The Festival of Pentecost
I Will Come To You
St. John 14:23-31
09 June 2019
Rev. Jacob Sutton, Pastor
+ In the Name of Jesus +
Today, consider the words and promises of our Lord Jesus from the Gospel reading:
Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. (John 14.27–28; ESV)
“I am going away. And yet, I will come to you.”
The going away part was hard to take, especially as it commenced. To “go to the Father” means Jesus will travel the road through betrayal, suffering, and Golgotha – through the cross – to the tomb. His disciples were obviously troubled and saddened, and eventually, they nearly all run away and hide as Jesus is arrested in the Garden, despite the invitation of Jesus – “let not your hearts be troubled.” Jesus’ “going away” is nothing to be troubled about, but should bring joy, not sorrow, not angst, not fear. There is the promise that “going away to the Father” does not mean that the bloody cross of our Lord has the final say. “I will come to you,” says Jesus.
St. Peter will say in his Pentecost Day sermon:
“Brothers, I may say to you with confidence… about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses…” (Acts 2.29,31-32; ESV)
Death has no dominion over Jesus Christ. His death has been death’s undoing. He vanquished all our foes, death included. We’ve remembered and celebrated that fact now for eight weeks of Eastertide.
But then we remember what the risen Jesus said to St. Mary Magdalene on Easter morning,
“Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” (John 20.17; ESV)
Jesus is telling Mary and has told His disciples: my presence on earth will no longer be one of physical walking around on the dust of the earth. The old manner of human companionship and encounter is over. Now, while the ages of this earth continue, you will walk by faith, and not by sight. Jesus’ “going to the Father” is that He ascended to the right hand of God, having completed His holy work of winning your salvation through His innocent suffering and death and His glorious resurrection from the dead on Easter Day.
But there is this other promise of Jesus to reconcile with. “I am going away, and yet I will come to you.” How can we not cling to Him here, and yet He promises to be with us always, even to the end of the age? How will He rule and reign over us, let His Kingdom come to us, from the position of authority given Him by the Father, which we confess is to be exalted at the right hand of God?
Today, the festival of Pentecost, is the day when God revealed our answer in Jerusalem. The Spirit descended in a mighty rushing wind, tongues of fire appeared over the heads of the apostles, and they preached the Gospel miraculously in many foreign tongues. St. Peter said in his Pentecost sermon:
Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.'” Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified. (Acts 2.33-36; ESV)
Jesus promised the Helper, the Holy Spirit, to teach all things and bring to remembrance what He had said to His disciples. He promised them at His ascension that His disciples would be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, “power from on high.” (Luke 24.49)
The disciples returned from Jesus’ ascension to Jerusalem, says Luke’s Gospel, “with great joy,” “blessing God.” The disciples do not feel abandoned by Jesus. They do not consider Jesus to have disappeared far away into an inaccessible heaven. They are obviously convinced that Jesus means it when He says, “I will come to you.”
The disciples are convinced of a new presence of Jesus, present in a new and powerful way – He is permanently among His people, in a wonderful way that only God can do. When Jesus ascends to fill all things, when He “goes to the Father,” He sends to you the great gift of the Holy Spirit, so that His preaching of repentance and the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
We pray for that promised gift of the Holy Spirit in the confidence that our Father in heaven pours out His living and life-giving Spirit generously upon His Church, through Jesus Christ, His Son, as on that first Christian Pentecost Day we commemorate today.
The Holy Spirit, given you from your Baptism on, your own personal Pentecost Day, teaches you the words of the Father and Son. You are granted the peace of God. You are strengthened to live holy lives. You are told of the steadfast love and mighty works of God in His forgiving your sin and bringing you to eternal life. You are taught the commands of God and learn to love them as a precious gift. The Holy Spirit brings to you all the gifts of God, including Christ Himself, in Supper, and Absolution, so that you would be steadfast in the faith until you are called from this life to the next.
So our Lord Jesus has not “gone away” – the Triune God is not a “gone away” God, some distant God who winds the world up and watches to see what happens. It is not as if Jesus has gone to some distant star, stuck in the heavens. He is the living God, having taken our flesh into the divine dominion over all things. He is present by His divine power with us and for us. “I go away, and I will come to you.” He is with us always, even to the end of the age, in His Holy Spirit’s ministry to you through the Gospel.
The early Church father, Bernard of Clairvaux, said in a sermon:
We have come to know a threefold coming of the Lord… His first coming was in the flesh and in weakness, this intermediary coming is in the Spirit and in power, the last coming will be in glory and majesty.(Quotation in “Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week” by Benedict XVI, p.290)
There is yet more to Jesus’ words: “I will come to you,” isn’t there? There is to be a last coming, with glory and majesty, to judge both the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end. The Holy Spirit teaches us to believe this one holy Christian and apostolic church, visible and invisible, united in one Baptism, looking for the resurrection of the dead, eternal life with the glorified Savior in the world to come.
Faith in Christ’s return is a great pillar of the Christian confession of the faith. Herein is contained the certainty of hope that God will wipe away every tear, that nothing meaningless will remain, that every injustice will be remedied, all wrongs made right, all justice restored. The triumph of Christ and His love will be the last word of world history – that great day when the Holy Spirit will bring on the Pentecost to end all Pentecosts, when the Spirit will breathe life again into the bodies of all the saints, bringing about a new and everlasting creation, the old will have gone away, and the new will have come.
God grant us, by His Holy Spirit, that we never neglect to pray for Christ’s coming – thy Kingdom come, He would have us pray – which means that we pray for the Spirit-breathed ministry of the Gospel that brings forgiveness and salvation here in time, and we pray and remain ever vigilant for the new life to come there in eternity, for this passing world cannot be dearer to us than the Lord for whom we are actually waiting to come again.
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit +