A sermon preached on John 14:25-27 by Pastor Jonathan Werre at Good Shepherd Lutheran in Sioux Falls, SD, on May 26, 2019.
Shakespeare puts into the mouth of Julius Caesar a famous line (Julius Caesar, the one who crossed the Rubicon and established the Roman Empire, the one who, according to unlikely legend, the C-section was named after, the one who adopted an heir named Augustus, you know, the one who would later put out a decree that all the world should be taxed which was why a nine month pregnant Mary and Joseph found themselves in Bethlehem)—that Julius Caesar, Shakespeare has him say, “Cowards die many times before their deaths/The valiant never taste of death but once.” Jesus Christ would agree. He who said, “I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) also said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (cowardly, literally).”
The certainty that makes us brave
Why? Because Jesus promised the disciples, “…the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” Did you ever wonder about that, about the gospel lessons we hear, especially the ones that have conversations in them? I mean, these were written years after Jesus died, rose, and ascended–Matthew written perhaps about 20 years after Jesus ascended, Mark perhaps about 35 years after Jesus ascended, John’s Gospel even later than that! How in the world did they ever remember those conversations? I can hardly remember what I had for lunch three days ago, and they remembered conversations from 35 years ago, word for word? They did not need to rely on their own memory recall. Jesus promised, “…the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
In the BIC classes I teach, I always mention that one of the things it is important to pay attention to in the Bible is when the Bible uses big words. Not big words like, “Nebuchadnezzer and lapis lazuli”, but big words, like “all” and “everything.” “…the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
All things, everything Jesus had said to them. All, everything. Keep these big words in mind. Because there has been a pattern over the past 2000 years when it comes to the Bible. See if you can detect the pattern as I describe it. Way back in the Early Church, suddenly extra “books of the Bible” show up, written by who knows whom, that some people claimed you needed, in order to supplement the Bible. Later the Gnostics would tell people that they needed not only the Bible but also some of their own secret writings, to supplement the Bible. Later yet the Papacy would tell people that they not only needed the Bible but also the papal decrees and official Council documents, to supplement the Bible. Later, Reformed churches would teach that you need the Bible and you need God to speak to you through your feelings, to supplement what the Bible says. Later yet the Mormon church would claim that you need the Bible and the Book of Mormon to supplement the Bible. In the early 2000’s, there were movies about a long lost book recently discovered supposedly written by Mary Magdalene that you needed in order to supplement what the Bible says and find out what it really means. Did you catch the pattern? Over and over, the same tired idea—you need something more than the Bible. Today that same, worn out false teaching sounds like this, “God just laid it on my heart that I should…enroll my child in your preschool (or) become a vegetarian.” That is how people try to supplement what the Bible says today, by looking inward at their own hearts and claiming that God laid something there, which he has never, ever promised to do.
Do you remember the big words I asked you to keep in mind? The big words “all” and “everything.” As in, “...the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” Jesus meant what he said.
So, what we have in here is enough. It’s all, it’s everything we need, as our Lutheran confessions of faith put it, everything we need for faith and life. You want to know what sin is, it’ll tell you. You want to know what repentance is, it’ll tell you. You want to know what God’s grace is, what morals are, what truth is, what the meaning of life is, what is so grand about cleaning toilets or making car payments–it’ll tell you. Everything you need to know for faith and life.
Most importantly, it’ll tell you everything you need to know about how to avoid hell and how to enter heaven. Christ was speaking these words right before he was to be arrested and put to death to atone for our sin. He would be raised from the dead to prove he had done it all. And that is how we can be certain of heaven—by trusting that Christ did everything we need to get us into heaven.
Now, after Jesus rose, things were going to be different. Jesus wasn’t going to be staying here visibly. So he gave us this book. And this is what he says about this book, “...the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” All, everything. That is meant to make us confident, even brave. Because it is uncertainty that makes our hearts fear, our hands limp, our legs get weak.
