“Jesus Sends the Holy Spirit”
(John 16:5-11 – Pentecost – May 31, 2020)
John 16:5-11 5“But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ 6But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7Nevertheless 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 depart, I will send Him to you. 8And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”
Dear Redeemed children of God, through Holy Spirit-given faith in His Son, Jesus Christ:
It grieves us when a loved one must go away. We think of how life will not be the same without them. But sometimes their going away is for our good. A wife may say a tearful goodbye to her husband when his job requires him to go away, or he is called to fight in a war. She grieves to think of not seeing him for a long time. Yet it is important that he goes, so he can earn the daily bread his family needs, or help fight for the security of his family and nation.
Here, Jesus was preparing His disciples for His departure. He said in verses 5-6: “But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going? But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.” They had gotten used to Jesus being with them. The thought of His leaving grieved them, and they could not understand where He was going. They had not grasped His teaching that He must “be crucified, and on the third day rise again” (Luke 24:7); for this was the only way He could win forgiveness and eternal life for sinners. They had not grasped His teaching that He must ascend to His Father in heaven, with the promise that one day He would come back to take them home with Him (John 14:2-3).
In time of grief we may understand the words people say, but it can be hard to see why it has to be this way. We may ask: “How can it be for my good to have my loved one go away? How can life ever be the same again?” But in all that happens in our lives, however it may grieve us at the moment, God must intend somehow to work it out for our greater good (Romans 8:28).
As Jesus went on to assure His disciples in verse 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 depart, I will send Him to you.” In going away, Jesus could send the Holy Spirit to fulfill their needs in an even greater way than if He remained. And by sending the Spirit, Jesus also would bless others through their work of spreading the Gospel. Let us see how “Jesus Sends the Holy Spirit”: 1) To comfort His disciples and 2) To convict the world.
1) To comfort His disciples
With the ascension of the Son of God to His Father’s right hand in heaven, the triune God was already setting in motion the next great step in His plan of salvation. For now, God the Father and God the Son were sending God the Spirit to comfort His disciples.
As Jesus had promised in John 14:16-18: “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. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” Jesus’ visible departure did not mean He was abandoning His disciples. On the contrary, it meant He would be with them in an even closer way, by sending His Spirit into their hearts to live in them.
Jesus’ promise was fulfilled that first Pentecost day long ago. As the followers of Jesus were all gathered together in fellowship in one place, we are told in Acts 2:3-4: “Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
What comfort it gave the disciples, as the ascended Lord sent the Spirit on them as promised. What comfort the Spirit gave the disciples as He filled their hearts with joy and led them to preach Jesus’ salvation boldly to the Jews that day. What comfort the Spirit gave them as He led them to a full understanding of all Jesus had taught while He was with them, showing them how Jesus had fulfilled all the Scriptures through His death and resurrection, by which He took away the sins of the world and gave eternal life to all who believe. What comfort the Spirit gave them as they saw proofs of Jesus’ power and presence; for as they preached His Gospel, the Spirit brought more and more people to saving faith – both Jews and Gentiles. What comfort the Spirit gave as He inspired the apostles to write the New Testament Scriptures, with God’s promises that He was working in all things for the eternal good of His Church.
It all fulfilled what Jesus had promised in John 16:13-14: “When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.”
Now our ascended Savior has sent the Holy Spirit into our hearts to comfort us by His same Gospel of salvation, and assure us that He is working all things for our eternal good. Think of where we would be without the Holy Spirit. Scripture describes our natural condition as sinners as having been spiritually dead, separated from the life of God; living in disobedience and enmity with God in our sinful nature. We were following the spirit of Satan, who deceives those who are perishing by his lies (Romans 8:6-8; Ephesians 2:1-3; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10).
But seeing our lost condition as sinners, Jesus graciously sent the Holy Spirit into our hearts to convert us, to give us saving faith in Christ and eternal life. The Holy Spirit called us to faith by the power of the Gospel. In 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 the apostle Paul wrote: “God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel.” In Titus 3:5-7 Paul connects the Spirit’s work to Baptism, saying God “saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
Having called us to faith through the Gospel in Word and Sacrament, the Spirit continues to keep us in faith and comfort us by God’s promises in Holy Scripture. In Romans 8 Paul writes: “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.” The Holy Spirit comforts us with the promise of our heavenly inheritance with Christ. It also says: “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:16-17, 26-27).
