John 14:15-21 (Sixth Sunday of Easter—Series A)
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
May 21, 2017
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Gospel lesson recorded in John 14:
15If you love me, you will keep my commandments; 16and I myself will ask the Father and he will give you another Helper so that he should be with you forever, 17the Spirit of truth, whom the world is not able to receive because it neither sees nor knows him. You know him because he abides with you and will be in you. 18I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you. 19Yet, a little while and the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20In that day you will know that I am in my Father and you are in me just as I am in you. 21The one who has my commandments and keeps them, that person is the one who loves me. And the one who loves me will be loved by my Father and I will love him and I will reveal myself to him.
Everybody needs a little help now and then. In their album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” the Beatles sang, “Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends.” Sometimes we need more than just a “little help.” We need help with life—making ends meet, making decisions about schools and careers, relationships (“She loves me . . . she loves me not.” “I can’t tell Dad that!” “Why doesn’t anybody notice me?”). Certainly, we need help in our relationship with God. Jesus frames our Gospel lesson today with instructions, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. . . . The one who has my commandments and keeps them, that person is the one who loves me.” Do you think you need some help accomplishing this task?
Our text today has Law for bookends. Remember that the Law is what God tells us to do or not to do. It teaches what God expects from us. What God expects from us is to keep His commandments perfectly, in thoughts, desires, words, and deeds. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “You must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). James, our Lord’s brother, says in his Epistle, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it” (James 2:10).
Jesus says that if we, as His disciples, love Him, we will guard and keep His commandments. Stated the other way at the end of the text, if we, His disciples, have and keep His commandments, then we love Him. And if we love Jesus by keeping His commandments, then God the Father will love us and Jesus will love us. Implied here is that, if we as His disciples do not guard and keep His commandments, we do not have true love for Jesus, nor will Jesus and the Father love us. It sounds as if we need to prove our love for Jesus by keeping His commandments. And it is saying that because that is the nature of the Law!
So how’s it going keeping Jesus’ commandments? Our Lord summarized the two tables of the Law with these words, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37-39 ESV). Moments before Jesus spoke the words in our Gospel lesson today He told the disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (Jn. 13:34 ESV).” So, how’s it going for you? Are you perfect yet? Do you love Jesus enough so that you are keeping His commands? Have you done what it takes to merit God’s love for you because you have kept the Law?
No? Why not? If you love Jesus, you will keep His commandments. What’s wrong?
What’s wrong is that the Law stands there condemning you. You do not keep the Lord’s commands perfectly in your thoughts, desires, words, and actions. You do not love God as you are ordered to. You do not love your neighbor nor one another as you are told to. If you did, you would be perfect. But you are not. And so God condemns you for your failure to love. God condemns you for your disobedience. God condemns you for your sins of thought, desire, word, and deed.
Where, then, is the love of God? You cannot find it in the Law. The Law accuses you of your sins and the Law condemns you to the just anger of God because of your failure to love God and neighbor as you have been told to do. Because you fail to love God, you cannot see the love of God. There is only His wrath. Your sinful disobedience merits your punishment—death and condemnation in hell because “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).
Now, look again at what Jesus says. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments and I myself will ask the Father and He will give you another Helper so that He should be with you forever, the Spirit of truth.” Let’s take this apart. Jesus is saying, “If you love me” (and I’m banking on the fact that you do), “you will” (in the future) “keep my commandments” (because I’m going to make sure that you receive another Helper who will help you love me and keep my commandments forever). The word “and” connects the “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” clause with the very fact that Jesus is asking the Father to send His disciples additional help to actually accomplish that task which is impossible left to themselves. Loving Jesus and keeping His commandments is linked to the gift of “another Helper, . . . the Spirit of truth.” They go together.
God the Holy Spirit is this very Helper. But He is “another” Helper. Who is the first Helper? Jesus Himself! In 1 John 2:11 we read, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father (a Helper, One called in to support us), Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 Jn. 2:1 ESV). Jesus, as your Helper and Advocate, stood in your place. He was convicted or your crimes, your sins. Jesus was punished for your offenses, for your failure to love God and neighbor by keeping His commandments perfectly. Your Savior, Jesus, took the death penalty for you on the cross so that you might receive a pardon, a stay of execution for your crimes. Jesus actually took your place, fully identifying with your sinful condition. He stood before God the Father while on the cross and received your just verdict of “Guilty!”
Jesus placed Himself between you and your accuser, the Law. Your punishment was taken by Christ so that your death sentence was removed. Your sin stands forgiven because He shed His blood to cleanse you from your sin. And because Jesus lives, risen from the death He died to sin, once and for all, you will live forever also. You have been gifted eternal life.
Realize what good news this is! You no longer face the condemnation of the Law. Standing beside you is Jesus, your Advocate, your Helper. What’s more, Jesus has promised and has made good on His promise to give to you and all of His disciples “another Helper,” God the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” How does Jesus come to you? The Holy Spirit delivers Jesus to you and brings Jesus into you through the Gospel by means of Word and Sacrament. The Spirit creates saving faith in our hearts that trusts in Jesus as our Lord and Savior from sin, a faith that receives the forgiveness of sins through the Gospel.
Truly, you are not orphaned. You have Christ Himself and the Holy Spirit dwelling in you. It is through the work of the Holy Spirit by which you are then enabled, because you are “in Christ,” to love Him and to love others. The Holy Spirit first sanctifies you, makes you holy, by bringing you “to the Lord Jesus to receive His gifts” through faith (Large Catechism III:13). The Holy Spirit then sanctifies you, makes you holy, by strengthening your faith and increasing its fruits within your life. As a new creation in Christ, the Spirit gives you new desires so that you strive to overcome sin and do the commandments of the Lord by good works. Titus 2:14, “[Jesus] gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Tit. 2:14 ESV).
What’s more, in the verses immediately following our text Jesus says, “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” (Jn. 14:23 ESV). Because Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in Him, when Jesus is brought to you by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, so too is the Father. God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, one Lord, make their home with you, within you, by means of the Word and Sacrament through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Good News of this mystical indwelling of God with us is really a trinitarian thing. As the Holy Spirit and Jesus provide help and comfort to us, so the Father bestows on us His love. “The one who loves me will be loved by my Father and I will love him and I will reveal myself to him.”
Today, you can be certain that Jesus has asked the Father and that the Father and the Son have given you the Spirit. Through the Word of the Gospel, the Spirit brings Christ to you, uniting you with Jesus. By grace through faith, the Spirit delivers to you the forgiveness of sins and the life everlasting won for you by Jesus. In this new life of faith, the Spirit produces in you the good works of faith so that you are enabled to love the Lord and to keep His commandments. What comfort and assurance are yours that God Himself, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, makes His home within you. Amen.