Fifth Sunday of Easter
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. (John 16:5-15)
“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. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”
If I do not go away the Helper will not come to you. Here Jesus is preparing them for his ascension to the right hand of God the Father almighty. We’ve all had to say goodbye to friends before. We know the emptiness that creeps in, the void left. We can imagine the sorrow the disciples felt. But Jesus lets them know it is necessary, if the Helper is to come then he must go to be enthroned over all the world, to rule it at his Father’s right hand. Only when he has gone to the Father will the Spirit be able to begin his work in earnest, the building of the church. Yes, this is the work of the Holy Spirit, the work that cannot be done without the Spirit.
Oh, you can have an earthly institution and call it church without the work of the Holy Spirit. Heaven knows we have seen plenty of that. But only where the Gospel is preached in it’s purity, and where the sacraments are administered according to Christ’s institution, only there is the Spirit working to create Christians. This isn’t something that can be enforced like a law. This isn’t something that can be done outside the power of the Holy Spirit, because only he has the power to change hearts, to quicken faith, to bring to life that which is dead. And this is what Jesus has sent him to do, to convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment.
He comes to convict the world of sin, because they do not believe in me, Jesus says. This is truly the work of the Holy Spirit, to convict the world of sin because they do not believe in me. I mean, how often do we think of unbelief as sin? And we ourselves are believers! You can convince the world that drinking coffee is a sin. Seriously, it is quite amazing the things the world will see as sin when left to their own devices. It is also quite mind blowing the things they will excuse as not being sin. What one culture sees as horrid, another will often see as wonderful. Think about the disparity between our culture and that of Islam. But generally speaking, people know that theft, adultery, false testimony, and murder are wrong. What they don’t see is that all sin has its root in unbelief, an unwillingness to trust in God. And what could be more sinful than to despise the salvation Christ has won for us on the cross with his own precious blood and innocent suffering and death?
Concerning righteousness because I go to the Father. This is a righteousness not of our own. The Spirit convicts us of Christ’s righteousness. Christ has entered the holy places by his blood, this is his righteousness, his life that he gives to us. We have no righteousness of our own, because we are born unbelievers. But the Spirit quickens us to life and gives us the righteousness of Christ, who intercedes on our behalf before the face of the Father. He gives us the righteousness of Christ in the forgiveness of sins, in holy baptism, in Holy Communion. There we receive the gospel and are made children of God. And so the ruler is judged.
Concerning judgment because the ruler of this world is judged. The ruler of this world is judged. That would be satan, he no longer has power over us, can no longer accuse, no longer rule over us. He is judged. Jesus has been victorious over him. Now Satan doesn’t stand before God as he did at the beginning of Job. But now It is Jesus, and he intercedes on our behalf. A the ruler of this world that has thrown it into so much sin is cast out, bound and thrown into the pit of hell fire, there to be tormented for all eternity. But we, we too have been judged, and found not guilty on account of Christ’s death and resurrection, now he is the ruler, and we serve him in his kingdom in everlasting innocence, blessedness and righteousness.
And through all that, the Holy Spirit works to build up his church, using those he has brought to faith as they serve their Lord, to bring the gospel to those who have not heard. It is his work, and he accomplishes it where he pleases, in and through you and I in whom it has been accomplished already.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.