Sunday, March 18, 2015
Pastor Joe Wittwer
The Last Word
#2—You’re not alone!
For five weeks leading up to Easter, we are sitting down with Jesus and His disciples in the upper room where they shared their final meal. That meal is sometimes called “the Last Supper”. During it, Jesus gave His followers bread and said, “This is my body, broken for you. Whenever you eat this, remember me.” Then He gave them a cup of wine and said, “This is my blood, shed for you, for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink this, remember me.” Christians have been doing that—eating the bread and drinking the wine to remember Jesus—for 20 centuries. We call it the Lord’s Supper, or Communion, or the Eucharist (meaning “the Thanksgiving). We’re going to do that together today at the end of this talk.
After this final meal, Jesus, knowing that He was going to die the next day, had one last talk with His men—the last word. Wouldn’t it be cool to get in a time machine and slip into the room and hear what Jesus said? In a way we can—the apostle John wrote down the last words of Jesus to His men, in John 13-17.
Last week, Josh likened this talk to parents who are leaving the kids home alone for the weekend, giving them the parting instructions. “The number is on the fridge, if you need us. Be nice to each other, and don’t stay up all night playing video games.”
Today we’ll see that Jesus took it a step further: He tells them He is going away, but He’s not leaving them alone. So it’s more like parents who say, “We’re going away for the weekend, but Grandpa and Grandma are coming over.” And what else do the parents say? What’s the last word? “Obey your Grandpa and Grandma. I don’t want to hear that you gave them any trouble. Clear?” In the same way, Jesus hasn’t left us alone, but sent the Holy Spirit and He expects us to obey. Here’s:
The Big Idea: Although Jesus left, He didn’t leave us alone. He sent the Holy Spirit to empower us and teach us.
Let’s go into the upper room, and listen as Jesus speaks the last word to His followers.
15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.
Jesus said, “If you love me, obey me.” He follows with the promise of the Holy Spirit. Then, He repeats that sequence a second time.
21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”
23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Twice Jesus talks about love and obedience, and each time, He follows with the promise of the Spirit. Let’s drill deeper into these two ideas.
1. If you love me, you’ll obey me. 15, 21-24
I’m going to give you some great news: God is inviting you into a love relationship! Being a Christian is fundamentally relational—it’s about being loved by God and loving God in return. John said,
1 John 4:19 We love because He first loved us.
When Jesus was asked what was the most important of all the commands, He said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength.” In other words, the most important thing is to love God with all you’ve got. But first, John says, God loved you. Our love for God is a response to His love for us. First, you receive God’s love, you accept that He loves you, that He is actively working for your good, that He has your best interests at heart. When you know how much He loves you, then you love Him back. This love relationship is the core of being a Christian. It’s a relationship.
But there’s an even deeper relationship you are being invited into. Did you notice the Trinity in this passage: Father, Son, and Spirit? Jesus often talked about the love that He and the Father shared. And we read a few weeks ago, in John 17, that we are included in that shared love of the Father and Son.
John 17:23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
The Father loves us even as He loves the Son. We are somehow drawn up and into this perfect love between Father and Son.
John 17:26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
Notice: that the Father’s love for the Son may be in us. We are somehow included in this perfect love between Father and Son. We see it again here in John 14.
John 14:21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
John 14:23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.
When we love Jesus, we are loved by the Father and loved by Jesus. Both Father and Son come and make their home in us. And as we’ll see in a moment, the Holy Spirit does too. So all of God—the Father, Son and Spirit—move in and make themselves at home. We are included in the perfect love relationship between Father, Son and Spirit. The Christian understanding of God is that He is three persons in one being. God is a relationship. God is love. And He is inviting us into that love, into that relationship.
ILL: Now I know that this seems esoteric or obscure, so let me tell you a story.
Over 20 years ago, my friend Jerry Sittser was coming home from the lake with his family when a drunk driver hit their car head on, killing Jerry’s mother, wife and daughter, and putting the rest of them in the hospital. Unthinkable. After recovering from their injuries, Jerry and his three children coped with the new reality: a family without a wife and mother.
Jerry told me that he was talking with the kids one day about what they missed most, and he realized that they not only missed their mother, but they missed something else. They missed the relationship between Jerry and Linda. John, the youngest, used to see Jerry and Linda hugging, and would toddle up and want to be included in the embrace. The love relationship that Jerry and Linda shared was in fact shared by the whole family—they were all included in it. It was the atmosphere in which they all lived. Each of the children were in some way caught up in the embrace, in the love they shared.
Jerry told me that, and explained that it helped him understand how we relate to the Father, Son and Spirit. They have a perfect love for each other, and now, we’re caught up in their embrace.
