Thank God He Left
Another Anglican Sermon
St. Luke tells us in Acts those who heard Paul preach in Berea were noble because they examined the Scriptures to see if the things they were hearing were true. You can do that, too. This morning’s homily is from verses 5-11 of the Gospel lesson. You can find this on page 198 of the Prayer Book.
Gospel: John 16: 5-15 (Prayer Book pp. 198)
5 But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou?
6 But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart.
7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.
8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
9 Of sin, because they believe not on me;
10 Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more;
11 Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.
12 I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.
13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.
14 He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
15 All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
We moved to Roanoke because our daughter-in-law died. Our son lost his wife, and our grandsons lost their mother. Kim never said to them during her illness, “It is good that I am leaving you.” Our son has never said since she died, “Thank the Lord Kim has gone,” nor have the grandsons said, “Thank God he took our Mom away.”
Yet the night before his death, Jesus told his disciples, “It is good for you that I am going away.” His disciples did not understand then, nor would we have. How is it good that Jesus left?
1. Jesus leaving means the coming of the Holy Spirit.
- It was an upsetting and confusing night for the disciples. Jesus said several times that he was soon leaving them. Both Peter and Thomas asked where he was going, but they were not really asking about his destination. They were showing their shock, as we might upon hearing a sudden and unexpected announcement that someone we love is leaving soon: “Whoa! What’s this all about? How soon? Where?” But, Jesus says that so far they have not really asked where he is going or what his going would mean for him and them.
- Rather, sorrow had filled their hearts. I can understand that.
- When I was about 12 years old I was in bed but not asleep when my Dad came home from a meeting at church. I heard him say to my mother that our pastor had informed the elders that he was leaving to go to another church. He was the only minister I had ever known. Hearing he was leaving made me very sad and anxious. Even after he left, I would pray at night that God would bring him back.
- The disciples had staked everything on Jesus.They left everything behind and followed him. They believed he was the Messiah. They had glimpsed something of his glory - however imperfectly. They thought that somehow he was going to establish God’s kingdom on earth. And now on this night he was talking about leaving very soon. They were shocked, scared, and their hearts were drowning in sorrow.
- Jesus encourages them, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient - or good - for you that I go away.” He explains:
- “For if I do not go away the Comforter will not come to you: but if I depart, I will send him to you.” In the Old Testament, the coming of God’s kingdom is tied to the Holy Spirit. There will be a “Spiritual Age” when God will pour out his Spirit. He will put his Spirit in his people, and the Spirit will write God’s law on their hearts. He make them know the Lord and empower them to make the Lord known to the nations.
- But the age of the Spirit will not come till Jesus has accomplished his mission by dying on the cross, rising from the dead, and ascending to heaven. On Pentecost, which comes 50 days after Jesus resurrection and 10 days after his ascension, Jesus fulfills the promise of the giving of the Spirit. That was day he poured out his Spirit on original disciples. Not only on them but on the whole church from Pentecost till he comes again. We live in the age of the Spirit when the Spirit fills his church, works in the church using the Word and sacraments, and works through the church to proclaim the saving work of Jesus to the world. It the age when the Spirit lives in every believer in Jesus Christ.
- Do you find yourself wishing that you had lived when Jesus was on earth? Do you wish he were still walking the roads of Palestine, teaching and working miracles in the cities and villages?
- But think about that. Jesus had a real human body which could be present at only one place at a time. Now his glorified but still human body sits in heaven at the Father’s right hand. If he were still on earth, the vast majority Christians and non-Christians would never experience his ministry.
- But, now that he has ascended to heaven and sent his Spirit, Christians all over the world have communion with Christ in heaven. The Spirit connects us on earth with Christ who is in heaven. By the Spirit we can know Jesus, receive his salvation, live for Jesus, and do his work. Two thousand years ago the church was confined to Jerusalem. Now, because Jesus has sent the Spirit, the church has spread to the whole world. Believe what Jesus said. It is good he went away, for he has sent us the Holy Comforter to live in his church and to live in you.
2. Jesus leaving means the conviction of the world.
- Jesus explains the benefit of the Spirit’s coming: “And when he is come he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” When we use the verb “reprove” or its noun “reproof” we mean correcting or scolding. But, when the KJV used it, the word mean “to convict.” Jesus is talking about the Holy Spirit’s exposing, shaming, convicting the world.
- Jesus came to convict the world. When Jesus speaks of the “world” he does not mean the cosmos or this planet. In St. John’s gospel the world is the world of men and women blinded by the devil and in rebellion against God. The world hates Jesus, God’s Son, because the world hates God. Jesus ministry exposes the moral darkness of the world, its rebellion against God, its wicked deeds.
