The Holy Spirit’s joy is to bring Jesus’ words to the whole world. That’s very clearly what the Lord Jesus Himself says and very clearly what the Holy Spirit does on Pentecost. The scene, the reality we confront before Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection is the outrageously privileged place of the disciples. To the disciples alone the body and blood of Jesus were first given. Jesus is always with them, always speaking to them, telling them what He does not tell the crowds, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of God,” he says, “but not to them.” The privilege is so glaring that on the night of His betrayal, Judas, not Iscariot, because he's out betraying Jesus, the other Judas, also known as Thaddeus, asks Jesus, “Why?” “Why do you manifest yourself to us and not to the world?” And Jesus corrects Him and answers with the words of our Gospel. “If anyone loves Me he will keep my words and My Father will love him and We will come and We will make our home with him.” The time is coming, when anyone in the whole world who keeps my Word, he will know not only Me, but my Father, and not only will We love him, We will make our home with him, We will guard him and protect him and bless him and forgive him and bring him to everlasting life. This for everyone who keeps my word, Jesus says. So that the distinction between men will no longer be those of former times. It won’t be between rich and poor, between slave and free, between Jew and Greek, between black and white, the distinction is only this, between those who love Jesus and keep His word and those who do not love Him and refuse His words, between those in whom God Himself makes His home and those who make their home in the flesh. The privilege of the apostles will extend to all the world, because Jesus’ word will go to all the world.
This is why Pentecost is such a happy day. This is the Holy Spirit’s joy. It’s God’s joy. The Trinity’s joy. And so it’s become our joy. And we see it first happen on Pentecost. First we see it symbolically, then we see it literally. Jesus baptizes the disciples with the Holy Spirit, as John the Baptist prophesied. Pentecost sees the Holy Spirit come down in fire on the heads of the disciples. They could see it as clearly as John saw the dove come down on Jesus at His Baptism. And then they could hear it. The disciples speak in all sorts of different languages, so that people from Rome can hear them speak in Latin and people from Arabia can hear them speak in Arabic and people from Elam can hear them speak in Elamite. This is the sign, the symbol. It’s God’s declaration that He is now reversing Babel. At Babel He divided all people into tribes and nations and languages because they sought to work their way to heaven. Now heaven descends to earth to do what man could not do, and that is unite the multitude of every nation and tribe and language into one flock under One Shepherd.
And this is the Holy Spirit’s great work. Not the symbol, but the actual doing of it, not temporary gifts of speaking in new languages, but giving the word of Jesus to all nations. There is a certain irony in the names of modern denominations. The Baptists devalue baptism, refuse it to the little ones, and deny that it saves, and so are the least worthy to have the name Baptist, and yet they have it. And the Pentecostals claim their name from Pentecost, but they totally reject the point of Pentecost and seek after the symbols of speaking in tongues instead of the content of the Holy Spirit’s preaching. Only people bored with the words of Jesus, who don’t realize the ridiculous privilege of having them, could grow tired of hearing them and instead thirst after gifts of tongues. St. Paul already warned the Corinthians about this just 20 years after the first Christian Pentecost – I would rather speak five words with understanding, he said, so that I can teach others, than ten thousand words in a tongue. If the Holy Spirit is going to make you excited and exhilarated about being a Christian, He will do it only by giving you Christ, by giving you the real privilege of the Apostles, which was not to speak in all sorts of different languages, not in something that fades away, as St. Paul says, whether there are tongues, they will cease, but to actually have the words of Jesus, and with these words the forgiveness of sins He won, and His own body and blood given to us, and the Baptism that unites us to His death and resurrection, this is the real privilege. This is what the Holy Spirit gave on Pentecost. He will take of what is mine, Jesus says, and declare it to you.
So St. Peter preached His great Pentecost sermon in Greek, not in one of the many other languages that the Spirit gave them to speak that day, but in Greek,S so that everyone could understand – the same reason the New Testament is in Greek, so that everyone could understand it – I know that sounds strange, because in our day almost no one knows ancient Greek, but then it was common, the language of the world, like English is today. It’s when St. Peter speaks in a language he already knew and everyone else already knew that the Holy Spirit begins the real work, to bring Jesus’ words to all the world. Here Peter purposefully and happily loses his privilege by giving it to everyone – what previously belonged to him and a select few, now goes to all.
And what did Peter speak? His message is very simply this – you crucified the Lord of glory, but God raised Him from the dead. You crucified Him. Your sins drove Him there. Don’t think lightly of your sins. Your sins killed the Lord of glory. That’s reality. So see your sins for what they are, not happiness, not fun, not normal, not innocent. No matter how the unbelievers who do not love Jesus excuse their lust, their temper, their discontent, their apathy toward God, their worry about earthly things, their refusal to forgive, their harboring hatred in their heart, you who now hear the word of Jesus can never again excuse it, especially when you see it in yourselves. God didn’t excuse it. He laid it on Jesus. You crucified the Lord of glory.
