On Going Away
May 13, 2017
Verse: John 16:25–16:27
Christ Lutheran Church
May 14, 2017
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
On Going Away
Now I am going to the One who sent me; yet none of you asks me, 'Where are you going?' But because I speak these words to you, sorrow fills your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away: because if I do not go, the Comforter will not come to you! But if I go I will send him to you. John 16:5-7
When someone you love goes away it is never a good thing. And so like the disciples we, too, are left wondering what the Lord was thinking when he spoke these words. When he said to them, “It is to your advantage that I go away.”
When Philip Dodderidge, author of our Advent hymn “Hark The Glad Sound,” (TLH #66) was dying, he mirrored his Lord in a note he wrote to his beloved wife. “So sure am I that God will be with you and comfort you,” he wrote, “that I think my death will be a greater blessing to you, than ever my life had been." (Doddridge entered eternal life October 26, 1751).
When someone you love goes away due to death, divorce, war or any other contingency it’s never a good thing! But Jesus begs to differ!
When the Lord spoke of his “going away” he was talking about the cross. Yes, he was returning to the One who sent him, as we will all will in due time. But the road back to the Father was by the way of the cross, and this is the greatest blessing of all.
The disciples prove over and over again in the gospel record that they had no comprehension of the cross. Even when the Lord spoke of it plainly they could not comprehend what he was talking about. On one occasion when it did break through to Peter his response was predictable. “Far be it from you Lord, this will never happen to you.” To which the Lord responded, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man." (Matthew 16:22 ff).
You might think that Peter was chastened by such a reprimand, but he tried the same thing at the Lord’s arrest. He drew his sword and cut off the ear of the High Priest’s servant. To which the Lord replied: put your sword away, for whoever lives by the sword dies by the sword. Do you not think that I can call on my Father who will put twelve legions of angels at my disposal? But then how would the Scriptures be fulfilled?
But the promises of God once written in Scripture would in fact be fulfilled. Fulfilled in the flesh of Jesus, on the cross and in the Eucharist. Jesus was going away, back to the Father, by way of the cross and grave, and so shall we all. “And the grave that shuts us in, shall but prove the gate to heaven.” (TLH #409) That is what we sing, and that is what we believe. “For whoever would save his life,” says Jesus, “will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? (Matthew 16:25-26)
But the Lord’s death and resurrection which brought redemption to the whole world, was not the end of the gospel story. There is yet another vital part, what we hear in today’s gospel, the sending of the Holy Spirit.
And so we ask today: what is Spirit’s role in our salvation? Based on the Lord’s words that it is to our advantage that he should go, and the Spirit come, it must be something very, very big. And so it is.
To use a comparison you might own the most luxurious car ever made; the car of your dreams that has every bell, every whistle, and that exceeds your wildest expectations. But if that car has no engine, it’s little more than an ornament. The same can be said of the gospel.
Jesus made full atonement on the cross for every sin, and every sinner. But if we know nothing of it, or because of our spiritual blindness are unable to believe it, or if it is not made available to us, it does us no good. But the Holy Spirit, whom the Lord sent when he went away to the cross, is the engine of the gospel, and the power train of our faith! It is because of him and his never-ceasing activity that there is a Christ Lutheran Church. That you are sitting here today. That you can see the shores of heaven, as you walk through the “valley of the shadow of death.” That you believe your sins are atoned for, and that no judgment awaits you. Because of the Spirit you are baptized. Because of his work in your soul you trust God to make all things right, come what may, and there’s nothing better than that.
Yes, that night the Lord was not only bringing an end to the long night of sin by what he would endure for us; but he was preparing the world for a New Age. Not the “Age of Aquarius” as stunted Hippies still suppose. Or “the Age of Technology” that their children and grand-children have hung their hopes upon. But the Age Of The Church. The Age of the Spirit of God who is now our Helper and our Comforter.
He helps us to be the people of God with his gifts: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. And he Comforts us with his love when the ones we love must “go away.” Though at such times we are as dull as the disciples, we have the promised Spirit to Console us. To Help us understand that things will not always be as they are today. To Help us to see a brighter day. And to Help us believe that what is now sorrow, will be turned into joy: a joy that nothing can take away.