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Sweet Comfort From Heaven

May 25th 2014 by Joel Schultz

On this 6th Sunday of Easter, we hear a continuation of Jesus' comforting words from John 14. Jesus speaks these words to comfort His disciples as He prepares to leave them to go to the cross and ultimately as He prepares to ascend into heaven. Read or listen to hear about His comforting words to you and me...

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Easter 6A - John 14:15-21 - “Sweet comfort from Heaven” - May 25, 2014

Sweet comfort. We all, at times, long for sweet comfort through words and actions. Like the presence of a caring individual when a loved one has died – sweet comfort. Or the words of friendship spoken in a time of loneliness – sweet comfort. Or the words of encouragement spoken at a stressful or difficult time – sweet comfort. Sweet comfort is definitely needed in our lives – perhaps quite often. And there is nothing as sweet or as comforting as the words we hear from heaven. Sweet comfort from heaven is what we ultimately need as we live and struggle in this sin filled world.

The disciples would soon need sweet comfort from heaven. Jesus would soon be betrayed and killed. And even after He rose from the dead, He would soon ascend into heaven where the disciples would not physically see Him again. So, Jesus spoke the comforting words which span John 14, 15, and 16. Like last week, our text today is a portion of that sweet comfort from heaven. So in last weeks Gospel we heard those familiar words of comfort – “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life… I go to prepare a place for you… and… I will come back to take you to be where I am…”

Talking to His disciples who love Him and seek to keep His commandments, Jesus continues His comforting words in today’s Gospel text. As His disciples, we find sweet words of comfort for our lives, because Jesus is talking to those who love Him about the work of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – on our behalf. They are words of comfort that must be taken to heart. They are words of comfort that we must also share with those who are lonely, sad, hopeless, and lost.

Listen to the comfort of these words. Jesus declares: “And I will ask the Father....” Let me stop there for a moment. Did you hear the comfort in those words? “And I will ask the Father....” Think of the comfort there is in knowing Jesus petitions our heavenly Father on our behalf.

I remember, when I was little that I sometimes employed this same tactic with my earthly Father. When I needed something very badly from my father, sometimes I would not go directly to my father to ask. Instead I would go to my mother and have her ask him. Now that is not because I was scared of my father or felt he would dismiss my request without a thought or because I wanted to manipulate him, but it was because of the comfort and hope given in having someone else ask my father on my behalf.

This is what Jesus does for us. He goes to the Father on our behalf. He knows our needs and our desires and speaks to the Father for us. What comfort there is to know that our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, asks the Father on our behalf. When in agony, or grief, or despair, and you don’t know what to pray for, you have a mediator – Jesus. That is sweet comfort from heaven.

But the sweet comfort from heaven continues as we hear what Jesus asks for: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever...” (vs. 16). Notice that this Helper – the Holy Spirit – does not come to us because of our worthiness or potential. There is no condition given in order to qualify. The Spirit is given simply because of the Father’s great love for His own Son.

And this Spirit will be for us what the Son has been for us. The Greek word is “paraclete.” It means to “come alongside someone in order to help.” It is a word often translated as “counselor,” as in an advocate one uses in a trial. But it can also be translated as “comforter” in the NIV or “Helper” in the ESV. The Holy Spirit, sent from the Father, at the request of the Son, comes alongside of us not only to be our advocate to the Father but also to comfort and help us in all our distresses.

Think of Jesus, Immanuel, God with us, who came to be truly “alongside us” in a way beyond human imagining, to speak encouragement and eternal comfort to the people of God, to truly make His dwelling among us. That should be pretty comforting. Now imagine, if it is possible, that this Helper, sent by the Father, would be closer than Jesus. For He, Jesus says, will not only be with us, but will be in us. And this is not based on how you feel or what emotions well up inside you or the state of your faith. The Holy Spirit dwells within you –period.

What sweet comfort. When a marriage is in turmoil, He is in you. When disaster strikes, He is in you. When a job is lost, He is in you. When people are mean and nasty, He is in you. When a loved one dies, He is in you. When you feel weak and heavy ladened, He is in you. You have a Helper, sent from the Father, to bring the sweet comfort of heaven to you in your highest joy and your deepest despair. No matter how alone you may feel, you are never left alone.

Our Lord continue to pour out this sweet comfort from heaven as He tells us more about the character of this Helper. Jesus says that He is the Spirit of Truth. In later verses, Jesus explains what this Spirit of Truth would do. He would continue the work of Jesus as He reveals God’s truth to us – what Jesus’ work on the cross has meant and what lies ahead for us and the world.

It is the Spirit of Truth who keeps us connected to Jesus. He brings faith into our hearts to believe that Jesus has overcome sin, death, and the devil for us and that we have full and free forgiveness, life, and salvation in His name. He calls to our minds that precious Word of God as we live in the world to strengthen and sustain our faith.

But, as if the promise of a Helper was not enough, our Lord promises that He Himself will return for us. We heard it in last week’s Gospel lesson and again today. Having won for us the power to become children of God through Word and water, He will not leave us as orphans. He will come to us. We will see Him again. What comfort to know that He has a place prepared for us and will come to take us to be with Him forever.

And from this point on, Jesus lets us know that our life is joined to His. As long as He lives, we know that we will live also. Whenever I see an ambulance go by, I am very comforted that there are trained personnel to handle medical emergencies. Whenever I see a house on fire, I am very comforted to know that there are trained firefighter who rescue people from such blazes. When I see a police officer, I am comforted to know that there are people sworn to protect me and my family. One could say that because these people live and do the work they do, others will continue to live fruitful lives. Because they live, others will live as well.

How joyful we are, in this Easter season, that Jesus has rescued us from sin and Satan. He did this by His glorious death and His victorious resurrection. And because He lives, Jesus declares that we also live. Sweet comfort from heaven.

Now to be sure, this comfort Jesus speaks does not remove the problems, strife, pain, difficulty, but it is heavenly comfort that sees us through anything which this sinful world may throw at us. This is truly sweet comfort from heaven – the Holy Spirit lives within us creating and sustaining faith through Word and Sacrament and Jesus will come again to take those who live by faith to be with Him forever.

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