O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
EASTER GIFTS FOR WHEN EASTER’S OVER
EASTER GIFTS FOR WHEN EASTER’S OVER
Based on John 14:15-21
Preached on May 21, 2017
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Treasured brothers and sisters,
I love Jesus Christ. And I have absolutely no right to be prideful when I say that. After all, my love for Jesus has been shaky at times. It has often been incomplete and half-hearted, as I must admit to my shame. There are others in this place at this moment who can also say, “I love Jesus Christ.” You are in precisely the same situation as I. On occasion your love for Him is rock-solid. Other times it limps and stumbles. But it’s there.
This is no reason to be prideful. It is a reason to be humble. You would never have come to love Jesus if Jesus had not first loved you. So He did! He left glories on high. He came down into our broken world. He didn’t abandon it just because people turned their backs. He endured their lies and tortures. He let them drive spikes into His holy body. He came alive and sent messengers into the world to bring His pardon to people. He reached you in your lifetime. He laid hold of your heart and turned you toward Him. Every bit of it is oozing with rescuing, undeserved love aimed squarely at you. If you say with me, “I love Jesus Christ,” it’s no reason to feel proud. It’s reason to be overwhelmed and humble. It only happened because Jesus loved you first.
This Thursday the forty days of Easter 2017 will be ended. In today’s Gospel, just before He died, Jesus spoke to men who loved Him. He was getting them ready for the time when Easter would be over. That’s the kind of time you live in, as I do. The Risen Lord Jesus is gone from our sight. We need the help those first disciples needed. So let’s focus on what Jesus promises in these words. He offers you “EASTER GIFTS FOR WHEN EASTER’S OVER”
I. He sends us an Advocate;
II. He shows He’s alive and close to us;
III. He makes very plain the way to stay united to Him.
I WILL ASK THE FATHER, Jesus tells these men who love Him, AND HE WILL GIVE YOU ANOTHER COUNSELOR TO BE WITH YOU FOREVER… Your Gospel as printed in today’s bulletin says He’ll send “another Helper.” Or we could say “another Advocate” or “Comforter”. I could talk for 20 minutes about this one word, but let me sum it up this way: Up to now, Jesus Himself was this sort of Counselor, Helper, Advocate, and Comforter for His disciples. He went everywhere with them. He spoke for them when they were pressured, just as a defence lawyer does in a court of law. He protected them and stood up for their rights. But now He’s soon to leave. He’ll be put to death on a cross, but even after He rises, He’ll only be temporarily visible for the forty days of Easter. After that He’ll return to the world above.
That was enough to scare them, but He promised, THE FATHER … WILL GIVE YOU ANOTHER COUNSELOR TO BE WITH YOU FOREVER… This new Companion won’t leave. He’ll stay with people who love Me to the end of time. He does the kinds of things for Jesus’ followers that Jesus Himself did while He was with them.
He’s ANOTHER COUNSELOR TO BE WITH YOU FOREVER, THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH. This is the Holy Spirit. He came down on the Christians in an overwhelming way a few short weeks after Jesus spoke this promise. Jesus is right to call Him THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH. He stands apart from lies and faking and twisting the facts. This Spirit of truth tells the truth about the world around you, how despite its learning and technical progress, its people simply don’t know what their deepest needs are nor how to fix what’s gone wrong. The Spirit of truth convicts you of the truth about yourself, that you are lost without the God Who made you and cannot go back and unsay, undo or un-think the ways you grieved Him and hurt other people. The Spirit of truth cuts through all that wreckage and all your regrets and shows the truth about the way out, that pardon and relief have come flowing for you out of the holy five wounds of Jesus, Who bore your penalties and set you free.
THE WORLD CANNOT ACCEPT HIM, this Spirit of truth, said Jesus. IT NEITHER SEES HIM NOR KNOWS HIM. Great masses of people treat this Spirit of truth the way they treated Jesus, Who called Himself “the Truth.” They don’t listen. They’ll say, “We don’t see any evidence that He’s real.” He’s a Stranger to them.
BUT YOU KNOW HIM, FOR HE LIVES WITH YOU AND WILL BE IN YOU, Jesus promised. Nobody sees the wind. But when you look out the back window and see how it knocked over all your patio chairs during a rainstorm in the night, you know it’s real. You cannot take a picture of God’s Holy Spirit of truth, either. But the painful sorrow you feel over your personal sins and failures; the relief you have in knowing God’s Christ covers every one of them by the blood of His Cross; the determination that makes you want to pick yourself up, start fresh, and go Christ’s way shows just how real this Spirit is. HE LIVES WITH YOU, AND WILL BE IN YOU.
Jesus said these things on Thursday of Holy Week, less than 24 hours before he got arrested, condemned and killed. His men were understandably confused and frightened. He was there to reassure them.
BEFORE LONG, THE WORLD WILL NOT SEE ME ANYMORE, BUT YOU WILL SEE ME. That came literally true. The next day, after He breathed His last and they took His body down off the Cross, He was buried and thus vanished from the world’s sight. We have been celebrating these 40 days of Easter and hearing how Christ’s people did see Him again! He came alive. He made repeated appearances to His people during those 40 days before He ascended back to heaven. The book of Acts says it like this, AFTER HIS SUFFERING, HE SHOWED HIMSELF … AND GAVE MANY CONVINCING PROOFS THAT HE WAS ALIVE.
Don’t miss the fact: During that period He did not go and appear to His enemies. You never see the Risen Jesus strutting downtown in Jerusalem to show the religious leaders and the Roman authorities that He was alive. It wouldn’t have made a difference, anyway. Those people hadn’t been convinced even after He brought Lazarus back from the dead, or when He re-attached the ear of the high priest’s servant after Peter chopped it off in the garden where Jesus was arrested. Jesus Christ did not have to prove Himself to the unbelieving world. He is Who He is. He offers Himself to you. You can take Him or leave Him; He doesn’t force anyone.
