Text: John 14:15-20
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father and he will give you another Helper, that he may be with you for evermore, 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world is not able to receive, because it does not see him nor know him; you surely know him, for he abides with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. 19 Soon the world will no longer see me, but you surely will see me; because I live, you also will surely live. 20 In that day you will indeed know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.”
When spring arrives, do you enjoy seeing the robins once again? I do. Last spring and this spring my wife and I have had robins build nests in the flower planter which hangs from the side of our back porch. We saw the robins hatch their little brood and feed them. We also saw the little robins when they finally left their nest.
Watching the robins can be a learning experience. From them we can learn how to live in this world. They teach us not to worry about having the necessities of life but to take each day one day at a time and to trust in our heavenly Father to provide for us. In Matthew 6:26 Jesus tells us, “Look at the birds of the sky; they do not sow nor reap nor gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth more than they?” Surely our heavenly Father will feed us, for we are much more valuable than the birds are.
From watching the robins we can also gain an insight into our own weaknesses, uncertainties, and fears as we walk through life. A couple of weeks ago my wife and I noticed there was but one little robin left in the nest. The other three had left. That one did not want to leave the nest. He was content to just sit there. It was a big world out there with lots of dangers and unknowns. It appeared he was afraid to leave the nest to venture out into that world alone.
While I was cutting the grass near the back porch the noise of the lawn mower scared that little robin. He fluttered out of the nest onto the floor of the porch. Immediately he tried to find some nook or cranny to hid in. He was scared to death and he clearly felt helpless, deserted and alone, defenseless. He wanted to hide behind the back porch steps. The noise of the lawn mower, however, convinced him he had better move on. He fluttered from the porch to the ground, where he started hopping through the grass toward the front of our house. As soon as he did so, first one, then the other, of the parent robins swooped down after him as he disappeared between our house and the garage. The little robin was scared in his big new world and thought he was all alone. He was not all alone, however. His parent robins where right there keeping their eyes on him the whole time.
Like that little robin, there are times in our lives when we feel alone, uncertain, helpless, and afraid in a great big hostile world. Yet like that little robin, we never walk alone. We gain this assurance from Jesus’ words in John 14:15-20.
The scene of our text was the upper room on Maundy Thursday evening. Jesus was delivering his farewell discourse to his disciples before going out to the Garden of Gethsemane. The disciples hearts were troubled by the news of his coming departure. They could no longer be with Jesus as they had been with him in the past. They had to struggle with their fears of separation and of being left to themselves. The Jesus, whom they had followed, stayed with, loved, looked to for instruction and guidance, would not be with them anymore. It no doubt seemed to them that in the future they would have to walk lifes path alone without the presence and strength of Jesus to lean on.
In this sermon text we learn how Jesus comforted them. We discover that their fears had no foundation or basis of fact. They would not be left alone, nor would they be left to their own resources and strength.
In verse 15 Jesus said to them, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
A relationship with Jesus is founded on love. The relationship is founded on Jesus’ love for his believing disciple who reciprocates with a love for Jesus. The believer expresses his love for Jesus by obeying Jesus’ command. Jesus’ command is first to hold to his Word and to believe in him. Jesus says in John 6:29, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the One whom he sent.” Jesus’ command also includes living a godly life as a fruit of faith in him, loving one another, and taking his gospel to the world.
Jesus loves us. He showed his love for us: first, in living a perfect life for us so we would be righteous in the sight of God; and second, in giving his innocent life as the payment for our sins. We will reciprocate with a love for him that keeps his commandments.
Being the sinful people that we are, however, we flutter and fall and fail to live a godly life, to love one another, and to spread his gospel, as we should. Because of our many sins, which deserve the punishment of God, we above all need to keep Jesus’ command to hold to his Word and to do the greatest work of all--to believe in him whom the Father has sent into the world to save us all. Through faith in Jesus we possess the forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation that he obtained for us by his redeeming us.
Having this relationship of love with Jesus, in verse 16 and 17 Jesus told his disciples, “And I will ask the Father and he will give you another Helper, that he may be with you for evermore, the Spirit of truth." Jesus promised his disciples that in response to his prayer for them the Father would give them the Holy Spirit to be with them. Note for how long Jesus said the Holy Spirit would be with them. Jesus said for evermore. The disciples would never walk through life alone. The Holy Spirit would be with them always.
Jesus called the Holy Spirit the Helper, or Counselor, who is the Spirit of truth. By the truth of the Word the Spirit would lead the disciples into the knowledge of the truth. The Spirit would strengthen them to believe the truth of the gospel that Jesus had saved them, to stand fast in that gospel, and to do what Jesus had commanded them to do as God’s people and his witnesses in the world.
In the remainder of verse 17 Jesus said regarding the Spirit of truth, “The world is not able to receive him, because it does not see him nor know him; you surely know him, for he abides with you and will be in you.” The unbelievers of this world cannot accept the Holy Spirit. Their hardened, unbelieving hearts cannot see him. They therefore do not know him or his divine works. Believers like the disciples, however, do receive the Holy Spirit. The Spirit lives with them and in them.
Jesus’ promise of sending the Holy Spirit to his disciples was fulfilled on Pentecost. As the Holy Spirit came to the disciples on Pentecost, so he comes to all believers in Jesus through the Word and Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion. We do not have Jesus’ visibly present with us so we can follow him by sight. But we are not alone. Jesus asks the Father in our behalf and the Father gives us the Holy Spirit, the Helper and Counselor, the Spirit of truth, to be with us for evermore. When we were brought to faith, we received the Spirit. He came to us, remains with us, and lives in us. He is with us always to guide us by the truth of God’s Word. He strengthens us in believing it, holding fast to it, living according to it, and spreading it. We believers in Jesus never walk through life alone. We therefore need not feel uncertain, helpless, or afraid, like that little robin felt. As the little robin’s parents were with him, so the Holy Spirit is with us always.
We never walk alone for another reason. In verses 18 and 19 Jesus told his disciples, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. Soon the world will no longer see me, but you surely will see me; because I live, you also will surely live.” Note what promise Jesus made to his disciples. He promised that he would not leave them as orphans but would come to them.
You know the situation orphans face. They are deprived of their parents’ presence, help, support, and guidance. They are like that helpless, defenseless, scared, little robin was, when he finally left the nest and knew not where to turn or to go. Jesus promised his disciples he would not leave them as such orphans. He would come to them. He did so visibly a number of times after his resurrection from the dead to show them he was alive and that he had not abandoned them. As Jesus said, the world would not see him anymore, because he would ascend into heaven. But the disciples would see him, for they, too, in time would join him in heaven. Because Jesus lived eternally, they also would live eternally.
So it is with us. We believers never walk alone through life. Jesus has not left us as orphans. He has not abandoned us to this big world to find our own way alone in it through the dangers and adversities of life, any more than those parent robins abandoned their little chick to find its own way without their help or guidance or protection.
Jesus came to his disciples visibly after his resurrection. Today he comes to us as our risen Lord through his Word and the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion. Through his Word he reveals himself to us, so we then see him clearly as the Son of God and our only Savior from the devil, sin, death, and hell. He comes to us in the Sacrament of Holy Communion repeatedly to give us his body and blood to assure us of our forgiveness and eternal salvation. What is more, Jesus is present with us at all times in his invisible state. He assures us in Matthew 28:20, “Behold, I am with you always until the end of the age.” He remains with us always until we join him in heaven. Because he lives, we also will surely live.
We are strangers and aliens in this world. We are pilgrims and travelers journeying through life to our heavenly home. But we never walk alone. The Spirit is with us always. And Jesus comes to us. We have nothing to fear. Amen.