And the Lord of glory loves you. That’s why your sins were on Him. He’s your God and He’s found in human flesh. He came down from heaven because He wanted to bear your sin, wanted to take it off of you and put it on Himself. What does He say? “So that the world may know that I love the Father and as the Father has commanded me, so I do,” so I act. Here is the love of God, the Father for the Son and the Son for the Father, and you are inexplicably found in this love, the Father’s love for you compels Him to send His Son and the Son’s love for His Father compels Him to suffer for you, and so God, the whole Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, God wants you with Him, wants your sins forgiven, the Son paid with His own blood to make it happen, here’s God’s love and the preaching of Pentecost. Jesus stands risen and ascended to heaven and the Holy Spirit comes rushing down to preach Him to all the world.
The three thousand Jews who were converted to the Lord that day were a firstfruits, an arrabwn, a down payment, for what was to come. Those Jews went home to Rome and to Spain and to Arabia and to Egypt and to Asia. And the word of Jesus, as St. Luke loves to say, grew, it increased, so that everyone in all the world, whether Jew or Greek, whether slave or free, male or female, anyone who kept that Word, God made His home among them.
This word for “home,” is the exact same word that Jesus uses when He says, “In my Father’s house are many mansions,” many homes. The house of the Father is the Christian Church. That’s where the Father dwells, where Jesus’ Word is taught, where Christians keep it and treasure it. And in this Christian Church the Father has many homes, many mansions, because He dwells in each of us. That’s what Jesus says. Jesus went to the cross to prepare a place for us. And this place is not a place we go up into heaven to seek with God, but a place where the Father comes here, with us. The Kingdom of God is within you, among you, Jesus says. God comes to you. This is so beautifully always the direction of God with us. Babel must fail, it must fall, precisely because it is man’s work and man’s work can accomplish all sorts of things on this earth, but absolutely nothing in heaven. God is mocking them when He says that nothing will now be impossible for them. God does that; He has a sense of humor. When it comes to heaven, when it comes to our reconciliation with God, when it comes to God dwelling with us, Jesus says it with finality, “With man this is impossible. But with God all things are possible.”
And this is what we see when Jesus goes to prepare a place for us. We see God doing the impossible. You could not pay for your sins. Every payment you gave would only put you further in debt. Sin would only build up on top of itself and be another Tower of Babel, never reaching heaven but only drawing disgust and separation and division from God, His mockery even. But Jesus prepares a place for you, a place with God, in God and God in us. For this He descended from heaven, for this He joined our human race, for this He lived in pure love toward His Father, for this He went to the cross and suffered hell in your place, for this He rose from the dead and He ascended to heaven, and for this He sends the Holy Spirit.
And so the privilege of the apostles is very literally given to you. The Holy Spirit gives it. There is no word Jesus spoke to them that He does not speak to you. You have it all in the New Testament, all secrets laid bare. Jesus says it to the apostles, “The Holy Spirit will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance everything I said to you.” He gives the same body and blood to you that He gave to them. The same Baptism. The same Spirit. And the same peace. It’s the peace the world cannot give.
The world has some peace I know. It’s a wonderful thing to have a close family, a country not at war, a comfortable living, a safe neighborhood, a decent house. It’s not the world that gives even these things though; it’s still Jesus. But all these things can be taken away, all of them are insecure until the resurrection. But what the world does give, and not God, is its own recognition, is the reward of embracing sin, and the honor rewarded to those who step in line and follow the current cultural fads to the detriment of faith in Jesus. This is why Jesus calls the devil the ruler of this world and immediately says he has nothing to do with Him. Because this peace, this worldly peace, the peace that requires you to compromise Jesus’ word in life or confession, that peace is a joke, it’s fake, it’s total vanity, an absolute lie, that will give you no true happiness or joy ever and will end only in death. Jesus doesn’t give that kind of peace. He doesn’t know how.
He is the truth. He is love. He gives real peace. He gives you peace with God, so that God dwells with you, God is for you, God protects you from misbelief and other great shame and vice, God spurs you on to love and forgive, God smiles on your good works as if they were actually good because His Spirit inspires them and whatever is lacking in them is covered by His Son’s blood, God refuses to hold your sins against you, God calls you His child. Fellowship with God, that nothing and no one can take away ever, that will not end with death, but will go on into everlasting days, as surely as Christ is risen from the dead, lives, and reigns to all eternity, that’s the peace Jesus gives. That’s the peace the Holy Spirit preached on Pentecost and preaches still this Pentecost. Jesus tells you to keep this word, in the Greek it’s terei, guard, guard it as your dearest treasure, as the privilege it is, and you will see that this treasure you guard and keep will never disappoint, it is God’s Kingdom, God’s active rule, the Father smiling on you, so that even among crosses and trials your hearts never need be troubled or afraid – the words of Jesus give the peace this world cannot give and you have them and you have Him now and forever. In nomine Jesu.