- But Jesus’s reason for convicting the world is not merely or even mainly to condemn the world. He exposes the world’s rebellion and wickedness for a gracious purpose. Jesus convicts the world in order to show the world the reality of its guilt and to call the world to repent. He exposes sin in order to bring salvation.
- When Jesus leaves, he will send the Spirit. The Spirit will continue and expand Jesus’s work. When the Spirit comes he will convict the world as Jesus did, but now no longer in one nation but all the nations, no longer in a few but in a multitude.
- The Spirit’s convicting the world will involve three things:
- He will convict the world of sin because the world does not believe in Jesus.
- Nothing more shows up the world’s rebellion against God than its response to Jesus, God’s Son. He is the world’s Creator, yet when he came the world did not know him. He is the Light of the world, but the world loves the darkness and rejects the light because its deeds are evil. The Spirit convicts the world of its sin of unbelief, but His primary purpose is not to condemn, but to bring salvation. It is painful to see our sin, to find out how wicked it is to scorn Jesus. But that can be the beginning of salvation.
- When the Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost, Peter preached to a multitude that, God attested Jesus by the mighty works Jesus did. Nevertheless these people called for his death and through lawless men put him to death. By raising him from the dead God declared that this Jesus they killed is both Lord and Messiah. The people were cut to their hearts, and cried out, “What must we do?” That conviction of sin led to their salvation.
- The Spirit convicts the world of righteousness because Jesus goes to the Father.
- The Jewish leaders and many of people were deceived about their own righteousness. They believed that they were righteous because they had been circumcised and kept the law, because, unlike sinners. they kept themselves ritually pure. They were confident that, because they were not godless Gentiles and because they were like tax collectors, prostitutes, and other open sinners, they were righteous and on the last day would participate in resurrection of the righteous.
- But Jesus told them a story to those who trusted in themselves that they were righteous. There were two men who went to the temple pray. One was a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. The Pharisee prayed, “God I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all I get.” In stark contrast the tax collector could not even look up but pounded his chest and said, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Jesus said it was not the man who was confident of his righteousness who went home right with God. The man who was justified was the man who knew he had no righteousness and asked for mercy.
- The Apostle Paul was long convinced of his own righteousness, but he came to see that all his self-achieved righteousness was just so much manure in God’s sight. That turned him to Christ, and then he wanted to “be found in Christ, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but the righteousness that comes comes through faith in Christ.”
- The Spirit will convict the world of judgment because the Prince of this world is judged.
- The death of Jesus on the cross, when he was judged guilty of blasphemy by the Jews and rebellion by the Romans looked like the ultimate discrediting and defeat of Jesus. He went to the cross as a condemned man. It looked like the complete triumph of the devil, the Prince of this world. That is how it looked to the world, and even to the disciples.
- But that judgment of what happened to Jesus is wrong. The truth is that what looked like final defeat of Jesus was the decisive defeat of the devil, what looked the condemnation of Jesus was in reality the judgment and condemnation of the devil. Paul tells us that on the cross Jesus “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them.”
- Satan still is active, but he no longer has the power he had before the cross. He is judged and condemned. What awaits him is the execution of the sentence of condemnation against him when he will be cast into hell forever. He roars and attacks but as an animal with a mortal wound. Remember that - no matter how the devil attacks the church, as he is doing today through radical Islam that persecutes and kills Christians, and as he seems to be doing now even in the west as Christians are condemned as biased and prejudiced people, Satan is already condemned.
- The Spirit works on the world by convicting it of judgment. He shows the world that the world has misjudged Jesus by rejecting him and condemning him. He shows the world that because of its wrong judgment of Jesus the world itself is under condemnation. “Whoever believes in him is not condemned but whoever does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.”
- Now it is not too late for those who are under condemnation escape condemnation. “God did not sent his Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through him.” It is a terribly fearful thing to realize you have been wrong and are under judgment because of it. But it is a fearful thing that leads to a wonderful thing, escape from judgment into eternal life and peace through Jesus Christ.
On Pentecost we will celebrate the fulfilment of the promise Jesus made to his disciples the night before he died - that he would send us his Spirit so that…
- the world can see its sin of not believing in Jesus and turn to him in faith
- the world can see the inadequacy of all human righteousness and find the true righteousness Jesus provides
- the world can see that is under judgment because of its misjudgment of Jesus and can escape condemnation by faith in Jesus
That’s why we can thank God Jesus left.