But He showed Himself to His followers during those 40 days of Easter so they would know He is alive! His resurrection is the pledge of your resurrection. AS I LIVE, YOU SHALL LIVE ALSO, He said. Don’t worry! I WILL NOT LEAVE YOU AS ORPHANS; I WILL COME TO YOU.
One of the saddest funerals I ever witnessed was as a college student back in the 1970s when a lady from our church, Mrs. McEnany, died of cancer at 36 years of age. There in the front pew sat her bereaved husband alongside six children … from age 13 down to age 2. I thought to myself, “How are they ever going to cope without their mother?” And they were only half-orphaned; they still had their Dad! Still, it was a pathetic sight. I’ve never forgotten it.
In leaving our sight and ascending back to heaven, Jesus has not left you like that. You are not orphans. He’s coming to you. He’s there through the Spirit of truth; the Spirit Who convicts you that sin is a dead-end street; the Spirit Who drew you to Jesus and to see in Him your dearest Friend and your pardoning Rescuer.
Jesus didn’t use His appearances as the Risen One to brag to people who had killed Him. No, “when I appear that way,” ON THAT DAY YOU – you disciples! – WILL REALIZE THAT I AM IN MY FATHER, AND THAT YOU ARE IN ME, AND I AM IN YOU. His Easter appearances showed beyond doubt the Father stood behind Him; the Father was in Him, and He was in the Father. Even more, His resurrection shows that the disciples who loved Him were surrounded by Christ, that He reaches them everywhere, that He is always with them, that He constantly is holding them, and that – even if He is now unseen – you are tied to Him with a truth and a fullness that convinces you, “We are in Him, and He is in us!”
Christians should ponder this … repeatedly. I thank God we get these 40 days of Easter every year to help us with it. After all, you and I were not there with that original group of people who had come to love Christ. He ascended before we were born. Jesus is hidden from our sight. And the Bible says, OUR LIFE IS HID WITH CHRIST IN GOD. In other words, you and I don’t always see how real our life with Christ is! Our eyes can miss what a difference it makes! The world around us, meanwhile, bombards your eyes with all its distractions bombards your ears with a thousand shrill messages. It’s easy to get captivated by that stuff you see and hear. How are you, how am I, to stay close to Jesus Christ for the rest of this challenging life?
Jesus addresses that in today’s Gospel, both at the beginning of it, and at the end. IF YOU LOVE ME, YOU WILL OBEY WHAT I COMMAND. When He said “if,” He wasn’t doubting the disciples loved Him. He was ready to accept that it’s true. But if it’s true, this is what you’ll do: You will hold fast to My commands, My precepts, My teaching. And at the end, He says it again in a deeper way, WHOEVER HAS MY COMMANDS AND KEEPS THEM, THIS IS THE ONE WHO LOVES ME.
Years ago some very well-meaning people were marketing bracelets at Christian bookstores which bore the four letters “WWJD”. WWJD is an abbreviation. It stood for the question, “What Would Jesus Do?” There’s nothing wrong with asking that question. The problem came when people didn’t search the words of Jesus to answer it. Instead they figured you could answer “What would Jesus do?” by just using your imagination and the way you happen to picture Him. So, if you imagine Jesus only saying and doing kind and easy things that are sort of like saying “Yes” to everything, you may figure that should be your response to everyday situations. In other words, don’t disagree, accept everything, and never to say or do anything that might challenge someone, because you just can’t picture Jesus making anybody uncomfortable. Well, what about the time the Lord Jesus kicked money-changers out of the Temple courts with a whip He made out of cords? What about the day He condemned the towns where He did His greatest miracles and pronounced “Woe” on them?
Loving Jesus runs deeper than just imagining what He’s like. Loving Jesus goes hand in hand with letting His words have their way with you; all His words … the comforting ones and the tough ones … the sweet ones and the painful ones. This is why I wish I could persuade all Christian people to devote themselves to Bible study and to the discipline of every-day Bible reading. Immersing yourself in His words is Jesus’ own way of keeping people with Him for the rest of their lives. It’s His way of kindling love inside you so that you really do love the One Who loved you first.
That love is an all-encompassing power. HE WHO LOVES ME WILL BE LOVED BY MY FATHER AND I, TOO, WILL LOVE HIM AND SHOW MYSELF TO HIM. Your Father-God can’t help Himself. He wraps His love around anyone He finds who loves His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus can’t help Himself, either! He can’t help but love all the people His Father loves.
When you live in this power, wrapped in the love that binds the Father to the Son and to you, the stage is set for what Jesus promises here at the end: I WILL SHOW MYSELF to that person who loves Me! He makes clear that He is really there! He’s receiving your prayers. He is working in many life experiences that looked like a coincidence. Sometimes when you look back, He’ll reveal that He was doing something good and needed for you even when He let you endure a painful time that was hard to bear, that He taught you in precisely those times lessons that now run very deep.
It all happens when Jesus’ precepts, His precious teaching, His words, are let in and have their way with you. When holy preaching, along with reading and pondering the Scripture, loom large in the way you live your days and spend your week, Jesus Christ is not held back by this seductive time we’re living in. He is not held back by your personal weakness. The disciples had weaknesses, too. But Christ still works in a time like ours and a life like yours to hold you fast in that blood-bought precious love of His. Then, overwhelmed, humble, and honest about your own shortcomings, you’ll be able to say it and mean it for the rest of your life: I love Jesus Christ. Amen.
Rev. Robert Bugbee