country going with H. G. Wells fictional War of the Worlds in 1938? Has the Blair Witch style of at home broadcasts got you spooked? Or maybe you're panicked by a medical diagnosis, a life prognosis, or a situation hopeless? Don't go to the Law; go to the Gospel commissions. Your Baptismal waters never dry up; the Absolution never fails to forgive. And if Elijah could go 40 days and 40 nights on food an angel gave him, I'm sure you can go forever on the Body and Blood of God once eaten and drank. But look how specific Jesus gets in the text as the claxon gongs over His going away? "I will not leave you as orphans." Go back to the beginning of John 14. What's the panicking issue? "Show us the Father and that is enough." Don't leave us fatherless? He who on the cross was indeed orphaned for our sins can promise us we won't be.
He makes this promise based on the fact that He will "ask the Father." This is the Greek word for asking of an equal. That's a big ask. You and I can't ask that way. God the Son can ask the God the Father that way and He does for us. And He asks for the Father to give not send the Spirit of truth. The OT promises in Psalm 68 and the NT confirms it happened in Eph. 4 that when Jesus ascended on high "He gave gifts to men." Having successfully ransomed mankind from sin, death, and the devil. He had the right to give them gifts. And the gift He gives here, the Spirit, is not a warm fuzzy Comforter or even a therapeutic Counselor as the word Paraklete is often translated. No Jesus promises to give another, that means another of the same kind as He. Jesus is adding another Advocate, a legal friend. That's the best definition of Paraklete. Another one to do what John says in 1 Jn. 2:1, "If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous One."
You know how those Personal Injury lawyers advertise? They will fight for you aggressively, assertively, relentlessly. They don't' portray them self as a shoulder you can cry on or a therapist that can help you deal with your injury. No, they're an advocate, a fighter. That's what Jesus promises to give us panicked disciples. The world isn't able to receive Him because they don't see or recognize anything in the realm of the Spirit. Only the things that science can see, measure, chart, and model are real to the world. Viruses are real; love, hope, peace, joy are not. Death is real, evil is real in extreme cases: resurrection and forgiveness are not. We Christians live in the realm of make believe. They live, so they think, where no faith is necessary. Let them live there for they will die there. You live in the realm of the Spirit that Jesus gives. With 3 different prepositions Jesus promises the Spirit will not only be with you, but beside you, and wonder of wonders. in you!
When the Panic Button is pushed, the claxon sounds, people shout, and run hither and thither. Don't run to the Law. Go to the Gospel, and look closely. The world can see nothing more than the world around them. What else do you expect them to do but panic when they see it passing away? Every year, the Church looks at the end of all things, including self, squarely in the eye. We confess at the close of each historic Collect that we believe in a world without end, meaning we expect this one to end. It's the end of their world when they run short of hand sanitizer. We return to what looks like ordinary water, to sanitize our souls and raise our bodies to life everlasting. The world breathes a sigh of relief when a doctor says a hopeful upbeat thing about this life. When Jesus breathes on us His Spirit in Absolution, we breathe a sigh of relief at our sins being forgiven for everlasting life. The world panics at the thought of the food supply failing. Jesus never fails to give us His Body for Bread and Blood for wine.
Look closely. Jesus says, "The world will not see Me anymore, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live." First, the word see'. There's a Greek word for an ordinary person looking at a parade (theaomai). This is the Greek word for a general inspecting one (theoreo). The world admits that a man named Jesus lived in the first century and was crucified by Pontius Pilate, but they don't see Him today. Christians do. Second, Jesus doesn't say what the disciples' will' see but do" see. The word for see is present tense not future tense. Right now you do look right through the Devil, the World, and your own Flesh to see Jesus. Their creed that whatever is not subject to science is not real rejects not only Christianity, resurrection, angels, heaven and hell but poetry, romance, heroics, and comedy. Look up Apollo 8, Dec. 24, 1968. That crew sent this message to earth. "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" and then they went on to read through Gen. 1:10. Now play images from that mission, and read the Humanist Manifesto or the secular creed posted in many Austin yards.
There's no answer to panic in them. There's panic in the upper room at Jesus going away from His disciples in a visible, physical way. Jesus tries to tamp it down by saying, "As you believe in God, so you can believe in Me." That didn't work. Philip said showing them the Father would. Jesus said, and this had to be sadly, "Have I been so long with you and you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father." Still the panic siren blares. Look closely at what Jesus does. He makes a promise based on what they have no doubts about. Their love for Him. [For extra homework, go to the end of John and ponder the exchange between Peter and Jesus about love.] Jesus goes from their love for Him, "He who loves me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love Him and show Myself to him." The word for show emphanizo is used only here in the NT. It was a quasi-technical term in the ancient Papyri for "make an official report." It's used in the LXX for Moses' desire for a visible manifestation of Yahweh to continue with His OT church even though they sinned with the golden calf (Ex. 33). The word means to present something in a clear conspicuous way, (Morris, John, 653).
The way our Lord Jesus makes this manifestation, this presentation, is Word and Sacrament. It has been so real to His people that it has bowed their heads, bent their knees, and at times broken their hearts and trembled their knees. The sign of the cross is found in Ezekiel 24 and goes all the way to the world's end in Revelation. Do you think it's for nothing we mark our babies on head and heart with the sign of the cross? It's a visible sign that they have been redeemed by a crucified Christ. Do you think we stand for an absent Jesus when we stand for His Gospel word? Do you think we bow our heads in praise of a Triune God that is not in our time and space? Do you think the pastor before your very eyes is not standing there by the command and in place of the risen Jesus when he forgives you?
When I said emphanizo did you rightly hear the English emphasize'? Whenever the Panic Button is pushed for the Christian, one thing is always true. The gracious presence of your Lord Jesus, His Father, or another Advocate given by Him is not being emphasized. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Sixth Sunday of Easter (Moved) (20200503); John 14: 15-21