For you fifteen young men and women, I hope you’re ready. There is one last test before you, probably the most important test that you will ever take. You have already taken the first part of it a long time ago, when your baptismal sponsors spoke on your behalf. Throughout the years since, you have been preparing to take the final exam. There is only question and only one answer that is appropriate. Here is your question: “Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?” For now I’ll let you think about it.
As we turn to today’s portion of John’s Gospel, the time for Jesus to be betrayed, arrested, tried and crucified is quickly at hand. Jesus is running out of time to tell the disciples everything that He must tell them. Of course, being the disciples, the ones who were most intimate with Jesus, being a part of His inner circle for three years, they didn’t get what He was saying. Unfortunately, this sounds like the everyday thing for the disciples. Just once, you would hope that the disciples would get the message of Jesus, but today is not that day. They are still missing one thing in their disciple arsenal: the full work of the Holy Spirit, for it is by the Holy Spirit that all things regarding Jesus will be revealed.
Throughout John’s Gospel, he frequently describes the work of the Holy Spirit. Here, the Holy Spirit is referenced as the Spirit of truth. The spirit of falsehood, at work in the sinful hearts of humanity, would deceive the disciples. It has been running rampant since the Fall into sin and leaving a wake of destruction in its path. It has lead people to disbelieve, to doubt, to question God and what He does through His Son. Therefore, Jesus sends the Spirit of truth to guide the disciples into all truth. The truth is nothing short of God’s divine plan of salvation that is meant for His creation. The truth is of Jesus Christ, and His salvation of us through His life, death, and resurrection. The work of the Holy Spirit is to create faith in a person. Note that the Spirit does not speak on His own but rather He speaks on behalf of the Father and Jesus and testifies about Jesus. It’s all about Jesus. For the Holy Spirit, It has to be all about Jesus because Jesus is the sole means of salvation.
The Holy Spirit comes to glorify Jesus by introducing Him to people as the crucified and risen Christ. That is what He comes to do for the disciples and that is what He comes to do for us. The Holy Spirit comes to introduce us to what the truth is about: Jesus. The disciples weren’t prepared for all Jesus has to say, as He tells them, for they were too worked up over Jesus’ impending departure. But He wasn’t going to leave them empty-handed. He leaves them the Holy Spirit who will testify of Him and what He has done.
Years ago, you received the gift of the Holy Spirit at your Baptism. It was there that God called you to be His beloved child in the faith. And now, for you confirmands, you are about to confirm for yourselves that faith granted to you in your Baptism. However, it won’t be easy to remain faithful to God and His Word, for the world will tempt you in many and various ways.
We aren’t all that different from the disciples. We’re not ready to listen to the true message of Jesus, though we are quick to fill ourselves with the false message that the world brings. Even in the church, we don’t pay attention to the message of the Holy Spirit. We don’t always give attention to the Word of God read and preached in the Divine Service. We go through the motions of the Divine Service, counting down the minutes until it is over so that we can have our Sunday afternoon all to ourselves. We spend little or no time outside of Sunday morning in God’s Word. The world would tell you that that is perfectly fine, because Jesus isn’t going to save you, you’re going to save you by any number of ways, such as by good works and the like.
If there is a single message that we need to hear and take to heart, it is that of Jesus Christ, for that is our sole means of salvation. In this Word, the Holy Spirit introduces us to “the things that are to come.” For the disciples, that would be revealed in the death of Christ, when they would finally understand what Jesus had been preaching and teaching the last three years. Jesus would rise triumphant from the grave and return to the Father, to prepare a heavenly mansion for all those who are in Him.
But even for the disciples, they would face hardships in the days ahead. Tragedy lay ahead for the disciples, great pain and grief at the arrest and execution of Jesus. They would cry and lament while the world would rejoice. The event that would crush their spirits would elate the unbelievers. Even so, their sorrow would not last but be turned to joy.
Here enters the Holy Spirit, to reintroduce us to our Savior, Jesus Christ. In a few hours, Jesus will be arrested, tried, crucified, and will die on a cross. Even as tragic as all that sounds, this will be Jesus’ greatest glory. Jesus Christ is the Word become flesh, the only-begotten Son of the Father, who has come out of love that people might believe and have life. For our joy, we need look no further than the words of Jesus here in our text: “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”
We will indeed find joy again, just as the disciples did – in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our joy comes in the truth that because Christ was raised from the dead, so we too will be raised from the dead. That’s the joy that Jesus’ death and resurrection bring. That’s why believers to this day remain joyful, no matter what else is going on around them. He who died lives, and because we believe, so we too will live.
By introducing us to Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit gives to us that joy, a joy that passes all human understanding, for it is not joy in earthly terms, a joy that will come and pass away. Rather, the joy that we receive from the Holy Spirit is a joy that is centered upon the glories of heaven, of life eternal in the presence of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We have the joy of sharing in Christ’s death and resurrection. The Holy Spirit keeps that joy alive by constantly feeding us through Word and Sacrament, forever reintroducing us to our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Dear confirmands, this is an important day for you, a day that continues all the days of your life. Today is not the end of your journey of faith. St. Paul writes, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.“ This is the place where God comes to speak to you in His Word. This is the place where God comes to feed you in the bread and wine, the true body and blood of Jesus Christ. You won’t be able to find it anywhere else, though the world will tell you otherwise. For you fifteen young men and women, I have one request for you. Do yourself a favor: continue to come here each week for the rest of your lives. Don’t do it for my sake or for your parent’s sake, but for your sake. You have been given a wonderful gift called faith – a faith given to you at your Baptism and a faith that you are going to confirm in just a few minutes. This is the most wonderful gift that you could be given, a gift that is worth more than anything in this world, for it is by this gift that you have been given the keys of heaven.
There is only one name that you and I must remember: the name of Jesus Christ. We know Him as our crucified and risen Savior, for the Holy Spirit has introduced Him to us in Holy Baptism and continues to declare Him to us in Word and Sacrament. All of this brings joy, a joy that can never be taken away from us, for it is joy in knowing that we have God’s name placed upon us and that we are a part of Him. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.