** Audio for this sermon can be found here: https://www.spreaker.com/user/trinitystjohn/2016-05-11-examination-of-the-confirmand **
Text: John 15:26-27
The grace and mercy of our ascended Lord, Jesus Christ, be with you all – especially with you, Tristan and Avery. Tonight we gather to celebrate the gifts that we’ve received in Baptism (namely, the forgiveness of sins, and the Holy Spirit) and to bear witness to the same. The text for our meditation this evening is the teaching of Jesus from the Gospel reading this last Sunday,
When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.
In the Gospel for the Sunday after the Ascension Jesus is seeking to comfort the Disciples before His passion. Soon, He would be with them no longer. For three years the Disciples walked with Jesus. They received His teaching and witnessed His miracles day-in and day-out. On the mount of Transfiguration St. Peter desired to build tents and remain in Jesus’ glory, but the reality was that they had been witnessing it all along – each miracle a preview of heavenly joy and peace in the forgiveness of sins. But soon Jesus will be with them no longer. He will be betrayed, suffer, be crucified, and die. He will bear the intense hatred of the world. In the Gospel text Jesus is trying to comfort the Disciples, because He says,
If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you…If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.
This was a sobering moment for the Disciples. Jesus assured them that though the blessed future of heaven blooms bright on the horizon, clouds of suffering will mark the time in-between. First, suffering will come from the world. Perhaps no one knew this better than the Disciples, for each of them bore the hatred of the world, and most suffered martyrdom in terrible ways. Imagine going from witnessing the glory of Christ’s resurrection to the despair of your own imprisonment for the faith and upcoming departure (as Sts. Peter and Paul called it). Second, suffering will come from the devil who drives the hatred of the world for the true teaching of Christ’s Gospel.
Today though, you and I don’t suffer the hatred of the world in the same way the Disciples did. We don’t live in the fear of being stoned like Paul (who survived) or being crucified upside-down like Peter. But, we do share in the hated of the devil. He is the one who constantly inflames the world to fight against the Gospel of Jesus Christ with false teachings of all sorts. The devil also works against our consciences, either causing to us despair over sin, or to ignore the corruption that rots away within us when we ignore God’s Word. But, hear these words of Christ and take comfort, “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.”
Our Lord very specifically and assuredly uses the word, “Helper,” to describe the Holy Spirit to us. He may also rightly be called the Comforter, for that is what the Holy Spirit does by proclaiming Christ to us. Jesus said to the Disciples that when He departs the world will hate them, but He will send them the Holy Spirit to help them. The Holy Spirit helps and comforts by pointing to the truth of Jesus Christ. All Jesus did, all He willed, all He suffered and endured, was for their sake. For their sins Jesus went to the cross. For the punishment and guilt they deserved for their transgressions, Jesus died. The same is true for us. Jesus died for you. And to you (and you, Avery and Tristan) the Holy Spirit has been given. We have all received the Holy Spirit in Holy Baptism and through preaching of God’s Word, and through these same things He guides us into the truth of our salvation in Jesus.
Jesus spoke these words to the Disciples on the night of His betrayal, “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.” The key words this evening (and for this coming Sunday) are these, “You also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.” These words apply primarily to the Disciples, who were with Jesus since the beginning of His ministry and were ordained by Him to preach His Word to the ends of the earth. But, they may also be spoken of our confirmands tonight. Both of them were Baptized as children, one on May 5th and one on November 28th. In the washing of Holy Baptism they received all the good gifts of the Holy Spirit: their sins were forgiven, they were rescued from death and devil and given eternal salvation; they were clothed in Christ’s righteousness and made children of God our heavenly Father.
Tonight and on Sunday, the time has come to bear witness to the work of the Holy Spirit among us. Our confirmation students have truly been with Jesus or rather, (through Baptism) Jesus has been with them since the beginning. He has constantly been with them to strengthen them and comfort them in the forgiveness of their sins, and this week will lead them to bear witness. The Scriptures teach that no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit, therefore we are filled with joy to witness His work.
Tristan and Avery – I know that you’re probably very nervous right about now and will be on Sunday. But, you can know that we all as a congregation and as your family in Christ are very proud of you and we are praying for you. Each of us here shares with you the joy and salvation of Christ. As you prepare to make the good confession, I invite you to take these words of St. Paul to heart,
As for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.