Gospel: John 14:23-31 (Pentecost: Series C)
When Jesus announced He would be leaving His disciples in John 13:33, the Disciples had some questions. Peter led the way (13:46), followed by Thomas (14:5), and then Phillip (14:8). Today’s reading is immediately preceded by a fourth questioner. This time it was Judas (not Iscariot). He did not ask where Jesus was going or how they could get there. He did not ask Jesus to show him the Father. Instead, Judas wondered about Jesus’ manner of making Himself known. He wondered why Jesus showed Himself to His people, but not to the world.
This is a great question. Judas asked it before Jesus’ death and resurrection, but we have got the same question today. Why does Jesus reveal Himself to us, but not to the world?
Jesus’ answer, which is the appointed text for Pentecost Sunday, is complex and indirect. Instead of giving a straight answer, Jesus speaks about those who love Him, His relationship with the Father, and His sending of the Spirit. I will say a few things about each of these and then offer some thoughts about how you might preach a Pentecost sermon on this text.
1. Those who love Jesus keep His Word, and the Father loves them. Together, Jesus and the Father will make their home with such people. The idea here is that one who loves Jesus should be ready for company. The Triune God takes up residence in those who love Jesus, which means such a person is no longer alone or in charge. It is worth noting how Jesus says He and His Father will make their home with such a person—not the Spirit. This may seem strange for Pentecost Sunday, but that is probably because we tend to forget the old rule about how the external works of the Trinity are inseparable (opera Trinitatis ad extra indivisa sunt). At the very least, this should keep your Pentecost sermon from leaving out Jesus and the Father (likewise, it should keep every other sermon about Jesus and the Father from leaving out the Spirit!).
2. Jesus’ relationship with the Father is intimate and ordered. As an obedient son, Jesus does the work of His Father. This is nothing new. Throughout the Gospel of John Jesus insists He is doing the work and speaking the words of His Father (7:16; 8:28–29; 15:15; 17:7–8). In this (economic) sense, the Father is greater than the Son (14:28). Jesus submits to the Father’s will and speaks the Father’s words and returns to the Father when His work is complete. The purpose of it all is so the world may know about His love for the Father (verse 31).
3. Jesus promises the Father will send the Spirit to teach the Truth. At this point it is important to recognize who Jesus is speaking to. He is talking to the Disciples—to people He has been teaching for three years. Jesus said many things to them already (verse 25), but there is more they need to know. The Spirit will teach them all things (πάντα) and recall for them everything (πάντα) He already said to them. Notice again the unity between the Spirit and Jesus and the Father with respect to Jesus’ words.
How might you preach a Pentecost sermon on this text? Again, it is a good question, because it would be easy to get lost in the details of Jesus’ roundabout response to Judas. It would also be easy to preach a Pentecost sermon on this text which is really on a different text. If you are going to preach on this text, I would suggest you work with the following types of ideas:
Judas’ question could get things started. Why does Jesus not reveal Himself to the world? Well, He does. He reveals Himself through those who love Him and keep His words. In such people Jesus and the Father take up residence. The Church (properly speaking), therefore, is God’s self-revelation to the world. The faithfulness of the Church is not only good for the Church, but also for the watching world (last week’s reflection on John 17:20-26 addressed this theme too).
Here is where the Spirit comes into the picture. For the Church to be the Church, to be faithful to the Son who was faithful to the Father, the Church needs the Spirit. The Spirit leads them into the Truth (who is Jesus—John 14:6). The Church which does not remember Jesus’ words to and through the Apostles will not reveal Jesus as He has given Himself to be known. Those who “keep” (τηρέω) Jesus’ words (verse 23) do more than memory work. They live by His Word in love and truth.
As you preach, you might imagine yourself doing the work of the Spirit. Remind your hearers what Jesus said to His disciples. Remind them Jesus has taken up residence in them with the Father. Remind them how the ruler of this world has no claim on Jesus (verse 30) or on those in whom Jesus dwells. Proclaim these promises of God, trusting God works through His Word to create love for His Son and an inspired Church which shows the world a loving God.
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching John 14:23-31.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach John 14:23-31.
Lectionary Podcast-Dr. Jeffrey Pulse of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN walks us through John 14:23-31.