Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to comfort his disciples. The Holy Spirit is not some impersonal power of God that He uses to speak to you. He is not like a scalpel or like a microphone, not a tool or an instrument. The Holy Spirit is God, the third person of the Holy Trinity, eternal with the Father and the Son; He is a person and so He deals with you personally. Jesus stresses this constantly and it’s important for us to understand it – you can see it in the English, and in the Greek it jumps out at you - HE is coming to you; I will send HIM. He does not speak of HIMSELF. The Holy Spirit is not an it. There’s no impersonal force here, no disinterested power. He’s God speaking to you. And the Holy Spirit speaks what He speaks because He loves you. He speaks what He speaks because He is overjoyed at what the Son has done for you. He takes from what the Son did and who the Son is and gives to you. That’s what Jesus says: “He will glorify Me, because He will take of what is mine and declare it to you.”
So when the Word of God comes to your ears it is not and cannot be impersonal, routine, mere sound hitting your ears. No, it’s God talking here to you, engaging in conversation with you purposefully and intentionally, because again He’s not a power, He’s a person, and He actually wants to talk to you, and His talk is the Word of Jesus. This is what Jesus says. What the Spirit speaks He takes from the Son. And what does Jesus have that the Holy Spirit takes it and speaks it to you? He has innocence, freedom from all guilt and shame. He has righteousness, real righteousness, that actually avails before God in heaven because it’s perfect, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, worked out by the Son of God Himself in human flesh on this earth. He has judgment, not mere opinion, not the changing standards of the world, not unsubstantiated assertions, but judgment over the devil, over every untruth, over every lie, established by the fact that Jesus stands alive after death, righteous after bearing our sin, the Conqueror who did exactly what He said He would do and who therefore speaks with an authority that no man can contradict. This is what the Holy Spirit takes from Jesus and gives. Even taking Him, not part of Him, not only what He did, but Him, the life that conquered death, the body that bore our sins and rose pure and holy, the blood that He shed in love for us, and putting Him in our mouths and in our hearts. So that what happens here on a Sunday morning is God speaking, God acting, God giving God to us.
This could not happen unless Jesus, as He puts it, “goes away” or “goes to Him who sent Me.” The disciples can’t imagine anything greater than being with Jesus and seeing His face. How could they? They love Him. They converse with Him in the most personal way. They recognize the sound of his cough, of his sneeze, of his laugh. They know the expression He makes when He gets irritated with them. They’ve seen Him cry. They’ve hugged him and kissed him. They’ve spent entire days talking with Him. He calls them His friends and they are. They’ve seen in His face the sincerity of His every word. This is the personal relationship they’ve had. And Jesus tells them He is going away, they will not see His face anymore, and so sorrow has filled their hearts. But He tells them, that if they knew what it meant that He was going away, they would rejoice. He tells them that His going away is advantageous to them, that what they will have because of it makes their time with Jesus up to this point pale in comparison. Because Jesus “going away” means He will suffer for them, will bear their sins, will die for them, will rise again, will reconcile them to God, will lead them into all truth, so that they will know who this Friend really is and what His love compels Him to do and what His smile actually means. Peter and the rest wanted to stop Him from going away, would tell Him no; but the friendship Jesus has with us is that He lays down His life for His friends; this is the Word that the Spirit of truth, the Comforter, speaks, and it is God smiling on us and embracing us far more than any smile or tear the disciples saw on Jesus’ face. The Holy Spirit taking of what belongs to Jesus and giving it to us is better, far better, than what those disciples had as they sat and spoke with Him. Don’t envy them. Thank God for what you have.
This is a treasure beyond precious to know the Gospel, to know the intent of God’s heart, the plan of all human history, the goal of time itself. This is what the Holy Spirit speaks to us when He presents to us Jesus, the Father’s only Son, who stills wears our flesh and will always be our Brother to all eternity, who is proud to call us His brothers, because He bore our sins and faced our death and rose again to claim us as brothers and children of His Father.
But notice when Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit’s work, He speaks first of negative things. He will convict the world of sin and of righteousness and of judgment. This doesn’t sound like the Holy Spirit giving us all the wonderful things Jesus is and does. It sounds like the Holy Spirit cutting us down. And that’s exactly what it is, first of all. It’s still very personal, but it’s personal in a very uncomfortable way.
The Holy Spirit, as He gives Jesus, first reveals sin, especially the sin of unbelief, the root of all sin, that we who were created to know and love God, we by nature don’t know Him, don’t love Him, don’t trust in Him, so that when God Himself entered into the world, the world rejected Him and even His own disciples abandoned Him.
And then, as He gives us Jesus, He uncovers all our false righteousness, the mask we put on to make people and God think we are inwardly pure even as we know hate and greed and anger and filth still rise in our hearts. He lays us bare, exposes our nakedness, He is God calling the naked Adam and Eve from the bushes to reveal their shame and show them they could not hide it, they need to be covered with better things.
