Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled

Sermon for the Day of Pentecost based on John 14:23-31

Dear recipients of comfort: Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

“Let not your hearts be troubled.” When Jesus says this to you, it is not the same as when the world says it to you. It’s not the same as the world’s “Don’t worry; be happy” or the world’s “Everything’s going to be alright.” From the world, these are merely empty platitudes; clichés spoken because the world has nothing better to say.

I know what many of you are going through, as well as those who cannot even make it here on Sundays because they are shut in or in hospitals. Cancer. Alzheimer’s. Diabetes. High blood pressure. Depression. Disabilities. Infections. Heart attacks. Strokes. The list goes on. That’s not even to get into what the families affected go through, watching their loved ones so afflicted or mourning their death.

“Don’t worry; be happy”? Save your empty fluff.

“Everything’s going to be alright”? Since when is suffering and death alright?

No, save the hollowness of those words. Those empty phrases give no comfort. They give no joy and they give no hope. Such empty phrases don’t bring joy, nor do they make anything alright.

Do not think for a minute that Jesus’ words to you are of the same sort. They’re not of the same sort because they’re not empty or hollow. Jesus says, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” When Jesus tells you not to be troubled or afraid, He gives you a reason for it. That reason is twofold. First, because Jesus gives you peace. Second, because He goes to prepare a place for you.

Jesus had this discussion with His disciples on the night He was arrested. Jesus knew what was about to happen, as He had on many occasions told His disciples. He knew He was going to be betrayed into the hands of sinful men. He knew He would be mocked and spit on, flogged nearly to death, and then crucified until dead. He knew that carrying the sins of the whole world, He would bear all of our guilt and all the punishment our sins deserve. He knew He would even be forsaken by God the Father for our sake. All of this is exactly why He tells His disciples, and tells you, “Let not your hearts be troubled.”

Let not your hearts be troubled because I am about to give you peace with God the Father by suffering hostility and hatred for you. I am about to earn you forgiveness and freedom from eternal suffering. That’s exactly what Jesus did on the cross.

What we need to realize is that all the sickness and affliction in the world is because of us and our sins. We would never get sick or suffer in any way if we weren’t sinful. We would never die if we weren’t sinful. If we loved God with our whole heart and our neighbours as ourselves, we would never be troubled or afraid of anything. We would have peace in ourselves and would have no need of Jesus.

Since we are sinful, we do not follow God’s will for our lives. We sin in thought, word, and deed. We deserve nothing but temporal and eternal punishment. We deserve suffering and death in this life and we deserve suffering and eternal death hereafter.

God would not have it so. He loves us so much that He sent Jesus Christ, His only Son, to bear the punishment of all of our sins. He suffered so that we have peace with God and the price of our sins is paid.

Because of this, Jesus says to you, “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither be afraid.” You do not need to fear the suffering of this life or even be troubled in death because all of your sins are forgiven and you have peace with God. Jesus’ death in your place has taken the sting out of death.

And Jesus ascended into heaven to prepare a place for you. You have a place being prepared for you that is not a nursing home or a hospital bed, but an eternal dwelling place with God in the new heavens and the new earth. It is a place of eternal bliss and joy and without sickness or death or sin. It is where we will dwell with God forever, seeing Him face to face.

When Jesus says “Let not your hearts be troubled,” He gives you the reason why you have nothing to fear: your sins are forgiven, you have peace with God, and He is preparing a place for you in eternity.

This Good News is what Pentecost is about. Pentecost isn’t about speaking in tongues. Pentecost isn’t about miraculous signs. Pentecost is about the Holy Spirit bringing to you the Good News of the Gospel so that you will know that your heart has no reason to be troubled and that you need to fear nothing. This message is so important that The Holy Spirit made sure that all those in Jerusalem heard it in their own language. This message is so important that the Holy Spirit still sends pastors and missionaries to bring this Good News to nations around the world in their own language.

The Holy Spirit brings to you the treasures that Jesus won for you. Jesus won for you the forgiveness of sins, peace with God, and eternal life. But how can you get those treasures? How can you receive these gifts that Jesus earned for you?

You cannot find these treasures out in nature. You cannot find these treasures inside yourself. You cannot find the gifts of God anywhere except where the Holy Spirit gives them. The Holy Spirit brings these gifts to you in the means of grace – that is, in the Gospel and in the sacraments.

The Holy Spirit gives these gifts to you when you hear Jesus’ words that tell your heart not to be troubled because you have peace with God since your sins are forgiven. The Holy Spirit gives these gifts to you when water is poured over your head in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit according to Christ’s command and promise. The Holy Spirit gives these gifts to you when you eat and drink the true body and blood of Christ given into death for you for the forgiveness of sins according to Christ’s command and promise.

