If you have ever learned a foreign language, you know that it takes work. Perhaps you took a foreign language course in high school or college. Perhaps you have tried to learn a foreign language as an adult. You hear the words, your mind tosses them over, you begin to form words. It takes practice, practice and more practice to speak fluently. It does because you have to unscramble the words. They make no sense because you learned to hear, think and talk differently – according to your native language.
That did not happen on Pentecost. The disciples did not have to work hard to learn a foreign language. No. They didn’t. They each spoke a foreign language instantly – just like that – and they did it fluently. They did because the Spirit was poured out on them. He caused them to speak languages they had never learned.
… and the crowd that had gathered was amazed. Each one heard “the wonderful works of God” in their own native language. It was the beginning of taking the gospel to the many peoples and languages of the world. It was and that day 3000 were baptized, giving birth to the New Testament Church.
Our text does not speak of this gift of preaching the gospel in other languages – but it does speak of gifts – gifts that the Spirit gives the Church today. Let’s give attention to our text to see how.
It was Maundy Thursday when Jesus spoke the words of our text. Jesus and the disciples were in the upper room. They were seated around a table. The disciples were expecting Jesus to show himself to the world – to establish a political kingdom. One of them asked when he was going to do that.
…but Jesus was not going to establish a political kingdom. His kingdom would be a spiritual kingdom – one ruled by his word. So Jesus picture two classes of people – those who love Jesus and keep his word and those who don’t.
The thing is, it is not our in our fallen sinful nature to love Jesus and his word. We love and treasure other things and other people as more important. We do when we lean on our own understanding; when we doubt the promises in God’s Word. We do when hearing God’s word takes second place in our lives; when other things seem more important. We do when we don’t want to lose human love; when we do what they say instead of doing what God says. We do when we don’t like what God’s word says about our sin; when we try to excuse our sin as normal. No. It is not in our fallen nature to love Jesus and keep his word.
So, how do you get this love? Love is a fruit of the Spirit. It is because the Spirit must first pour out on you the love of Christ. He pours it out on you through the Word.
In the Word, the Spirit says it was as if you were like a bird trapped in the snare of a fowler. Picture a bird trapped in the snare of a fowler. The snare has him by the leg. He madly flaps his wings to get free. The harder he flaps those wings, the harder the tighter the snare grabs. Try as he might, he can’t free himself. He is caught. He’s dead meat. That was you and me … sinners trapped in the snare of the devil – loving other things and other people as more important than God – and destined for hell.
…but Jesus saw your plight. In love, he came to your rescue. He entered the snare of the devil for you. He took your sin. He let the snare of the trap closing in on him. He suffered hell in place of all sinners and died in the sinners’ stead. Then he broke that snare by rising from the dead. When he did, he sprung you free! You have been freed from the snare of the fowler! You have escaped!
That is love – the love of Jesus that the Spirit pours into your heart. He first poured it out on you in your baptism – springing you free from the devil’s snare, giving you faith in Jesus and, as a fruit of faith, love for Jesus and his Word.
When you love someone you treasure what they say. That is what it means to love Jesus and keep his Word – you treasure his Word, hold it dear, cherish it – you take time out of your busy week to hear it on Sunday morning – you make it a priority to commune at his table – you read his Word at home. In short, it is by the Word that the Spirit pours God’s love into your heart, begetting love for Jesus and his Word. This Word of God’s love is a gift of the Spirit.
Let’s return to the upper room. Jesus spoke these words while still sitting with the disciples around the table. In short order, though, their world would be turned upside down. Jesus would be betrayed by Judas. Betrayed, soldiers would arrest him. Arrested, Jesus would be hauled off to a mock trial and unjustly condemned – all at breakneck speed.
He would and the disciples would be plunged into confusion, grief, fear. All kinds of negative emotions would get the best of them.
In spite of the negative emotions they would go through, Jesus promised to send them the Holy Spirit. The Spirit would remind them of the Word – that Jesus foretold his death and resurrection. He would instruct them in the Word – that what Jesus foretold and then did proves that he is our Savior. By instructing them in and reminding them by the Word, the Spirit would comfort their troubled hearts and give them peace of conscience.
