Jesus Teaches about the Holy Spirit
Rev. Charles Westby, Pastor
John 16:12-22
May 19, 2019

In the Gospel reading today, Jesus does two things. He teaches us about the Holy Spirit. This teaching begins at verse 12 and goes through verse 15. He then taught the disciples about His death and the promise of His resurrection. He says, “For a little while and you will no longer see Me, and again for a little while and you will see Me” (John 16:16).

Jesus taught these things to the disciples during their last supper together. Thus, the little while that they would not see Jesus was when He was in the grave. The little while when they would see Him again was when He was risen and appeared to them over the course of 40 days before His ascension to the right hand of God.

But we could ask, what do the teaching of the Holy Spirit and Christ’s death and resurrection have to do with each other? There are two key verses to this. One is at verse 14, “That one [, i.e., the Holy Spirit,] will glorify Me,” Jesus says, “because He will receive from what is mine and declare [it] to you.” The other key verse is verse 22, “And, therefore, you have grief now. But I will see you again,” Jesus says, “and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”

Verse 14 relates Jesus’s death and resurrection to the work of the Holy Spirit because the death and resurrection of Jesus are the “what” of Christ that the Holy Spirit delivers to us. We can also include in this the meaning of Jesus’s death and resurrection for us. His death atoned for our sin, as He is “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). His resurrection is victory as Jesus says, “Take heart, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Jesus has done it all for you, so you can rest in the peace and joy of His forgiveness and victory over death.

Jesus’s death and resurrection are directly related to the work of the Holy Spirit because it is what the Holy Spirit teaches, preaches, and causes us to see and believe with our hearts. You have this on Jesus’s authority, “The Holy Spirit will glorify Me, because He will receive what is mine and declare [it] to you.”lHoly Spir

Now let’s take up verse 22. Jesus said to the disciples, “You have grief now. But I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” When Jesus says I will see you again He is referring to His resurrection. He will live to see the disciples again. It is His promise to them. It is His promise to us.

Notice that He couches it in terms of His seeing them again. He is telling them and telling us that it depends upon His action, His doing. He will overcome death and therefore He will see them again. Of course, they will then see Him again. But His seeing them precedes their seeing Him, because they can only see Him when He has won the victory over death by His own doing, when He turns their sorrow into joy.

Here is where the Holy Spirit comes in. Jesus makes a transition for the disciples from the “seeing” with the eyes to the joy in the heart. It is the joy in the heart that no one will be able to take away from the disciples. The seeing with the eyes someone could take away.

For us, we could say it like this. We hear with our ears the Gospel of Christ and rejoice in our hearts that He is risen. It is the joy in our hearts that no one can take from us. Someone could take away the hearing with our ears, but not the joy in our hearts. Jesus is risen and the Holy Spirit is the source and power of the joy in our hearts. Jesus is the object of the seeing and the hearing, and the Spirit is the power of our believing and rejoicing. Through the Gospel, the Holy Spirit brings the reality of Jesus risen to our hearts: “The Spirit testifies to our spirit that we are children of God,” says the Apostle Paul, “and if children then heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:16-17). Because the Spirit brings this joy to our hearts, there is no power that can take it away from us, just as there is no power that can nullify the reality that Jesus is risen.

This could matter a great deal depending on our circumstances. Earlier in John 16, Jesus was talking to the disciples about how times would come when people would think they were rendering service to God by taking the lives of those who confess the Name of Jesus. This happened to the disciples. It has happened to many Christians since then. It is happening in parts of the world today to Christ’s people.

In such circumstances, what are we seeing? Victory? Do we have joy in the external circumstances? What gives the courage and hope to continue to confess the name of Jesus in such times? Jesus says, “Your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take that joy from you.”

We have heard the joy of the resurrection and the Spirit has planted it deep in our hearts. Nothing can take that joy away. Jesus is risen. Nothing can change that reality for us.

Closer to our own time and place, we could speak of difficult times, struggles in economic terms and physical circumstances. We could speak of the subtle types of persecution we endure in what people say and in social relations. What nonsense, they may say, it is to believe in Jesus and other parts of God’s creating and saving acts as recorded in Scripture. Just fairy tales, myths, legends. These people could be co-workers, family, friends, colleagues, educators.

Yet, we have heard the preaching and teaching of the eyewitnesses of Christ’s resurrection, and the Spirit has planted the joy of it into our hearts. No one can take it away from us. And it gives us courage and hope and steadfast faith.

To those who do not believe, we seem stubborn. But it is not about being stubborn. We would say that once the joy of who Jesus is and what He has done has gripped the heart, the heart cannot do otherwise than refuse to deny Him.

And we would say to them. “You too will understand when the joy grips your heart. And we pray for that day. But the Spirit has caused the joy of Christ crucified for sins and now living again to grip my heart. I cannot do otherwise than hold fast to and confess His precious Name.

But then how about this. Our own bodies will fail us and will place us, or our loved ones, on the doorstep of eternity. Can death take from us the joy of Christ’s resurrection, even as we endure the sorrow of the loss that death brings? And the hour of death can be a great struggle. How can we maintain faith and joy when our own bodies are failing us and letting our hearts down?

Jesus says, “I will see you and joy will fill your hearts and this joy no one can take from you.” To us it goes like this. The Spirit speaks the words that bring joy to our hearts, “Jesus died and is risen. Your sins are forgiven. He has overcome all things for you, even death.” The Spirit takes those words and plants them into your hearts, and there He causes them to grow into faith and joy. Thus, even while our bodies fail our hearts, and the bodies of our loved ones fail us, the joy of what Jesus is for us remains where nothing can take it away, because it is the Holy Spirit who gives us this joy.

It is the Holy Spirit’s work to plant the joy of Jesus in your hearts, where nothing can take it away from you. Jesus promises that He does it, as the Holy Spirit proclaims to you the Gospel of Christ. And the joy is this: Jesus is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia. Sins are forgiven and life has conquered death in Him. Thanks be to God. Amen.


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