“As Disciples of Our Glorified Savior…”
(John 14:15-26 – Easter 6 – May 17, 2020)
John 14:15-26 – 15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever – 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. 19 A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. 20 At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. 21 He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered and said to him, “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. 24 He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me. 25 These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”
Dear Redeemed in Jesus Christ:
Sometimes, we need to prepare those whom we love for important changes that are coming. Maybe a family is about to experience change with a new job or a move to a new place. In the face of such changes, parents may comfort their children with things that will not change – like their love for them, their family ties, the things they like to do together that they will still do.
Jesus spoke these words to His disciples to prepare them for important changes. It was the night before His death. Soon they would see Him going away to be crucified on a cross. Then, 40 days after His resurrection they would see Him ascending into heaven. Then the disciples would no longer see Him as they had each day for the past few years. Yet it would not mean He had abandoned them. Jesus assures them in verse 18: “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” He comforts His disciples with those things that would never change – like His love for them; the family ties He gave them with Himself, His Father, and the Holy Spirit; and His continuing work among them.
In all the changing circumstances of life, Jesus speaks these words for our comfort too. In these times, when many have been hit by unforeseen trials of sickness and death, loss of work and finances, and all the unknowns and uncertainties that may threaten daily life – yet, our living Savior reminds us of those things which do not change. He who gave His life for us and rose again assures us of His unchanging love, the family ties He gives us as children of God, and His continuing work among us. Therefore, “As Disciples of Our Glorified Savior…” as stated in our text, 1) We love Him and His Word, 2) We are blessed by the Spirit and faith, and 3) We are united with the Triune God in eternal life.
1) We love Him and His Word
A few times in our text, Jesus speaks of the love between Him and His disciples. Each time, He describes our love in terms of keeping His Word. In verse 15 He says: “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” And in verse 21: “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me.” And again, He says in verses 23-24: “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. He who does not love Me does not keep My words.”
When it comes to our relationship to God, how have we done at loving Him? How have we done at keeping His commandments and His word? As sinners, Scripture describes our love and obedience to God as imperfect. We have not always obeyed His commandments. We have not always loved Him above all else, and put Him absolutely first in our lives. Sometimes it shows when we get bored with being in His Word, and we keep forgetting to pray. We try to cope with changing circumstances of life by trusting our own strength to get through. And when we cope poorly, we take our anxiety and stress out on others; we fail to obey God’s command to love those around us as ourselves. Sometimes, all our troubles and trials in life, as well as all our sinful failures, may overwhelm us. We might start to wonder if God has abandoned as orphans, leaving us to fend for ourselves. If we have not loved God perfectly, why should He love us?
But here, as Jesus describes our relationship with God, the term He uses for love is Agape. This love is not based on changing feelings or convenience. As an act of the will, it seeks the highest good of another, whether or not they deserve it; and it always acts in their best interests. This is the love God has first shown us, as described in 1 John 4:9-10: “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Why has God not abandoned us as orphans; why has He not left us in our sin and misery? Because He loved us so much, that He was willing to give His eternal and only Son to save us. After fulfilling the perfect law of love by His own life of obedience in our place, Jesus laid down His life as the sacrifice that has taken away all our sins. Jesus’ blood and righteousness presents us forgiven and holy before God.
As His disciples, “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). That is always how it goes with faith. When we know the Savior who loved us and gave Himself for us, faith responds by loving Him back. Specifically our faith acts on His Word.
So we understand as Jesus tells His disciples: “If you love Me, keep My commandments… If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word.” By faith, we want to keep all that He has commanded and taught us in His Word. We want to take to heart all that He has spoke in Holy Scripture, as the very words that give us true repentance and faith, life and salvation. And we also want to share His Word faithfully with others for their eternal salvation. Indeed, this is the will of our glorified Savior. Just before Jesus ascended to heaven, He gave His disciples and Church the Great Commission – to go and make disciples of all nations by baptizing them… and “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20).
2) We are blessed by the Holy Spirit and faith
This leads to our next point. As disciples of our glorified Savior, we are blessed by the Holy Spirit and faith. For it is the work of the Spirit, through the Word of Christ, to give us faith and to continue to strengthen it; as well as to create faith in the hearts of others.
