(Written by Pastor Tim Redfield)
John 14:23-29 – Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Counselor, 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. 27 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.
28 “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.
As we look at the words of Jesus, we also want to look at the question Jesus was answering. Verse 22 says, “Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, ‘But Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?’” This was not Judas Iscariot. Judas Iscariot had already left so that he could betray Jesus. This is the other Judas, also called Thaddaeus. The question that Judas asked was common among the disciples. They thought that the Messiah was going to be the earthly king over Israel. They thought that at some point, he would be a great political leader who would rally all Israel, perhaps even the entire world, to follow him.
This question of Judas is like questions that believers still ask. We might wonder why more people are not following Jesus. Why is it that only his believers recognize him as our Lord and Savior? Why doesn’t Jesus show himself to the world? Certainly he should be able to perform some miracle to show himself to the world, shouldn’t he? These questions overlook the fact that Jesus already has shown himself to the world. Jesus has shown himself by living as a human being for 33 years before giving up his life on the cross. Jesus has shown himself through his inspired Word. The problem is not with the way that Jesus has shown himself. The problem is with human hearts.
Jesus answers that question of Judas by saying, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching” (John 14:23). Jesus also states the opposite, “He who does not love me, will not obey my teaching” (John 14:24). This summarizes how Jesus shows himself to people. The one who follows Jesus is the one who obeys his teaching. The phrase “obey my teaching” could be translated more clearly. A better way to say it would be, “If anyone loves me, he will guard and keep my word.” Obedience to our Lord’s teaching is certainly an important part of faith. When we understand that we are to hold all of Jesus’ words in the highest regard, it takes on a deeper meaning. Everything that Jesus has told us is the truth. We are to honor his word.
Jesus reveals himself to all people through the Word. Those who believe this Word are the ones who love Jesus. As we follow God’s Word, we want to obey his laws and commandments. However, we realize that we cannot live up to his commandments. We sin every day. That is why we pay attention to all of God’s Word. In the gospel we hear how Jesus has taken our sins and nailed them to the cross. We are forgiven through the cross of Jesus. We show love for him when we understand repentance. The Spirit leads us to see our sin and our need for a Savior. The Spirit leads us to see that Jesus has saved us. Unbelievers do not see Jesus because they do not understand his Word. Their sinful nature rejects the love that Jesus wants to show them.
As we look at the love that Jesus shows us, we can think about the love of a mother for her children. A mother shows her love for her children in many ways. One way is through her words. A mother often tells her children that she loves them and she also speaks of her love when she gives commands and encouragement. This ranges from commands such as “Don’t have any cookies before dinner” all the way to advice about what to look for in a future spouse. Mothers give their children all kinds of information because they love their children. Loving children listen to those words and respect the wisdom of their mother.
At times however, the children carry out unloving actions toward their mother. Maybe they eat too many cookies before dinner and spoil their appetite. Perhaps they don’t listen to advice about a future spouse and end up having many troubles in their marriage. Especially in their teenage years, children seem to have an attitude which rejects all the information that their mothers share with them. As they get older, they realize that their mothers actually did know what they were talking about. How often don’t we have similar reactions to God? At times we think he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. We think that we know better than God.
We fall into the sin of not following God’s Word. We think that we can love Jesus but we also want Jesus to have a blind spot when it comes to our sins. We want him to look the other way as we stumble into sin. We like the message of forgiveness so much that we sometimes turn it into a license for sin. We might think that we can ask for forgiveness later. This makes a mockery of the cross. The cross is intended to give us freedom from sin. We are no longer slaves to our sinful nature. Why should we live in our sins any longer? God knows the sins we do in private as well as the sins we do in front of others. He knows those wicked thoughts of the heart that we don’t want anyone else to know. He knows the times that we have failed to love him.
Thankfully, he loves us and is gracious towards us. He sends us the peace of the gospel. In spite of our times of disobedience, he continues to work in our hearts by sending the Holy Spirit to remind us of the good news of Jesus. He uses the law to sharpen our consciences. He reminds us that we are sinners. This makes us appreciate what Jesus has done. When Satan tries to use the Law of God to make us think that God could never love us, God uses the Gospel to remind us that we have the peace of forgiveness. The full punishment of the Law was placed on Jesus. Our sins are removed.
This is the peace that Jesus leaves with the disciples and us. We are forgiven in spite of all our disobedience. We have a gospel peace that overcomes all of our fears. Jesus tells the disciples that he is going to send them the Holy Spirit after he goes back to the Father. Jesus was pointing ahead to Ascension and Pentecost. He pointed to his ascension when he said, “‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father” (John 14:28). Jesus had to ascend into heaven after he rose from the grave. He tells us earlier in chapter 14 that he has to go to heaven to prepare a place for all believers. The fact that Jesus is in heaven preparing a home for us brings us great comfort. Our heavenly home brings us peace.
Jesus pointed to the day of Pentecost when he said, “the Counselor, 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” (John 14:26). Once Jesus went back to heaven, the Holy Spirit would come and explain things to the disciples. When they received that gift of the Holy Spirit, they finally had the confidence to proclaim Christ crucified because they finally understood what Jesus was talking about. Just like the Holy Spirit taught the disciples the meaning of Jesus’ words, he still teaches us today. The Holy Spirit works through the gospel in the Word and the Sacraments to bring us the peace of faith.
The Holy Spirit continues to work in our hearts and he gives us the peace of faith to overcome our fears. The devil tries to twist our guilt so that we think that there is no way that God could truly love us. He wants us to think that the fires of hell await us and there is absolutely nothing that can be done about it. He wants us to fall into the sin of despair so that we lose our faith and end up in eternal suffering. Think about the picture of injured children crying out for their mother. Even if the injury is just a scraped knee, children feel comforted in the arms of their mother. Or think about a child waking up in the middle of the night from a nightmare. The child cries out for their mother. The mother is able to tell the child that everything is ok and the child falls back asleep.
Because of sin we are like the injured child or the child waking up from a nightmare. The injury is how our sin harms our soul. The nightmare is the eternal suffering that our sins deserve. God comes to us to comfort us. Jesus holds us in his loving arms. He points us to the cross and empty tomb. He reminds us that he sends the Holy Spirit into our hearts to remove our fears. The devil cannot overpower us. Jesus has defeated him. We are completely forgiven.
Jesus reminds us that we can live in peace. He says, “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” (John 14:27). Jesus gives us real and lasting peace. He gives us an eternal peace. This is far different than the peace of this world. Any peace that we experience in this life is fleeting. Because of sin this world is always in turmoil. Even if one war or conflict is settled by a peace agreement, there will soon be more fighting. The peace of Jesus is the forgiveness for every single one of our sins. It is the hope of an eternity with our loving God. Jesus gives us his peace.
We have no reason to be afraid. Jesus has conquered sin and death for us. When the devil tries to drive us to despair over our sins, we can remember that Jesus endured the despair of the cross. He was abandoned by his heavenly Father so that we will never have to be. When our guilty conscience tries to torment us, we can think about how Jesus suffered that torment already on the cross. He took our guilt away. He buried our sin in the ground and we can now live a new life of faith. We no longer need to have fear of punishment. We no longer need to have a fear of hell. We have been set free. We have eternal peace.