In short, Jesus would send the Spirit to the disciples to teach them in the school of life. The Spirit does the same thing for you. You go through life and your world often gets turned upside down. You or a loved one lands in the hospital; work woes bring you down; bills that pile up give you a knot in your stomach; a divorce confuses your world; death claims the life of someone close. In addition to that, the increase of ungodliness in the world, the censorship of civic righteousness on social media, the in-your-face disrespect in the classroom and on the troubles on the streets. Such things throw you into confusion, give you anxiety, shatter your world.
Yet, here, Jesus directs you to his Word. His Word is where the Spirit is. In the Word, the Spirit gives you the perspective of faith. The Spirit says it was as if you were a baby bird taking refuge in the shadow of your parent’s wings. Picture that. A storm is brewing. Winds begin to howl. Tree leaves are carried away by the strong winds. Your nest sways as the strong winds blow. Sleet begins to pelt the nest. That is how life is for you, the Christian. Your world gets turned upside down. The winds of adversity blow. The pelting sleet of affliction stings. Life feels precarious. If you turn inside all you see are anxieties, distress, confusion.
So the Spirit takes you outside of yourself – he takes you to the Word – to Jesus. There he nestles you – like a baby bird – in the shadow of Jesus’ wings – he nestles you in the wounds of Jesus.
There in the wounds of Jesus, you have peace – peace not as the world gives. The world looks for peace by removing all trouble and affliction. Get rid of infirmity and you will have peace. Get rid of financial worries and you will have peace. Get rid of creeds and there will be peace. Give rid of hostilities and there will be peace. Give rid of anxieties and there will be peace.
That is not the kind of peace of which Jesus speaks. It is the peace of conscience – the peace of knowing that in the wounds of Jesus – you are safe in spite of the howling winds, the pelting sleet. You are safe because you are nestled in the wounds of Jesus. There your sin is put away and your Father is at peace with you. This peace of conscience is a gift of the Spirit.
Let’s return to the upper room one last time. Jesus told his disciples what was going to happen before it did. He did so that they might believe. At the time Jesus spoke these words, the devil had put in motion events to do away with Jesus …but the devil had no power over Jesus. Jesus was headed to do his Father’s will – to the cross – to die in the sinner’s place.
…but death was not the end of Jesus. He left the tomb empty. He returned to his Father. He returned triumphant over sin, death and the devil. His resurrection and ascension are the crowning achievements of his work. They are facts rooted in history.
…but the devil does not rest. He works tirelessly to undermine this certainty of the faith. Today popular culture denies the bodily resurrection of Jesus – some even go so far as to deny that Jesus ever existed – many despise and reject him.
The Spirit spoke of this. He did by saying in the Word: “The stone the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.”
The Spirit pictures some master masons. They go to the stone quarry. They are looking for a stone to be the cornerstone. The search through the pile of stones. They take a good look at each one. As they search the pile, the quarry owner suggests one stone. The master masons take a good look at it. It does not have the appearance they are looking for. It does not meet their standards. It looks too rough-cut – too plain – too ordinary. They reject it. They left it into the stone heap.
Yet the quarry owner knows the rejected stone is the perfect stone. It meets the qualities needed. Jesus is that stone. He is the stone rejected by men but chosen by God. He is the cornerstone upon which the Spirit, like the Master Mason, builds the church.
To be sure, many may deny this, but God’s Word stands. Without it, there is only uncertainty; with it, you have the certainty you need. With you would have been left condemned in your sins; with it, your sins are no longer held against you. “This is most certainly true.” This certainty of faith is a gift of the Spirit.
When you think about Pentecost, what stands out is the gift of speaking the gospel in other languages. Yet these gifts – God’s Word of Jesus’ love, peace of conscience and certainty of the faith are equally the gifts of the Spirit. The catechism sums it up this way: “The Holy Spirit has … enlightened me with his gifts.”
Come now to the Lord’s Table, where the Spirit by means of the Word gives to you and enlightens you with another of his gifts – Jesus’ body and blood under the bread and wine – sealing to you all these other gifts. Amen!