Are you getting ready? The Church never lets us celebrate a festival without preparing us. Advent prepares us for Christmas. St. John the Baptist tells us to repent because Christ is nigh. Lent prepares us for Easter. Christ came to destroy the devil’s work; we should repent because we want Him to destroy the devil’s work in us.
Now we’re preparing for Ascension and Pentecost. We started last week. We prepared for Jesus’ Ascension when He told us that in a little while His disciples wouldn’t see Him anymore because He was returning to His Father. We will see Him again when He returns in the same way to judge all men.
Today we begin to prepare for Pentecost. We heard from Our Lord’s Maundy Thursday sermon again; we’ll hear from it during the next few weeks, through Pentecost. Today He introduces us to the Holy Spirit. He is The Third Person of The Holy Trinity. He proceeds from both The Father and The Son. He is glorified with them. He spoke through The Prophets. Today Jesus tells us why He comes: He comes to speak God’s Word to us. One lovely hymn stanza leads us to pray to Him (TLH 225:3):
Convince us of our sin, Then lead to Jesus’ Blood, And to our wond’ring view reveal The mercies of our God.
These beautiful words remind us of Jesus’ words about The Holy Ghost today. His job is to reprove the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment. His job is to guide us into all truth. That means He takes from God and gives us and teaches us everything God wants us to believe and do. How do we learn all these things? Jesus received it from The Father and spoke it to The Spirit to speak to us. The Spirit says all of it to us – nothing less, nothing more. What does He speak? He speaks The Holy Bible.
Sin, righteousness, and judgment – that’s what Holy Scripture is about. It’s about how we sinners can be made right with God. It’s about how we can be free of evil. It’s about why this world is messed up with sin. It’s about how God has gone to work to clean up our own mess. It’s about how He will get us out of that mess once and for all. What’s for you to do then? Just sing to Him a new song, for He has done marvelous things! His right hand and His holy arm have gotten Him the victory.
He reproves the world concerning sin. He tells us to repent. What sins have we committed? St. James points out some of them today. He tells us to be quick to hear and slow to speak. He tells us to be slow to anger because anger produces bad fruit, not good fruit. He tells us to cut off us anything filthy and wicked because that’s surely from the devil. But do we listen to what He says? We fly off the handle if somebody says something we don’t like. Our eyes like to see bad things, our ears like to hear them, and our mouths like to say them. God wants us to look and sound different from the world around us, to be the salt of the earth. But are we? The Spirit reproves the world about sin because it doesn’t believe in Jesus. When we don’t act the way our dear heavenly Father wants us to act, does it look like we believe in Jesus?
He convicts the world concerning righteousness. A righteous dude is a good guy, according to the world. He’s a guy that likes to do the right thing and help the little guy. But that’s not what Jesus calls righteousness today. Jesus says righteousness is Him going to The Father and His disciples not seeing Him anymore. That means righteousness is not one bit what you do. It’s what He’s done already. It’s Jesus dying on The Cross. It’s Him being punished for your sins. They were quick to condemn Him to death and dirty themselves by killing God’s Son, only to put into motion your cleansing, your eternal life. God declares you righteous when you believe Jesus, His Son, died to save you.
He convicts the world concerning judgment. We immediately think of judgment day and all the ungodly being punished. But Jesus says this is about Satan being judged. Luther leads us to sing, “He’s judged, the deed is done.” Jesus judged the devil when He died. He crushed all his power. This means the sinful world has bet on the wrong guy, plays for the wrong team. If the devil’s the loser, whoever sides with him will find himself on the wrong side of things at the end too. We like winners. Why would you purposefully side with a loser? Yet the sinful flesh sides with the devil without considering it. Faith sings: “Jesus is my Choice.” Don’t side with Satan. He’s lost. He’s doomed. Christ, The Victim, is The Victor. The devil cannot defeat Him. He cannot block your way to salvation. So, “Christians to the Paschal Victim, offer your thankful praises!”
Jesus has saved you. That changes everything. Without Him, what’s the point of life? Life would be just about getting through the day, about getting whatever you want, about pleasing yourself and making yourself feel good. How shallow! Perhaps you would just be miserable all the time and never have any hope. Jesus’ Death and Resurrection gives us true hope. Sins don’t have to weigh you down anymore. Death isn’t the end it once was. Jesus forgives sins and kills death. He tells you that you are forgiven and that your soul will go to Him when you die. Better yet, He tells you your grave isn’t the end, but you shall live again, in your body, once He comes again. So He bids you live to help those around you, not yourself.
That’s something to sing about! The Lord’s right hand has done a valiant thing! His holy arm has gotten Him the victory! How? By being nailed to The Cross. He is Victor over sin, death, and Satan because He died. They killed the wrong Man. They couldn’t keep Him dead. He defeated them. He crushed them. He did this for you! Rejoice! Sing!
Why do we sing the hymns we sing? Our hymns have a purpose: they teach us. They teach us what we believe. They teach us what our Lord accomplished for us when He died and rose. They teach us how to respond to His salvation. They teach us what baptism means for us and what communion does for us. They teach us how to die well. They teach us what to pray for and how to praise God. They open up The Scriptures for us so we see Jesus our salvation. They proclaim His victory over sin and death. The Psalms foretold in song what Christ was going to do, and our hymns remind us what He has done and is still doing for us. They teach us to say all our days (TLH 210:5):
Lord, by the stripes which wounded Thee, From death’s dread sting Thy servants free That we may live and sing to Thee. Alleluia!