Part of the Christian’s life is always looking ahead. We know that this life isn’t the end, so we are always looking forward to heaven. The Church Year always anticipates what comes next, as Advent prepares us for Christmas, Lent for Easter, and so on. Today Jesus prepares His disciples for their ministry after Jesus returns to sit at the right hand of the Father. He tells what the work of the Holy Spirit is and how He comes for our good.
In times of uncertainty or trial, there is a temptation to unbelief. We heard it in the Old Testament Reading when Isaiah confronts the children of Israel for their little faith, when he asks them why they say, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my just claim is passed over by my God.” In other words, Israel wanted to know why God was ignoring them, why it seemed He had abandoned them and left them to their own devices. And Jesus, knowing that the same temptation will exist for His disciples after His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, begins preparing them for His departure. When those same kinds of questions asked in the Old Testament are repeated by Jesus’ followers, He wants to make sure they have the right answer, that their gaze is redirected from themselves and their present trials to the joy and full consolation that is theirs by the Holy Spirit.
It was 3 pm on Friday, and Jesus was dead. This is most certainly true. He had undergone the agony of Roman scourging, mockery, torture, and execution. He did not deserve this death; this cross was placed upon Him. We did it to Him. Our sins did. For us He died. The Romans were especially efficient at these things. Had the scourging not done it, the crucifixion would have. And had the crucifixion not done it, the spear thrust into His side would have. Instead, it merely showed that Jesus was already dead.
Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for Forgiveness has risen from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the death of our Savior has set us free. He has destroyed death by enduring it. He destroyed hell when He descended into it. He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.” (Chrysostom)
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.