Easter 5: The Spirit Will Guide You into All Truth

by Rev. Brian J. Thorson
Lesson: John 16:5-15

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is speaking with His disciples in the Upper Room on Maundy Thursday. He is preparing them for His upcoming crucifixion, His resurrection and the sending of the Holy Spirit. Since He is with the Twelve who will be sent out to preach the Gospel, He tells them of the work of the Holy Spirit, saying, “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13).

Jesus had already taught the disciples for the past three years as they traveled with Him throughout His public ministry. But now Jesus points out that there’s much more for them to learn.

As an aside, it is surprising to me that many feel that their junior Catechism instruction is all they need for their Christian learning. Many who do not practice their faith regularly figure they remain strong Christians throughout their lives. Yet, in our world we realize the need to keep on learning, reviewing, and improving. For example, people who obtain their driver’s licenses keep practicing their skills simply by driving. Then, when they’re 55, they’re given the opportunity to review their skills and receive a discount on insurance.

Now, if the world understands that seasoned drivers can receive helpful instruction, certainly we Christians can understand our need to receive helpful Christian instruction. That’s why Jesus was sending the Spirit to guide the Apostles. So they can learn more truth even after receiving three years of instruction from the Teacher Himself—Jesus Christ our Lord. We, too, need to be guided into that way of truth.

Now there’s some sayings out there with regard to the truth, that I would like to consider with you. One is, “The truth is stranger than fiction.” Sometimes something happens that is so strange that it would be hard to make up a fictional account that would be even stranger. In some respects, what we have witnessed the past two months would fit that bill. Who began this year thinking that it would be possible to shut down schools across the country, airline travel would drop 95%, the government would tell us not to have Easter family parties (and the people would readily comply), churches would be closed for over a month, and that people will be wearing face masks out the public? If you heard this on New Year’s Day, you would have figured this is all a strange fictional account. Yet, here we are. Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.

When it comes to the Biblical narrative, we regard it as truth, for God cannot lie nor does He deceive. Yet some things seem rather strange to common thought. God brought all things into being by speaking. This is truth. To our frail thinking, though, it is difficult to grasp how God who exists from all eternity could make all things out of nothing. Also, that God became Man and dwelt among us is true. Yet, this goes beyond what we can comprehend. That Jesus would die and rise, yet the Father did not die, nor did the Holy Spirit die even though God is one seems impossible. Yet, that is the truth.

Another phrase you may have heard is “truth hurts.” When a whistleblower exposes illegal activity or corruption, that reality can hurt those who are guilty and those who may be caught in the middle. When someone is living a lie, and the truth now comes out, it can hurt close family and friends.

One task of the Spirit of truth is to convict the world of sin. This means He must convince us of sin our sin. He must show us our sin to the point that we can no longer deny it exists. This hurts. It is why many churches avoid confession and absolution. People simply do not want to face the reality of their own sin. This is also why many get angry when they are confronted with their own sin. It hurts to admit it. So they retaliate, figuring that their anger can somehow offset the hurt.

Yet the Holy Spirit must still convict the world of sin. As Jesus declared, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32). When the spirit convinces us that we are sinners, then we can be called to repentance. And those who are called to repentance receive the forgiveness of sin by grace through faith.

Those who figure they are righteous, those who are not convicted of their sin, and those who refuse to repent remain in the sin they already had; they are not forgiven. And those without forgiveness do not have eternal life.

While truth may hurt, avoiding the truth can hurt even more. If we know we have something wrong in our body, perhaps a malignant lump or a broken bone and do nothing about it, hoping that it will just go away, we will be left with more pain than if we recognized the truth. That malignant lump may spread throughout the body or the broken bone may not heal, making things much worse.

In the same way, when we avoid the truth of our own sin, we are left with even greater hurts. Things may snowball if we are not reconciled with others. If we do not deal with addiction, we will make our lives worse. And the eternal consequences are far more severe than the temporal. If we die in our sin, we will die condemned.

We all deserve temporal death and eternal punishment for our many sins. We sin against our mothers millions of times, yet they forgive us.

And God does, too. You see, the same Holy Spirit who works to convict us of sin also works to convict us of righteousness and judgment. He convicts us of Christ’s righteousness, and He judges us innocent when we walk by faith in our Savior Jesus.

Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the Helper, or the Comforter. For He has good news to tell you. He takes what is Christ’s and declares it to you. He takes the forgiveness of sins Jesus earned for you on the cross and gives us to you. You see, the Holy Spirit not only convinces us of our sin, but He also works to convince us that the forgiveness of sins Jesus earned for the entire world on the cross also is granted to you as a free gift. For there are many who are so alarmed by their sins that they do not believe that God could possibly forgive them. They have faced the truthful reality that they sin repeatedly, and they cannot make their sin go away. They have faced the truthful reality that they have destroyed relationships, hurt themselves by their sin, and keep on doing it.

Instead of running away from God in despair, the Holy Spirit works to draw sinners to God in repentance and faith. The Holy Spirit works to apply to sinners the forgiveness of sins. The Holy Spirit works to cover sinners with the very righteousness of Christ.

That way, on Judgment Day, God will not see us soiled in our many sins. Instead, God will see us righteous in Christ. For we have been covered with Christ’s righteousness. His Blood cleanses us. He sets us free from our sin. And God will declare us righteous. He will acquit us. He will declare that we are not guilty.

Because that great Day of Judgment has not yet happened, the Holy Spirit works to convince us of our upcoming judgment. He works to comfort us with the true reality that God will not leave us dead in our sins, but will forgive us, love us, and declare us to be holy ones who are acceptable to Heaven.

All of this is possible because Jesus willingly went to the cross to bear our sins in His Body. He shed His innocent Blood on our behalf as the ransom payment necessary for our salvation. He suffered the pangs of Hell when He was forsaken by our Father on the cross. He died to set us free.

And then Jesus rose triumphantly from the grave. This means death has no power over us. Satan lost. The victory is won by our Savior Jesus. And He grants us the victory.

Who did Jesus do this for? He did it for you. Yes, He really did go to the cross to pay for your sin. He really did bear your sins in His Body. He really did swallow up death so that you may live. He really did conquer the devil so that you can belong to our Lord.

So while the truth may sometimes hurt and while it can hurt to face the Law, the truth of what God has done for you in Christ does not hurt at all. It is glorious to know that Jesus lives and so shall you. It is a wonderful gift of grace that God would redeem you and grant you the gift of everlasting life. It is a beautiful reality that God has adopted you into His family and calls you His own child through Holy Baptism. And the Holy Spirit works through His Word day in and day out to convict you of this reality.

Just as the truth may seem stranger than fiction at times, we rejoice in this truth of God’s work. All manmade religions (that is, all religions except Christianity) expect you to do something to save yourself. But these religions are fiction. They may seem reasonable to man for man invented them, but they are not grounded in the truth.

So stranger than fiction is the fact that God has done everything necessary to save you. From planning your salvation to sending His only-begotten Son to saving you to sending His Spirit to convict you of sin and righteousness and judgment. He has done everything, so that you can belong to Him and eternal life may be yours.

Jesus instructed the Twelve on Maundy Thursday so that they could be ready to meet the days ahead. He knew they were not ready for everything yet, but the Holy Spirit would come to guide them. That same Spirit is at work today. He teaches you God’s truth, which does not fail or err. Thanks be to God! Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting.  Amen