There is a certain irony in the holy Gospel text. Here we are one week before Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit. But in our sermon text, Christ is already speaking about the Holy Spirit. If we preach the text, then we hear about the Spirit one week before His day.
Of course, we are not bound to only speak about the Holy Ghost one day out of the year. So there is no penalty on the play, so to speak.
I can also point out that there is a difference between today’s holy Gospel and the day of Pentecost. Christ speaks today about the promise of the coming Helper, and Pentecost is the fulfillment.
We ought to learn to think in these terms. Our flesh desires to make up its own demands of God, rather than seeking the solid Scriptural promises God has made. What He has promised, we should expect with the greatest certainty. What He has not promised, we may ask for, but should not expect that He will keep a promise where none was made.
He promised that He would send the Holy Spirit, the Counselor and Helper. Sure enough, the Spirit descended upon the disciples on Pentecost; promise, then fulfillment.
He also promises the Holy Spirit to His Church. You are promised the Spirit. Where is He? You have received His Gospel in water and Word, preaching and Sacrament. You believe and have eternal life. That is because the Spirit came to you. You have Him. Do not doubt that promise.
The problem is, we want to doubt the promise because we do not always feel like the Spirit is with us. We do not ordinarily feel the Spirit. We know He is there because He comes with the Word. But we do not feel Him in our heart, or wherever we think we are supposed to be feeling Him. But against that feeling or lack of feeling, remember these words: “I will send the Spirit of truth to you from the Father.” Do not doubt that promise. Hold onto it.
Christ especially sends the Spirit to you to be the Helper because there will be times that you face deep, overwhelming troubles. He does not want you to fall away. Believers from time to time will be cast out of the synagogues. That was the particular problem for the Twelve Disciples. But for you it manifests in a different way. Being cast out from the synagogue was persecution from within the Church, which almost entirely consisted of Jews at the time. Those who were supposed to be faithful leaders instead turned against the Gospel. Those who held to the Gospel were excommunicated. In spite of this, the true Church remained with the Disciples, who had the Gospel and ministry of Christ.
When you are persecuted from within the Church, it may be when others personally excommunicate you, so to speak. That is to say, people will declare that you are no true Christian; you are an unloving, horrible person; you certainly do not have the Holy Spirit. Why must you endure these harsh words? Because you hold to the pure Word of Christ.
Maybe this has not happened to you. But if you confess Christ before men, then eventually persecution finds you.
When your heart is pierced by the sorrow of others reviling you, then the Spirit is a Comforter to you. He speaks words of consolation to your heart. How does He do that? Through the Word of God, where the Spirit always comes.
Now, this Word may come in the Divine Service. It may come in private confession. It may come through bread and wine. Often it comes through casual conversation with fellow believers as they speak the comforts of God’s truth. And the Spirit is there.
The Word is where the Spirit bears witness about Christ. That is why His Word is comforting. He says things like this: “Christ has risen from the dead! You have eternal life! Why should you feel all sorry for yourself because so-and-so said you were unloving? Why should you sulk and brood because they think they have God and you do not? You have victory over satan and death and hell! Put your eyes on Christ and forget the lies of sinful men.”
With such words, He speaks. He helps you to hold on, instead of giving up the faith because it is just too hard. It is too hard for you. You cannot do it on your own. You constantly face trials that should overwhelm you. But listen for the Holy Spirit speaking in the Word of Christ. Listen for the promises.
So you also bear witness. The Spirit does, and the disciples did. But your witness is different than theirs. You do not bear witness to seeing the death and resurrection of Christ. But you can bear witness to their witness. You can bear witness to the life you have received in water and the Word. You can bear witness to the promise that you have received from the Spirit. You can tell others that God gives them the same promises.
In this way, you also become the Spirit’s mouthpiece to speak words of comfort.
But most of all, be courageous and steadfast. Hear the Spirit’s voice constantly. He will make you firm where in yourself you are weak.
Because hard days will come, perhaps harder than you can imagine. In the days of the disciples, people considered it a service to God to put followers of Christ to death. There are people right now doing that in parts of the world. There are also people in this country that hate believers in Christ. They hate you. God forbid that Christians like us should be slaughtered for our faith. But it may come. Our burden may become that heavy.
Even that, the Spirit can help you to endure. Even that is not too much for Him to comfort you. He can stand with you as all the forces of hell rage at you. For He brings the promises of Christ to you: resurrection and eternal life in His Blood and life. Christ is more important than anything else. Therefore He is more important than what you must suffer for Him.
The Spirit help you to cling faithfully to Christ. Amen.
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