John 16:4b-15 (The Day of Pentecost—Series B)
“For Our Advantage”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
May 20, 2018
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Our text is from the Gospel Reading in John 16:
But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 5 But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. 12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
On this Day of Pentecost, our Gospel lesson from John 16 takes us back into the Upper Room on the night in which Jesus was betrayed. It is Holy Thursday. Jesus has risen from supper and washed the disciples’ feet, even against the protest of Peter. Jesus has instituted a new testament in His body and blood given in, with, and under bread and wine for the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. Jesus’ betrayer has been identified in Judas Iscariot, “What you must do, do quickly.” The disciples have been given a new commandment, “Love one another as I have loved you.” The Twelve have heard Jesus announce His “going away” and the promise to send them “another Helper, to be with [them] forever, even the Spirit of truth.” Jesus encourages His disciples to be fruitful branches of Him, the True Vine, remaining in His love even as they love one another. Finally, Jesus has told them that they will be hated by the world because the world has hated Him. But the Helper, who will come, will bear witness about Jesus and so will they.
How do you deal with all of this happening in just a few short hours? Jesus is here, but He is going away. He’s going to be betrayed by one of His own disciples. Hatred is going to follow them into the world. And Jesus is going away. But He’s sending another Helper. Yet, Jesus is going away; things won’t be the same. It is no wonder, then, that sorrow filled the disciples’ hearts (16:6). It would ours as well. As one of the Twelve, you would have been with Jesus pretty much 24/7 for three and a half years. He is your Teacher, your mentor, your friend. He is the Christ, the Son of God, who calmed the sea and fed the multitudes, who healed the sick and even raised the dead. Clearly, any departure by Jesus is going to disrupt what has become your norm. But a “going away” that first involves a cross is unthinkable, even though Jesus has predicted His passion no less than three times.
Yet, that very night, Jesus would be betrayed by Judas into the hands of the religious leaders. He would then be sentenced to death under the authority of Pontius Pilate. They would crucify Him. He would be dead and buried in less than 24 hours. But it is for your advantage that Jesus goes away to a cross. It’s to your benefit that Jesus, the Christ, suffer the pains of death and the hellish burden of the world’s sin in order to win for all people forgiveness of sins and life-everlasting. If Jesus doesn’t suffer and die on a cross, you’ll suffer eternal death in hell. There’s no way you could earn for yourself eternal life by keeping the Law and God’s Commandments perfectly, for that’s what it would take. There is no way you could ever appease the wrath of God because of your failures to live according to His Commandments.
But Jesus, the Son of God made flesh, went away to a cross on Golgotha’s hill. He endured hell itself as He was forsaken by God the Father. He suffered the full punishment for your sins. He shed His holy, precious blood to win your atonement, to appease the wrath of God with the once-for-all sacrifice of Himself. And then Jesus’ body rested in the tomb. Crucified, died, and buried . . . for your advantage! For in Jesus’ sacrificial death exists your freedom from sin. He purchased your forgiveness with His death. Through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, you are given a new life, a life covered in the blood of the Lamb, forgiven and redeemed from sin, death, and the power of the devil. Now you stand declared righteous before the throne of God’s mercy and grace. It is for your advantage that Jesus went away to the cross and the grave.
It is also for your advantage that Jesus rose as Victor over death and the grave! Because Jesus is raised, you will also rise again at the resurrection of the dead on the Last Day. You will rise to everlasting life in body and soul and will enjoy the perfect life of glory with God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit who will dwell with you as your God in a new heaven and a new earth. Even now you share in Jesus’ resurrection victory because you have been Baptized into His death and resurrection (Rom. 6:1-5). Eternal life is your present possession because of the gift of saving faith in Jesus Christ. Forgiveness of sins, eternal life, salvation, these are your possessions today because Jesus went to the cross and rose from the grave for you.
But there’s one more piece of Jesus’ “going away” that we must consider. It’s the final piece of the puzzle, if you will. Jesus died. Jesus rose. And Jesus ascended into heaven. It’s really one “salvation package.” You don’t get the one without the other. In Jesus’ Upper Room discourse in John chapters 13-16, Jesus has in mind the whole picture of going away to the cross, to the grave, and to the right hand of the Father in majesty from which He will come to judge the living and the dead. And what Jesus wants His followers to know before the events that would soon take place in Gethsemane, Calvary, and the garden tomb, is that these events would culminate in His physical departure from this world in His Ascension. Having completed the saving work for which He was sent by the Father, winning forgiveness of sins and everlasting life, Jesus would return into heaven to prepare a place for His faithful Christians. “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (Jn. 14:1-3 ESV). After Jesus’ Ascension, He would not be among His disciples the way He was for the three and half years of ministry. He would not be among the disciples the way He was during the forty days following His resurrection, appearing to them here and there. Jesus was preparing His followers for the day when He was taken up into heaven. And even that event, the Lord’s Ascension, is “for your advantage,” He told them. The Ascension of Jesus sets up the Day of Pentecost and the giving of the Holy Spirit in power upon the chosen disciples.
Despite Jesus’ physical absence from the earth after His Ascension, a person of the triune Godhead will still be present with His people, the Holy Spirit. There was to be no break in the continuity of God’s presence with His people on earth. “Jesus’ exit from earth is a sort of stage cue for the Holy Spirit’s entrance. It is a way of signaling to Him that Jesus’ part in the accomplishment of God the Father’s plan for saving the world is indeed finished (as Jesus said on the cross), a way of signaling to the Holy Spirit, ‘Now, You’re on. Do Your thing.’”
And so the Spirit does His “thing.” He convicts the world concerning sin and righteousness. It is through God’s Word of Law that the Spirit shows us that we are sinners who cannot keep the Ten Commandments as we ought. He reveals to us our unrighteousness before God that truly merits His anger and just judgment against us in death. But through the Gospel Word of Christ, the Spirit shows us the righteousness of Jesus, who took our place under the Law and kept it on our behalf. Through the Gospel, we come to know that Jesus was righteous for us and, by grace through faith, gives us His own righteousness by means of Word and Sacrament to be credited as ours. We are accounted right with God for the sake of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. The forgiveness of Jesus received by the power of the Spirit through the Gospel truly sets us free from sin by His cleansing blood.
So, the Spirit does His “thing.” He convicts the world of judgment. Our sin is to be punished with the judgment of God: the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). This word of Law drives us to the mercy of God found only in the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. On the cross we find Christ judged guilty of sin, our sin, so that we might receive the verdict of “not guilty” by reason of Jesus’ perfect life and substitutionary death for us. Through the Gospel of Christ, we then receive forgiveness and the victory over death and the grave which He won for us. With this victory of Jesus as our own victory, the devil himself must be judged to be defeated. He’s through, done for, finished.
It is most certainly for our advantage the Christ Jesus goes to the cross and the grave. It is assuredly for our advantage the Savior rises again and ascends into heaven, pouring out upon us the Holy Spirit, as He promised, through the Word and Sacraments (AC V). Jesus’ perfect life lived for us, the cross, His blood, His death and rest in the tomb, His rising again, His ascension, the gift of the Holy Spirit—all this Jesus accomplished for your advantage, for your forgiveness, life and rescue from the power of sin, death, and the devil! Amen.
 Francis C. Rossow, Gospel Handles (St. Louis: Concordia, 2001), 324.