That’s what Pentecost is about. It’s about the Holy Spirit bringing you Jesus. It’s about the Holy Spirit giving you the treasures through Word and Sacrament that Jesus earned for you by His life, death, and resurrection. That is the work of the Holy Spirit.

So let not your hearts be troubled. Whatever afflictions and tribulations you are facing and are still to face in your future, know that you have nothing to fear. You have peace with God through the death of Jesus since all your sins are forgiven. You have a place being prepared for you in eternity. And the Holy Spirit continues to work in you through the means of grace to keep you in the faith, to strengthen you in the faith, and to comfort your troubled heart. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

The Work of the Holy Spirit

Sermon for the Fifth Sunday of Easter based on John 16:12-22

Dear Church of God called to faith by the Holy Spirit: Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Without the Holy Spirit, the Word of God is a closed book to us. If the Holy Spirit does not teach us the Word, we cannot understand the Word. If the Holy Spirit does not open our eyes and reveal God’s truth to us, the Word will seem like empty riddles and stories to us.

The disciples did not understand Jesus’ figure of speech when He told them, “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” To them it just sounded like some sort of riddle.

Jesus had told them the same thing in clearer words as well. He taught His disciples saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” (Luke 9:22) He had told them, “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.” (Luke 9:44) Jesus had further told them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” (Luke 18:31-33) Surely Jesus was so clear with His words that the disciples understood Him, right? No, they didn’t.

Scripture records that the disciples “did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it.” (Luke 9:45) And “they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.” (Luke 18:34) They did not understand that it was God’s plan that Jesus would die for their sins and the sins of the whole world. They didn’t understand even though Jesus told them that He would die and rise again.

This brings us back to our text where Jesus says, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” It is the Holy Spirit who teaches us the truth of God’s Word. Only the Holy Spirit can open our eyes to the truth.

This is what we confess when we say, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the last day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.” (SC II.3)

I cannot by my own reason believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him. My reason responds to all of God’s promises by saying, “That cannot be.” God says, “Baptism saves” and my reason says, “That cannot be.” God says, “Absolution forgives your sins” and my reason says, “That cannot be.” God says, “The Lord’s Supper is Jesus’ true body and blood given for the forgiveness of your sins” and once again my reason says, “That cannot be.” That’s why I cannot by my own reason believe in Jesus Christ or come to Him.

I cannot by my own strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him. My strength responds to all of God’s promises by saying, “I don’t need it.” God says, “You are evil from conception (Ps. 51:5), receive my forgiveness” and my strength says, “No, I’m pretty good. I don’t need it.” God says, “You are by nature a child of wrath, like the rest of mankind (Eph. 2:3), receive my Absolution” and my strength says, “I’m not so bad, I don’t need it.” God says, “By your sinful nature you are dead in your trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1), receive life in Jesus’ body and blood” and my strength says, “I feel pretty alive. I don’t need it.” That’s why I cannot by my own strength believe in Jesus Christ or come to Him.

We only come to Jesus when the Holy Spirit calls us by the Gospel, enlightens us with His gifts, and sanctifies us in the true faith. Without the work of the Holy Spirit, the Gospel is foolishness to us (I Cor. 1:18). Without the Holy Spirit, the Gospel seems ridiculous to us.

This is why Jesus ascended into heaven and sent the Holy Spirit. Jesus didn’t just ascend into heaven to make room for the Holy Spirit. Jesus ascended into heaven to go to the Father. He ascended in order to show the glory of the risen Christ.

If Jesus had not ascended into heaven, the disciples might have thought that life would returned to normal; back to what it was before Jesus died; back to suffering and humiliation. But after the sacrifice was complete; after His suffering and death were accomplished and His state of humiliation ended, Jesus ascended into glory.

Jesus ascended to prepare a place for us, so that we can also take comfort in His promises of new life after death. Not the same old life, but new and eternal life in glory. Just as Jesus didn’t rise to the same life He lived before His death, so we will not rise to the same life we live now.

Jesus ascended into heaven but He didn’t abandon us or leave us as orphans. He sent the Holy Spirit to call us by the Gospel, enlighten us with His gifts, and sanctify and keep us in the true faith. He sent the Holy Spirit to daily and richly forgive our sins and the sins of all believers. He does this through His Word and through the Lord’s Supper.

Jesus promised to be with us until the end of the age, and so He is. He is present in His Word. He is even physically present in His body and blood so that we can cling to Him in faith and each one of us can say with certainty, “My sins are forgiven by Jesus’ body and blood.”

The promises of God are sure and certain even if we cannot fully comprehend them with our reason and strength. The Holy Spirit opens our eyes through His Word to trust His promises because those promises depend on God’s reason and strength, not ours.

The Holy Spirit calls us to faith, and also keeps us in the faith. Since the Holy Spirit keeps us in the faith, our faith will not falter even in the face of death. Thus we can all say with firm faith: On the last day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.