So here is the love relationship you are invited to join. The Father, Son and Spirit want to move in and make their home in you, and include you in the embrace of their love.
Here’s the other thing that Jesus clearly says: our love for Jesus is expressed in obedience.
John 14:15 “If you love me, keep my commands.
John 14:21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me.
John 14:24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching.
Because we love Jesus, we obey. Obedience expresses our love.
ILL: I wouldn’t say that Laina and I obey each other—we don’t give commands, we make requests. (I used to try commands—that didn’t go over so well.) So we don’t obey each other, but we want to please each other. When she makes a request, my default answer is “yes”. Because I love her, I want to do what she wants; I want to please her; I want to make her happy.
That same dynamic is at work here. Because I love Jesus, I want to please Him. I want to do what He wants. Love expresses itself in obedience.
Love is more about action than emotion. It’s about what you do more than what you feel. Love is doing what best for another no matter what it costs you. And this is true of our love for God too. Loving God is not about feeling romantic flutters; it’s about doing what He wants. I confess that I have a hard time with some worship songs that make Jesus sound like a boyfriend, and we’re all smitten teenage girls. I’m not “falling in love with Jesus”—that’s love as a romantic notion. I love Jesus—I am devoted to Him and will do whatever He wants.
Jesus makes this clear: if you love me, you will keep my commands.
It does no good to say you love God and ignore His commands, any more than it works to say you love your spouse and ignore her, or you love your kids and ignore them, or you love your friend and ignore him. When you love someone, you pay attention. You do what is best for them. You want to please them.
When Jesus said this—if you love me, you will keep my commands—what command do you think first came to mind? What command had He just given? “A new command I give you: Love one another! As I have love you, so you must love one another.” In effect, here is another version of the Great Commandment: love God with all you’ve got; when you love God, you will obey and love your neighbor.
“If you love me, you will keep my commands.” Does anyone hear that and think, “Help!” So here’s the next good news: help is on the way!
2. I’m sending you another Helper. 16-20, 25-27
Twice Jesus says that love is expressed in obedience, and each time He immediately follows with the promise of Holy Spirit. He’s leaving, but He’s not leaving us alone! Here are five things Jesus says about the Holy Spirit.
John 14:16-20 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—17 the Spirit of truth.
Here’s the first thing: the Holy Spirit is “another advocate.” The word “another” implies “one like the other.” If I say, “I’m going to give you another dollar,” it means that I’ve already given you one. “I’m giving you another advocate,” Jesus said, and the “the other” was Jesus. The Holy Spirit will do for us what Jesus did for the disciples. He is “another Jesus” so to speak. Jesus is leaving, but He is sending His Spirit—the Spirit of Jesus to be with us—another one just like Him. So you’re not alone!
The word “advocate” is a translation of the Greek word paracletos, literally, “one who is called alongside.” It referred to “one who is called to someone’s aid.”
ILL: Imagine someone struggling with heavy load, and calling to a friend, “Quick, give me a hand!”
When I was on my motorcycle trip around the country last summer, I dumped my bike in the worst possible place. I was riding a very remote stretch of highway along the Rio Grande, the US-Mexican border. I had seen one car in the last 40 miles. I pulled into a turnout to take a picture—here it is—but I made a stupid mistake. The turnout was on a hill, and instead of turning my bike up into the hill, I stopped crosswise to the hill, so when I put my right foot down to drop my kickstand, my right foot kept going and so did the bike! My bike, fully loaded, weighed about 1000 pounds, and it was almost upside down. I tried lifting it and couldn’t get it up…and gas was draining out of my overflow tube.
I prayed! “God, I need help, right away.” Within a minute, two trucks came along, I waved them down and the two drivers helped me right my bike. Those guys are like the Holy Spirit! Called alongside to help!
Our English Bibles have a hard time translating this Greek word. It’s been translated as comforter, helper, advocate, counselor, encourager, companion and friend. Why all the different translations? Because the word paracletos means all those and more.
But here’s the big idea: you’re not alone! You have someone called alongside you to help you, whom Jesus said would “be with you forever.”
And that’s the second thing: the Holy Spirit is with us forever. In this way, the Holy Spirit is different than the two guys who saved my bacon. They showed up, helped, and left; the Holy Spirit never leaves. He is with us forever, always there to encourage, comfort, empower and help. You’re not alone!
John 14:17 The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
Jesus told the disciples that they knew the Holy Spirit because He lived with them and would be in them. How did they know the Holy Spirit? They knew Jesus, who was with them. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus. He is also the Spirit of God. This is why Jesus told Philip, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” If you know Jesus, you know the Father, and you know the Spirit. The Spirit of Jesus that had been with them in the person of Jesus was going to be in them.
