Sermon for Fifth Sunday of Easter
April 24, 2016, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas
Sermon Text: John 16:12-22
Sermon Theme: “Book Sense, Horse Sense, and God Sense”
(Sources: Concordia Pulpit Resources, Vol. 26, Part 2, Series C; original ideas; Believer’s Commentary; Harper’s Bible Dictionary; Christian jokes online; Lutheran Cyclopedia; Facebook posts)
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
When you think about it, there are three kinds of sense people can have, — BOOK sense (knowledge), HORSE sense (common sense), and GOD sense (wisdom from God). And, unfortunately, not everybody has all three, and some people have none of the three – which means, no sense at all.
This is what you’re up against when you try to teach people. This is what Jesus was up against in teaching the general population, and often, His own disciples as well.
In dealing with people, whether it’s Pharisees, disciples, or curiosity seekers, you can’t help but think it would be nice if they at least had horse sense, that is, common sense.
Some of you may have seen those delightful posts on facebook recently:
“If common sense was hog lard, most people wouldn’t have enough to grease a pan.”
“Common sense is like a deodorant. The people who need it the most never use it.”
“Common sense is a flower that doesn’t grow in everyone’s garden.”
Now there’s a lot to be said for “BOOK sense,” but book sense without common sense won’t get you very far.
Even more important than that, book sense and horse sense together, without “God sense,” leave a black hole in your life. As Aristotle said, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”
But “God sense” is more than just educating your heart. It’s more than going to church and getting involved in religious organizations. After all, going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
Jesus understood this about people, and it’s fascinating to watch Him as He teaches His disciples over a period of three years, gradually revealing Himself to them, and little by little teaching them doctrinal truths, little by little, for example, leading them to an understanding of the Holy Trinity, of which He was a part, — God as three-in-One.
Jesus was the disciples’ closest friend, so for them to understand the mystery of the Trinity, was like trying to solve a seemingly unanswerable riddle. The most difficult teaching for the disciples to accept was the sacrifice on the cross, which was not a model they wanted, and it was as big of a riddle to them as was Jesus saying, “I and the Father are one.”
Before we go on with this, let me back up just a little so you won’t be confused about the time frame during which Jesus is telling the disciples those things in today’s gospel text.
Although we have just gone through Lent and Easter, with the betrayal, arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus, and the resurrection, today’s gospel is backing up time-wise before the Lord’s crucifixion, to Maundy Thursday.
The lectionary kind of throws you a little bit, doesn’t it, because there we were two Sundays ago eating fish with the resurrected Jesus on the beach, and, now, today, we’re back before His crucifixion.
Once we’ve gotten the time-frame straightened out in our minds, we can proceed with our Lord’s teaching techniques.
You and I have the advantage of a lot of doctrinal theology having been written since the time Jesus lived and died on this earth. But His disciples, with no formal theology training, had a lot of heavy stuff to comprehend. Only the Old Testament had been written, Jesus and the disciples were writing the New Testament with their lives, and Jesus was their sole teacher. Their grasp of the divine truth was going to take BOOK sense, COMMON sense, and GOD sense.
Just as in rearing a child and teaching him the facts of life and living, you give him merely those truths he is emotionally and intellectually ready for. At age four or five, you do not teach a child about falling in love and getting married – you wait until he is mature enough for that life lesson.
At eight or nine, the child should not be taught about how he will have to leave home someday to go to college and live in a dormitory away from Mom and Dad. The time will come when he is ready for that lesson.
To be sure, the disciples will hear a lot of shocking things from Jesus, — it can’t all be thrown out to them at once. Just about the time they are catching on to the implication that loving one another as God loves them means loving your enemies as well as your friends, Jesus hits them with ‘Hey, not only is killing another person a violation of the 5th Commandment, but, I say, if you even HATE your brother in your heart, you’ve violated the 5th Commandment.’
Convincing the disciples that He is the Messiah, and therefore, God, is the first step toward teaching them the incomprehensible truth of the three-in-One mystery. God the Father – God ABOVE man. God the Son – God AS man. God the Holy Spirit – God WITH man.
Book sense and common sense are not enough to wrap your mind around such doctrines as that. God sense is also necessary.
Our sermon text begins with verse 12, with Jesus saying, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth . . . .”
If we would back up to verse 7, which is not included on our CPH insert, we would see that Jesus is clearly referring to the Holy Spirit. In verse 7, Jesus says, “But I tell you the truth, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the counselor [that is, the Holy Spirit] will not come to you; but if I go I will send Him to you. When He comes, He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because people do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer.”
Jesus is referring to His Ascension which happened forty days after His resurrection. This year, Christians celebrated the resurrection on March 27, and will observe the Ascension on May 5. That makes sense. But, just as a point of interest, the scheduling of some of our Christian festivals doesn’t make sense to me. The Festival of the Annunciation (when the angel announces to Mary that she will give birth to the Christ Child) is held on March 25 (which this year fell on Good Friday). Because it fell on Good Friday, the Annunciation this year was “transferred” to April 4. That causes folks to confuse the Annunciation with the Ascension.
In any case, Jesus says He will send the Holy Spirit after the Ascension (not after the Annunciation).
He says in our text, “A little while, and you will see me no longer, and again a little while, and you see me.” Since He is saying this on Maundy Thursday, He is obviously referring to His death on Good Friday and His resurrection on Easter Sunday and all His post-resurrection appearances to them. Forty days later His final exit from this world will take place on Ascension Day, when they will “see” Him no more.
Though they won’t “SEE” Him anymore, He will continue to be present in their lives through the Holy Spirit. Our comfort and joy is that the Holy Spirit is now at work in us, keeping us in our Baptismal faith, helping us to discern what the Bible says, guiding us in our decisions, and giving us that “God Sense” we so greatly need.
In our text when the disciples complain, “We don’t know what He is talking about,” Jesus does not answer their puzzlement directly, but gives further information, saying, “You will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.” Their sorrow would be turned into joy, and it was, — first by the resurrection, and second, by the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Then for all disciples of all ages, including us, grief will be turned to rejoicing when the Lord Jesus comes back again.
Book sense. Horse sense. God sense. The world has always needed all three, and now, more than ever. My prayer is that in this uncertain, unstable, evil, and unbelieving world we live in today, huge numbers will be converted and receive that “God Sense.” Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.