The famous aviatrix, Emilia Earhart, she was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. This brave woman, who did so many daring things and set so many records, when she was trying to circumnavigate the world, she suddenly found herself in trouble. She wasn’t lost exactly. But she wasn’t sure of her location. She was somewhere over the Pacific Ocean, somewhere in the vicinity of Howland Island, which was a U.S. territory back in 1937, still is. A special landing strip had been built there for her to land and refuel. But she never made it. Her last message to the air tower was “Location uncertain.” Uncertain. Makes your stomach feel sick, your arms limp, your legs weak. Which is a posture our Savior never intends for us to have. That’s why he gave us this. And why he used big words like, “all” and “everything”, so instead of being uncertain, fearful, cowardly, we might instead be certain. With the kind of certainty that even makes you brave. “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (cowardly, literally).”
The peace that makes us brave
Julius Caesar, via William Shakespeare, is famous for having said, “Cowards die many times before their deaths/The valiant never taste of death but once.” Jesus Christ would agree. He who said, “I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) also said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (cowardly, literally).” And so Christ gave us everything we need to know for faith and life here in his Word, of that we can be certain and even brave.
But there is more than one way to being brave. And so our Lord adds a second thing which will help so that “…our hearts(are not) troubled and (we are not) afraid (cowardly, literally)”, as Christ said. The second thing can be summed up with one word—peace.
“Peace I leave with you’ my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” If you could have chosen one thing for Jesus to leave behind for you, what would it be? A wallet that never runs out of money? A magical medicine that cures anything that makes you sick? A hat that would make you instantly know everything so you would never have to study or do homework again? He certainly could have, Jesus certainly could have left any of those things for us. But he didn’t.
Of all the things he could have left behind, he decided on this one—peace. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you.” Peace with God for a sinner like you and me, a person God should by rights hate and want to stomp. But he doesn’t want to do that at all. He’s at peace with sinners like you and me because of Christ, a peace Christ himself won by his own death and resurrection. A peace he has given to you, by name, at your baptism, will confirm it again today in the Absolution and in the Lord’s Supper. And that is a beautiful thing, this peace with God.
But tomorrow’s a Monday, and what good is peace with God when what you want to do is order out for pizza but you don’t have enough money….or when your friends are not being so friendly anymore… or when you are trying to lose weight…or the doctor has some bad news for you.
What does this peace with God that Jesus left us have to do with any of that? The same thing this brick has to do with the rest of these bricks. This brick might not be directly touching the other bricks, but if you take this brick out, it will affect them all, all the rest.
As does the reality that God is at peace with you because of what Jesus Christ did. When God is at peace with you, that changes the disappointment that you can’t order pizza into a very useful spiritual exercise of practicing to be content with what you have and not feel sorry for yourself about what you don’t have. When your friends are not being so friendly, the fact that God is at peace with you and is your friend in Christ moves you towards being a peacemaker rather than a revenge getter. When God is at peace with you in Christ, you view your body as a temple of the Holy Spirit who lives in you by faith—for only by his power can you believe in Christ and his Word– that makes a difference in how you view your body and its appetites—including your appetite for chocolate and burgers and Mountain Dew. When the doctor has bad news, the fact that God is at peace with you in Christ means that it is not bad news—unpleasant news, yes, life-changing news, maybe, maybe even life-ending news, but not bad news; for when God is at peace with you in Christ all things must work out for good, even death must serve his good purpose of being the doorway to eternal life.
Christ left us peace, peace with God. This kind of peace is the opposite of fear. This kind of peace even makes you brave.
“Cowards die many times before their deaths/The valiant never taste of death but once.” Jesus Christ would agree. He who said, “I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) also said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (cowardly, literally).” And so it is he gives us certainty in his Word and gives us peace with God, which is to say, he gives us the two things we need so that we have no need to be fearful or cowardly. May we, by the Holy Spirit, grow in saying “no” to the fear and saying “yes” to being brave. For Christ has given us enough bravery to face every hour, even the last one. Amen.