This is the third thing: The Holy Spirit will be in you. He was going to come and make Himself at home in them, and fill them with Himself—this happened the first time on the day of Pentecost, a few weeks later. And this promise wasn’t just for these few disciples; it is for us too. On the day of Pentecost, when those who heard Peter’s sermon asked, “What should we do?”
Acts 2:38–39 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
The promise is for you! The promise is for all whom God calls! “I will send you another Helper to be with you forever.” The Holy Spirit lives in me and in you. But I want more. I want more than Him living in me; I want Him to fill me.
Ephesians 5:18 Don’t get drunk on wine, which will only ruin you; instead, be filled with the Spirit.
Using the metaphor of the Holy Spirit being at home in me, I want Him to fill the whole house—fill all of me! I don’t want to limit the Holy Spirit to one room. “You can live in the dining room—we say grace over meals there; but not the family room—we watch TV in there and there’s stuff You shouldn’t see. And You might want to stay out of the bedroom—‘nuff said. And I’d really rather you stay out of the garage, and my hobbies, like my motorcycle—although thanks for the help last year.” That’s not what I want! I want the Holy Spirit to fill me, saturate me, soak every part of me. I pray every day, “Lord, fill me with the Holy Spirit!” because I leak! You’re not alone—the Holy Spirit is with you and in you—let Him fill you! Pray that prayer every day and invite Him to fill every part of you.
Here’s the fourth thing: the Holy Spirit will teach you and remind you of everything Jesus said.
John 14:25-26 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
Now the primary meaning here is for the apostles. Jesus is promising the apostles that the Holy Spirit will teach and inspire and remind them. This is the basis of our New Testament, and particularly the four gospels. The Holy Spirit reminded them of what Jesus said. The Holy Spirit taught them what it meant. And the Holy Spirit inspired them as they wrote it down as a faithful record of the life and teachings of Jesus.
That’s the primary meaning of this promise. But in a secondary and very real sense, the Holy Spirit is our teacher too and will remind us of what Jesus said. The Holy Spirit lives in us, and is as Jesus said, “the Spirit of truth”. So it is reasonable to expect that He would teach us and lead us to the truth.
John 16:13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.
As we soak in God’s word, which is inspired by the Spirit, the Spirit of truth will teach us. The same Spirit that inspired the word will speak to us and teach us from it. And then two things happen.
First, the Holy Spirit will remind us of God’s word at just the right time. Have you had this happen? You’re in a tight situation, and suddenly, a Bible verse that you’ve read or memorized pops into your mind and it’s perfect. Just what you needed. That’s the Holy Spirit. But don’t expect Him to remind you if you’ve never read it! You can’t be reminded of something you’ve never learned or heard. The Holy Spirit could remind the disciples of everything Jesus said because they heard Him say it. Read the Word! Give the Holy Spirit something to work with!
Second, the Spirit of truth will help you discern truth from error. You’ll hear something and your stink-meter goes off: “That’s not true.” That’s the Spirit of truth teaching you. Or you hear something true and the Spirit of truth within you affirms it.
You’re not alone! You don’t have to figure all this out on your own. The Spirit of truth is living in you to teach you, remind you and lead you into the truth.
Here’s the fifth and final thing: the Holy Spirit gives peace.
John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
It doesn’t say that the Holy Spirit gives peace—it says that Jesus gives it. But that fact that Jesus connects the promise of peace with the promise of the Spirit has led some to think that Spirit puts the peace of Jesus in our hearts. This squares with other Scripture:
Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
The Spirit produces peace in us—the peace of Jesus that is different than the peace the world gives. The world thinks of peace as the absence of conflict. The Hebrew word for peace, shalom, carried the idea of well-being, flourishing, wholeness. The idea was that even in the midst of hardship or difficulty, we could flourish, we could be well, because God is with us. The Spirit’s presence brings peace, because no matter what I face, I’m not facing it alone. God is with me, in me, filling me, making me whole, helping me flourish and be well.
ILL: There’s a story that a king commissioned some painters to paint a scene that best depicted peace. There were many scenes like this one, a calm lake, beautiful mountains—a perfect scene of peace. But that’s not what the king chose—he chose one like this: a bird sitting on a nest dangling over a raging waterfall.
The peace Jesus gives is not the absence of trouble, but the presence of the Holy Spirit. You’re not alone. You will never face anything alone. Whatever I face, God is with me, in me, filling me, making me whole, helping me flourish and be well.
This is Jesus’ promise. “I’m sending you another helper, one like me, who will be with you forever, who will be in you and fill you, who will teach you and remind you, and give you peace.”