And finally, as He gives us Jesus, He leaves no room for pride in ourselves, He attacks even our thinking, what distinguishes us from the beasts, that we can learn and think and know and judge, and He shows us that no matter how much we thought and judged, no matter the knowledge we gained, not one of us, no matter how wise, no matter how we groped, could find Him, could form the right judgment of God, could know the true nature of man or who God really was. The tower of Babel stands abandoned, useless, unfinished, and He who sits in the heavens laughs. Only the Spirit can call them back to Him.
The Holy Spirit does not do this impersonally and He doesn’t do it hatefully either. He looks at what Jesus is and has done and He takes from Him to give to us. But the faith that He plants in our hearts doesn’t fill a void or a vacuum. It’s not like we believed nothing at all and then the Holy Spirit gave us faith in Jesus where previously there had been no faith at all. We weren’t born a clean slate, in some neutral state. We should probably use the word “misbelievers” more than we do “unbelievers,” because everyone believes something. No one is an unbeliever in that sense. You can point to babies to prove this point, because they obviously have false belief, they believe something, they have faith, that everyone else exists to serve them, or as my mother used to tell us, babies believe they are the center of the universe. But we can leave babies aside and talk about all the false belief that is in the world today. Where did it come from? What does Jesus say? Out of the heart of man comes every evil. So we saw in Casper yesterday people protesting because they believe that women have the right to kill their babies. They believe it. And men cheering it on because they believe in their right to have a woman without ever taking responsibility for her or the life that comes from having her. They believe that. Where did these false beliefs come from and the millions of others like them? From our culture, from our laws, from our media, from our politicians, ok, but go to the root of it, go to its source, where Jesus tells you to go; it came from the human heart. So you better believe that when the Holy Spirit gave you faith, you didn’t just not believe in Jesus, you believed dark and horrible things, that the false belief you see all around that leads to absurdity and slaughter and misery, that false belief was in your heart. And the Holy Spirit ripped it out. Because He loves you very much.
And the Spirit continues to do it. False belief creeps in again and again. The false belief that I’m not secure because the stock market is crashing, or because I’m going to lose my job, as if the God who sent His only Son and has counted the hairs of your head would not provided also for your daily bread! The false belief that because you’ve prayed and God hasn’t given, He must have closed His ears to you, as if your time and your way were better than God’s time and God’s way. The Holy Spirit speaks and rips the false belief out, and with it the fake righteousness and the foolish judgments, because Jesus is risen and He is the proof that stands forever and ever, that the body is more than clothing and life more than food, that you were bought with a price and so precious in God’s eyes that the Father sent His Son and the Son happily consented to pain and death and torment to win you from sin and give you everlasting life with God, what God created you for. The Spirit speaks this because He loves you. So you can wipe your eyes like Hannah and smile, knowing God will answer for your good. And sing with Isaiah, “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.”
So this negative work of the Holy Spirit is actually very happy. This isn’t a dark passage of Scripture, an unhappy one. Jesus tells them that this is to their advantage. It’s not unhappy when the tumor is cut out. It’s not sad when weeds are uprooted and replaced with flowers. Thank God that the Holy Spirit convicts you of sin, that He roots out the false belief from your heart and makes you see and taste the truth. Because as dark as that false belief is, its darkness cannot compare to the brightness of the truth that Jesus is and does, of what the Holy Spirit speaks to us. As fake and foolish as our own outward righteousness was, it’s insincerity cannot compare to the purity and fullness of Jesus’ righteousness, that the Holy Spirit gives to us. And as silly as our judgments were as we groped in the dark to find God, the wisdom of God so far outweighs it that we not only know God now, but He calls Himself our Father and calls us His children.
Because sin is nothingness, what the Holy Spirit calls vanity, emptiness. It has no substance. The lie has no substance. It is in the end only the absence of the truth. False belief has no substance, it is belief in something that is not. Our righteousness apart from Jesus is nothing, a non-thing, only a shadow or vapor that fades away when the light comes. But when that Light comes, when Jesus comes on the scene, there is fullness of joy, there is singing and rejoicing, there is reality, there is not only something, but everything, God seen clearly, His creation redeemed from futility, and the meek inheriting the earth. That’s us. The devil is called ruler of the world only in the sense that he rules over the misbelieving mind. He is not ruler of the world that God made. He is not the ruler of the children of God. Jesus is Lord over us and Lord over this earth. It is His. He made it. He redeemed it. And we are His. His Spirit has sought us out and found us. His Spirit speaks, God speaking to us, and gives us from what belongs to Jesus, gives us Jesus Himself, and in Him we are more than conquerors. Alleluia. Christ is risen.