Exaudi (Easter 7) Sermon 2017
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt
Jesus says, “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away” (John 16:1).
We see, very clearly, what Jesus desires: that you do not fall away.
He wants everyone to live and reign with Him forever. He wants us to have and keep the faith, be baptized, eat and drink His Body and Blood for the forgiveness of our sins.
Jesus wants us to be saved.
And to that end, Jesus says “all these things” to us.
But what are “all these things”?
In the first verses of today’s Gospel reading, Jesus says, “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:26-27).
Jesus will send the Helper, that is, the Holy Spirit.
Before we go on with that, however, I have to ask: what other names are given to the Holy Spirit?
We have, Helper, Comforter, Counselor, Advocate, and Paraclete (that’s Greek for “the guy you call when you need help).
When do you need a helper? When you’re in trouble.
When do you need a comforter? When you’re down, sad.
When do you need a counselor? When you’ve got it wrong.
When do you need an advocate? When you stand before a judge.
Jesus says He’ll send the Helper, the Holy Spirit, and right away, just by His name, we know we’re gonna be in trouble, we’re gonna be sad, we’re gonna be wrong, and we will, in heaven or on earth, stand before a judge.
We’re gonna need help.
So Jesus sends the Holy Spirit, because He doesn’t want us to fall away.
Why we might fall away, and why we will need help, Jesus explains specifically in the verses just before today’s Gospel lesson.
It’s worth it to hear them all, Jesus says:
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause’” (John 15:18-25).
The hatred of the world is perfect, complete.
And I mean that in two ways, neither being a compliment.
First, it’s not sort of hatred but complete and total hatred.
The world doesn’t sort of hate Jesus like we sort of hate tv commercials.
We say we hate tv commercials, but we nevertheless learn from them: Subway tells us to eat fresh. You can save big money at Menard’s. There are low prices, always at Walmart. And Arby’s has the meats.
We hate commercials, but we learn from them.
The world hates Jesus completely, and if it ever does learn from Him, it’s only in catchphrases that fit on bumper stickers, jingles that we remember but pay no heed to.
An example of this is how the world loves the words “judge not.” Jesus did say those words, but He also called people to repentance. Hating the need for repentance, the world loves not repentance, just the words “judge not.”
And so the world will hate you if, wanting them to be saved, you call people to repentance.
But the hatred of the world is perfect also in this way: it has an end.
No one studies English grammar as they used to, but in English grammar, the perfect tense is completed action, having a real beginning and a real end.
Regarding the hatred of the world from God’s perspective, it’s perfect in the sense that He knows when it will end.
Jesus goes to the Father, but He will return.
And when He does, we will have only and every joy.
These are the things Jesus has in mind when He says, “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away” (Jn. 16:1).
We will be hated, because Jesus ascended to the Father, we see Him no more, and yet we still believe in Him.
To help us, Jesus sends the Holy Spirit who bears witness about the Christ, that we may hear, and believe, and endure.
I think it’s a fair question, though, to ask why Jesus has to leave.
St. Paul writes, “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him” (Romans 6:9).
So why doesn’t He stay? Why leave and make it worse for us?
I mean, if Jesus didn’t ascend to the Father, if He stuck around, if He still walked the earth, wouldn’t that bring more people to faith?
Most certainly not.
The Jews saw the miracles themselves, and they crucified Him.
The disciples saw the miracles themselves and received years of one-on-one instruction from the Man Himself, and they betrayed, and denied, and fled, and feared.
Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
What I mean is this:
Jesus ascends to the Father so that we must emphasize the resurrection and change the definition of the word disciple.
Until forty days after Jesus’ resurrection, every disciple of Jesus followed Him around, literally.
After Jesus’ ascension, no disciple of Jesus followed Him around literally.
Jesus says that it’s to our advantage that He goes away, for He’ll send us the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn. 16:7).
Even though His going away brings the promise of the world’s hatred, it’s to our benefit that He goes. We’ll receive the Holy Spirit who’ll guide us into all the truth (cf. Jn. 16:13), and we’ll be raised up on the last day.
If we learn to endure the hatred of the world, we’ll long for heavenly treasure.
If we endure the hatred of the world, we must confess the resurrection—That what the world tells and teaches is not all there is.
So Jesus says all these things to paint a clear picture of what the Christian’s life will look like.
On the one hand, as a test of your faith, you can expect to be hated by the world, because it doesn’t know the Father and you do.
It doesn’t know the Christ, the Lord, the Son of God who died for all sinners, whose blood avails for us all.
The world knows nothing.
You know Jesus.
And the world hates you for it.
On the other hand, that you do not fall away, Jesus will send you the Holy Spirit, the Helper and Comforter.
In body and soul, by the proclamation of the Gospel, the Holy Spirit will strengthen and preserve you unto life everlasting.
In varying degrees, this is what the Christian’s life looks like. But there’s one more thing—the Christian’s life will end.
We talk about this in different ways.
The sorrow, the suffering, the hatred of the world, it will all end. God has appointed the day and the hour.
He alone knows, but He knows, and, in hope, we wait.
The work of the Holy Spirit will then be complete.
You will be perfect before God.
Or we can say it like this:
The Christian is in the world but not of the world (cf. Jn. 17).
We live in today but not for today.
All the Christian’s life anticipates life eternal.
When we go to the font we go to our death that we may rise a new creation. From the font we go to the grave that we may die calling it sleep, from which we will awake on the Last Day.
When we go to this Lord’s Supper, we go as though we’re dying and in need of sustenance for our body and soul. And from the altar we go as though we go to our very graves, that we may more readily go to that Lord’s Supper.
Now, I’ve said these things to you to keep you from falling away.
There are no synagogues for you to be put out of, that was specific to the disciples and the first Christians.
In our country, thank God, there’s little chance of you being killed because you’re a Christian.
But the world does not know the Father, and it will hate you because you do.
Any and every time God calls on you to confess the Christian faith—every time you’re tempted by the devil to remain silent—God is leading you into temptation.
This is the hatred of the world that we experience daily.
But Jesus teaches us to pray “lead us not only into temptation…”
Jesus adds, “but most importantly, deliver us from evil.”
You will be hated for your love and faith and fear of God. But do not despair.
You have the Holy Spirit, the Helper, who bears witness about Jesus the Christ.
We believe. And we bear that witness ourselves—that, whatever happens, we do not fall away.
That’s why Jesus says all these things.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!