Preached: May 11, 2008

“I Am Sending You the Comforting Counselor”
John 16:5-11

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who pours out the Holy Spirit on his through his Word and Sacraments. The Word from God that speaks to us today is John 16

“But now I am going to Him who sent me, and none of you are asking me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, grief fills your heart. But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I am leaving. For if I do not leave, the Counselor will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.

“When he comes, he will convince the world regarding sin, regarding righteousness, and regarding judgment. Regarding sin, since they do not believe in me. Regrading righteousness, since I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me. Regarding judgment, since the leader of this world has been judged.” (John 16:5-11)

This is the word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed in the blood of our risen Savior:

The police were grilling the suspect hard, trying to coerce a confession out of him. Tensions were high. Emotions, worn thin. But then his legal counsel walks into the room.

Imagine yourself as that suspect, beaten down by interrogation. How would you feel seeing the face of your legal counsel coming to your aid? And this legal counsel is not just a hired gun; he's a trusted friend. He's been there for you in the past. He put his arm around your shoulder when you lost a dear friend. He celebrated your wedding with you. He listened and helped as you struggled with career decisions. And now in your hour of need, he comes. Your comforter. Your counselor.

You have a much greater Counselor at your side. In fact, he is living in you. Jesus, himself, promised to send this comforting Counselor, the Holy Spirit. That's the theme today. Hear Jesus say to you: “I am sending you the comforting Counselor. I am sending him, for I am leaving with my mission completed. I am sending him, for he comes to the world to work conviction.” Jesus sends you the comforting Counselor.

A. “For I am leaving with my mission complete”

1) What fills your heart with grief?

Jesus spoke these words to his disciples on the night he was betrayed. They knew this was a critical time. Jesus had talked about leaving and about the world hating them. Grief filled their hearts.

But they were unwilling to take this grief to Jesus, unwilling to ask him to explain why and to help them understand. Rather they wallowed in self-pity. “Why would he abandon us? How are we going to make it if Jesus' leaves? How sad and hopeless we'll be!” So Jesus gentle rebukes them. “Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief” (John 16:5, 6 NIV).

How often we are caught up in our own griefs and sadnesses! We focus on our own troubles and problems spending our time and money trying to fix things. We feel that everything is bearing down on us, that we're in the hot seat in the interrogation room with the heavies breathing down our neck. We try to soothe our sadnesses by drowning them in one way or another. We call out to God, but it doesn't seem to work. So why bother, we figure. We fail to seek him in his Word with the quiet confidence that our troubles and sadnesses will one day give way to joy and we will better off having gone through them. Rather that day seems just too far off, and grief fills our hearts.

But just as it was good for Jesus to be leaving, even though it saddened the disciples, so also our merciful God works good for us. “But I tell you the truth:” Jesus says, “It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7 NIV).

2) Why was it good for the disciples and us that Jesus leave, even though it made them feel sad?

Why couldn't the Holy Spirit, that comforting Counselor, come unless Jesus left? If Jesus did not complete his mission and go to his Father, who had sent him on that mission, then the Holy Spirit would have no work to do, no comfort to give, no counsel to strengthen your heart.

For what is the Holy Spirit's work? He points you to Jesus, right? Through God's Word and Sacraments he points you to Jesus. Jesus explained that to the disciples just a little bit earlier. At the end of chapter 15, John records Jesus' words, “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me” (John 1:26 NIV, emphases added).

But if Jesus had stayed and not died for the sins of the world, what good would it do for the Holy Spirit to point us to Jesus? If Jesus had not risen from the dead as God's verdict freely declaring the whole world justified, what good would it do for the Holy Spirit to point us to Jesus? If Jesus' mission to save sinners was somehow incomplete so that he could not ascend in glory but stayed here instead, what good would it do for the Holy Spirit to point us to Jesus?

3)What comfort does the Holy Spirit bring to you, since Jesus' mission is completed?

So yes, it was better -- much, much better -- for the disciples and for you and me that Jesus left with his mission completed. For now when the sadnesses of life bear down on you, when temptations harass you, when guilt is laid on you heavy under the interrogation of God's holy law, breathing death, torture, and hell down your neck -- look who bursts into your heart and ends this interrogation!

Your comforting Counselor comes. Through the Scriptures and the Sacraments, he says to you: “Take heart! Be of good cheer. I know your sadness. I know your struggle. I know your guilt. But the Law cannot lay a finger on you. For someone else has already paid for your crime. Yes, Jesus, your God and Savior. His body and blood carried your guilt. He has suffered the damning curse of the Law in your place. Yes! It's true. For you see, Jesus has risen from the dead and ascended in glory. His mission is completed. See, he has sent me, the Holy Spirit, to be your comforting Counselor, to speak to you through his Word and Sacraments. Find peace and joy in Jesus, for he has completed his mission to ransom you.”

In this way by pointing us to Jesus, the Holy Spirit works as your comforting Counselor. So in your times of sadness and struggle, listen to him through his Word and Sacraments and see your ascended Savior with his mission for you completed.

B. “For he comes to the world to work conviction”

1) What conviction does the Holy Spirit work in regard to sin?

Now to help us understand the Spirit's work, Jesus summarizes it: “When he comes he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8 NIV). How does this bring us comfort and consolation? Well, let's take a look.

Jesus explains, “In regard to sin, because men do not believe in me” (John 16:9 NIV). The Holy Spirit, although he is our comforting Counselor, he is also like a prosecuting attorney. He convicts the world of sin, including you and me. With God's Law he exposes our guilt. He exposes our utter helplessness to escape the Law's verdict of death, damnation, and hell.

He did this, for example, on Pentecost as Peter preached. Peter accused the people of crucifying the Christ. The Holy Spirit convicted the people of their sins so that they were cut to the heart (Acts 2:36, 37 NIV).

In the same way the Holy Spirit has brought you and me to the conviction that we are sinners. We cannot save ourselves. Yes, this brings us grief and sadness, and for those who do not believe in Jesus, it ends in death and hell. But the Spirit has done this only as a preliminary work. For he truly wants to bring you comfort. So he works a different conviction in you as well. So let's listens to what Jesus goes on to say.

2) What conviction does the Holy Spirit work in regard to righteousness?

Jesus says, “In regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer” (John 16:10 NIV). The Spirit has worked in you the conviction that Jesus is your righteousness. How can than be? Because Jesus not only died for you, but rose from the dead and went to the Father. That means his righteousness counts for you in God's courtroom. That's the comfort your legal counsel brings.

In the first part today, we've already talked about this Good News your comforting Counselor brings as he points you to Jesus. This is the work he wants to do in our hearts. He convicts us of sin and brings sadness only so that he can open our eyes to see our true joy, so that he can work in you the conviction that Jesus is your one and only Savior, your Righteousness. He did that among the 3000 on that Pentecost day. They believed and were baptized. And he has done that in you.

3) What conviction does the Holy Spirit work in regard to judgment?

So you can face whatever comes your way with the assurance that your comforting Counselor is at your side. For Jesus continues by saying, “In regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned” (John 16:11 NIV). The Holy Spirit has worked the conviction in you that although Satan plots and rages against you, he already stands condemned. You are safe in Jesus.

So have no fear of the interrogation room. Rather believe Jesus' promise: “I am sending you the comforting Counselor.” He has come to you through God's Word and Sacraments. He tells you that the verdict is already in. God has declared you not guilty because Jesus has completed his mission. He works this conviction in your heart, so that you are convinced and confess: “Sinner, though I am, Jesus is my righteousness. Satan stands condemned.” What comfort your counselor brings!

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313