Truly Jesus has blessed us by sending the Spirit into our hearts to give us saving faith. What great comfort the Spirit gives as He teaches us by the Scriptures, assuring us of our salvation in Jesus; and as He intercedes in our prayers and reveals our needs at the very throne of God!
2) To convict the world
Not only did Jesus send the Holy Spirit to comfort His disciples; He sent the Holy Spirit also to convict the world of His saving truth.
By the Spirit’s power, the apostles preached the Gospel of Jesus effectively to the world. Look at what happened that first Pentecost. As Peter preached to the crowd, confronting them with their sin of crucifying the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit convicted the hearts of many. Acts 2 reports: “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” By the Spirit’s power: “Those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them” (Acts 2:36-41).
As Jesus continues to send His Gospel to the ends of the earth, the Spirit continues to convict sinners and call more and more to faith and eternal life in Jesus. This is why Jesus said of the Spirit in verses 8-11: “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” Let us think of what these three points of the Holy Spirit’s message mean.
Jesus says the Spirit will convict the world “of sin, because they do not believe in Me.” It is not that the world knows nothing of sin. There is plenty of evidence for the moral faults of humanity in the daily reports of crime, breakup of marriage and family, etc. What the world lacks is a right conviction of personal sin and guilt. Many think they are above the kind of sin that damns, because compared to others they live outwardly decent lives. If they see their faults, they believe they can get right with God by trying harder to be good. But this is impossible, since even the best works of men are corrupted by sin before God. Therefore, many people commit the greatest sin of all, which is unbelief. On the cross, God’s Son sacrificed His life to take away the sin of the world. Yet this sin remains, as Jesus says: “they do not believe in Me.” When a person does not believe, he rejects the only sacrifice that takes away sin – Jesus’ blood atonement. Only the Holy Spirit can convict the world rightly in regard to sin, and give true repentance and faith that trusts nothing but Jesus’ blood cleansing and righteousness to save us.
Therefore Jesus also says the Holy Spirit will convict the world “of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more.” When Jesus ascended to His Father, God placed His seal of approval on His finished work of saving sinners. Through Jesus’ perfect life of obedience, His death for our sins, and His resurrection, God declares us justified, forgiven, and saved for eternal life. The only righteousness that is ours before God is the righteousness of His Son. Only the Holy Spirit can convince us that all our righteous acts before God are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Only the Holy Spirit can convince us that, despite the worst of our sins, God graciously declares us forgiven and righteous in His sight, for the sake of Jesus.
And Jesus says the Holy Spirit will convict the world “of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” As Jesus spoke these words, He was on His way to a final confrontation with Satan. Satan hoped to triumph over Jesus by arranging His betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion. Yet by the Lord’s very death on the cross and resurrection, He crushed Satan’s head, sealed his doom, and set sinners free from his rule. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to work faith in our hearts by His Gospel, He poured out the Spirit on us in Baptism, and He graciously brought us into His Kingdom. So we are set free from Satan’s rule, and we no longer share his eternal judgment. Romans 8:1 says: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”
We can be thankful that Jesus has sent His Spirit to convict and convince us of salvation in His name. Maybe at times, like those first disciples, we wish we could still see Jesus beside us, the way they did before His ascension. In times of grief, maybe we wish we could just see Jesus raising His hands over us to bless us, hear His voice pronouncing us forgiven, and feel His embrace reassuring us of His abiding presence and care.
Yet as those first disciples discovered, it is for our good that Jesus returned to the Father who sent Him. We do not have to try to find Jesus’ location as He walks in this world, to hear His blessing. Our ascended Savior comes to us more closely than that. He has sent His Spirit to live in our hearts. The Spirit takes what is Jesus’ own and makes it ours; He delivers to us personally the salvation Jesus won for us. The Spirit speaks to us Jesus’ words of forgiveness and eternal life in His Word and Sacraments. The Spirit reassures us that all is well in our Savior’s care. God has “put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Corinthians 1:22); and when calls us to His side in heaven, we will see fully how He has always been with us with His comforting voice, leading us in love, and working in all things for our eternal good.
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.