Pastor Hopkins preached this sermon on the fifth Sunday of Easter, 5/10/2020. The service was broadcast live on Facebook at 9am, and is now available on the FLC youtube channel. To follow along from home, the bulletin is available as a PDF: Cantate Easter5 Bulletin
The text for the sermon was the day’s gospel lesson. To read the Bible texts for the fifth Sunday of Easter, click here.
Jesus is going away. Jesus is leaving. Jesus is not going to be with His disciples anymore; at least not in the way that they are used to.
This would come as devastating news at any time, but it stings even worse when you consider what Jesus said just moments prior. In the verses immediately preceding this, Jesus told the disciples that they would soon be put out of the synagogues and killed.
The most dire of times is approaching, and Jesus won’t be there. Of course, sorrow has filled their hearts. Of course, they don’t ask where He is going. “Away” just means somewhere else, not with them. And this is all that matters. So, I wonder if it felt hollow when Jesus said that all this was to their “advantage.”
It’s an unworthy comparison, but try to imagine the pain of your dearest friend saying he or she is going away, but that it was for the best. “You’ll be better off without me. You’ll grow into who you’re supposed to be.” It sounds like pure nonsense and false consolation if it means that they’re leaving. Saying that this was for your advantage would sound like cruel condescension.
But for Jesus to stick around like old times would not be to the disciples’ advantage, because Jesus still had work to do. He is speaking these words just before His betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion.
The cross is why He came: to redeem us and purchase us with His own blood; to be judged in our place for our sin, not for His advantage, but for ours.
There is no Advantage, there is no Gospel, there is no Good News, there is no righteousness for the Helper, the Holy Spirit, to declare, if Jesus does not go to the cross and return to the Father at His Ascension.
They don’t understand this now; but the Spirit of Truth will come and make all things clear. When the Spirit comes, they will understand how Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension figure into the life of the Church after Pentecost.
They’ll understand that if He stayed with them as He had these last few years, then the Kingdom of God would not expand. Some people would be convicted of sin and righteousness and judgment; but Jesus is not interested in some people. Jesus is interested in the whole world.
Fast forward to 2020. That word has been fulfilled. Christ has risen. Christ has ascended. Christ has sent the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. We have been led into all truth.
We, along with the world, have been convicted concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment.
Concerning sin, because we don’t believe perfectly, entirely, or flawlessly. Concerning righteousness, because we look for righteousness in ourselves, as if that counted for anything. Concerning judgment, because we act as if the false ruler of this world has not been judged, as if we fear his raging against us.
And here’s a helpful diagnostic: wouldn’t you like Jesus to be here now as He was then? Wouldn’t it be comforting if Jesus was here in the exact way He was with His disciples? Wouldn’t that make plagues and murder hornets and job loss a bit more palatable? Wouldn’t that be to your advantage?
It may seem so. And it would certainly fill a church, even during a plague. But that would not be for our advantage, or the world’s (advantage). And, as Jesus said, He is very much concerned with the whole world.
If Jesus were to be with us in precisely the same way as He was with the disciples, we’d try to prevent Him from going anywhere else. We’d try to keep Him in our own boats, our own houses, our own churches. And if He told us that He was going away, that He must care for others as well, we would be left as orphans. And that would not be to our advantage.
But Jesus said that this would be to our advantage. The Holy Spirit has come on Pentecost, He has guided the Church into all truth, and He has glorified Christ by taking what is His and declaring it to you.
In the waters of Baptism, the Holy Spirit added His Word; and when He did, He declared Jesus’ righteousness to you. It was His, and now it is yours. You are bound to Christ’s death and resurrection. He can never go away from you. And this is to your advantage.
In the Sacrament of the Altar, the Lord’s Supper, the Holy Spirit has brings Christ nearer to you than any dear friend could ever be, and delivers His Body and Blood into your mouth, for the forgiveness of sins, communion with Jesus, and strength for your journey. This is to your advantage.
And now, through all of you, starting in your own homes, the Holy Spirit brings Christ into all the world. As He goes you are not deprived, because though He goes, He does not go away. You are not robbed. You have more and never less.
Everything that belongs to Jesus is yours. And you are His.