To this end, Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit. As He prepared His disciples for His ascension to the right hand of His Father, He said in verse 16-17: “I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever – the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”
The unbelieving world does not receive the Spirit and the truth He brings; any more than it received Jesus and the truth He taught. But by the grace of God, the disciples already had the Spirit. He dwelt in their heart, for they had faith in Jesus. 1 Corinthians 12:3 says: “No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.” As Jesus had taught them, the Spirit was working in their hearts by His words, which are spirit and life (John 6:63), giving them faith.“
The word Jesus used to describe the Holy Spirit is Paraclete, a Greek word which refers to a person who is called to one’s side to help them, to give counsel. Here it is translated “Helper”; it is also translated “Counselor” or “Comforter.” At the request of the Son, the Father sends the Spirit to bring us help, counsel, and comfort us through His Word of Scripture. In this regard, Jesus calls the Spirit “another Helper.” For as long as Jesus walked on earth with His disciples, He was such a Helper, as He taught them directly. As they listened to His Word, their faith was strengthened and they were comforted by His Word of forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life.
But now, as Jesus prepared them for His ascension, He would not leave them without help. He says in verses 25-26: “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” Jesus speaks of the Day of Pentecost. As the ascended and glorified Son of God, He would ask His Father; and together They would send the Holy Spirit in a special way. Jesus would manifest Himself among His disciples by the work of the Spirit. The Spirit would continue to counsel, comfort, and instruct them. So they would understand everything that Jesus taught more fully; they would understand all the Scriptures, and be able to preach God’s Word effectively for the good of others. In fact, through the apostles, the Holy Spirit would also provide the New Testament Scriptures. So from Pentecost on, the Spirit would strengthen and enable Jesus disciples to carry out His mission – the ongoing mission of His Church – to preach His Gospel to all nations.
This is the work of the Holy Spirit who now dwells in us. He does not replace Jesus; He leads us to our Savior. The Spirit applies Jesus’ finished work of redemption to us, by His truth in Word and Sacrament. It is the Spirit who brought us to faith in Christ so that we have the forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life He won for us. When we struggle with our guilt and failures as sinners, the Spirit reminds us of Jesus’ Word of truth in Scripture: “Be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you” (Matthew 9:2). When we feel alone in the face of unknowns and uncertainties of life, the Spirit reminds us of Jesus’ Word of truth in Scripture: “Do not be afraid; only believe”… “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mark 5:36; Matthew 28:20). When we feel afraid in the face of death, the Spirit reminds us of Jesus’ Word of truth in Scripture: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25). The Spirit brings us true help, counsel, and comfort by the words of our living Savior. So we are truly blessed by the gift of the Holy Spirit and the faith He gives.
3) We are united with the Triune God in eternal life
And finally, as disciples of our glorified Savior, we are blessed as we are united with the Triune God in eternal life. There is one true God, revealed as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Yet by faith, we have been united with Him in the closest kind of relationship, now and forever.
Jesus refers to this relationship throughout our text. We have already heard that God the Father, at the request of His Son, sends the Holy Spirit to dwell with us and be in us forever.
Now Jesus goes on to say that He Himself also comes to dwell with us and be in us. As we read in verses 18-20: “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” As our risen, living, and glorified Savior, Jesus never leaves nor forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5). With the eyes of faith, trusting His Word, we see Him beside us. Even more than that, He says we live in Him, and He lives in us. And this is for eternal life. As Colossians 3:3-4 says: “Your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”
In addition, as we live in the Son by faith, we are also given the closest kind of relationship with the Father. As Jesus describes in verse 23: “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.”
Our relationship with the triune God cannot get any closer! As our Creator, our Redeemer, and our Sanctifier, God is with us. As His new creation in Christ, by the faith His Spirit gives, we live in Him; He makes His home with us, and He even lives in us!
Therefore, no matter what changes may come in this life, no matter what trials we may face, no matter what unknowns and uncertainties may threaten us, we need not fear. As disciples of our glorified Savior, He does not leave us to fend for ourselves; He does not leave us orphans. As the beloved children of God, He comforts us with those things that will never change – His infinite love for us as our Savior, the close family relationship He gives us with His Father, and His continuing work among us by His Spirit. As we are united with the Triune God in eternal life, nothing can ever separate us from His love for us (Romans 8:35-39). Therefore we say:
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.