God is with us in Word and Sacrament

The Fifth Sunday of Easter

The Fifth Sunday of Easter

John 16:5–15


The disciples don’t ask where Jesus is going because they already know. They know that Jesus going to His Father means that He is going to die. This is why they are filled with sorrow. And this is why Jesus tells them the truth. It is to their advantage that He go away. For unless He goes away, the Helper, the Holy Spirit will not come. If He does not go away, He will not come back, and if He does not come back, He will not see them in the Upper Room, forgive their sins, bestow His peace, and give them His Spirit.

This is the essence of Christianity. It is not just that Jesus is God in the flesh. It is not just that Jesus is the Messiah. It is not just that Jesus as the Messiah dies and is risen. It is that Jesus, God in human flesh, the Messiah promised of old, dies and rises for our advantage, for our benefit, for us and for our salvation. And it is that fact, that Christ dies for us and for our salvation, that we believe. For the the words “for you” require all hearts to believe.

And every time we sin, we show that we do not believe this. Every time we sin, we demonstrate that we do not fear, love, and trust in God above all things. For sin is unbelief. If you break one of God commandments, you break them all. And they are summed up in this, love the Lord your God will all your heart, mind, and soul. Whenever we sin, we break the first commandment. And that commandment is to believe in the only true God. The Holy Spirit comes to convict us of sin, because we do not believe in Him.

This is why James warns us. He says, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” What, we think, could there be to deceive us? We are not in danger of attributing the good things that He has given us to our own devices or work. We don’t think that the gifts of food and drink, house and home, etc, are from anywhere else but our God’s fatherly divine goodness and mercy. What could possibly deceive us?

The deception is in working the verse the other way round. Since we are sinners, we see something that we think is good and perfect, and then think it must be a gift from above, a gift from the Father of lights. For example, love is good and perfect. It is a gift from above, from the Father. Therefore, when I no longer love my spouse but love another, then God is telling me to leave my spouse for someone else. Or live with them outside of marriage, to engage in the marital act outside of marriage. Or we know that sports and other extracurricular activities are good, thus they are gifts from our Father in heaven. So when these things tear me away from hearing God’s Word and receiving His body and blood, it is God’s will because it comes from God.

We turn the verse upside down and backwards. For there is no variation or shadow due to change in the God who gives His good and perfect gifts. That means what is a good gift and a perfect gift is not what we think is good and perfect, but what God says is good and perfect in His Word. Eve also saw for herself that the fruit of the forbidden tree was pleasing to the eye, good for food, and able to make one wise. And how did that work out for her?

We have placed our own desires before God’s holy will recorded for us in the Holy Scriptures, the very Word of god. Repent. God’s Word tells us what God’s gifts are. They are the things that we confess He gives in the First Article of the Creed and for which we pray in the Fourth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer. And when we decide for ourselves what is good and perfect, we sin, as did Eve. And sin is dangerous to faith. Faith cannot exist where sin is allowed to reign. Faith cannot live, if sin is allowed to push it out. For, if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. Faith cannot exist where sin is allowed to reign and control.

But if we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. The Holy Spirit, sent by Jesus and the Father, convicts us of righteousness, because He has taken all our sins upon Himself, atoned for them, and gives us His righteousness. For Christ our Lord, God in our flesh, the Messiah promised of old, went away, went to His Father. And it is for your advantage that He went away. He suffered for you. He died for you. He was raised on the third day for you. And He appeared to the apostles, gave them His Spirit, bestowed upon them His peace, and sent them to forgive sins. He did it for you—all for you.

The Holy Spirit is still at work. He convicts us of sin and righteousness. He declares to you all that belongs to Jesus. He takes what is Jesus’ and makes it yours. And thus do we pray that God, indeed, will make our minds of one will, His will, and that we will love what He commands and desire what He promises so that our hearts may be fixed where true joys are found. Amen.


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