In today’s gospel, Jesus says something very interesting to the disciples, something I doubt they believed. He said, “It is to your advantage that I go away.” Of course, in its original context, Jesus spoke those words on Maundy Thursday, not long before He would be betrayed and given into the hands of sinful men. In that context it makes perfect sense to us. It’s imperative that Jesus go away, that He be crucified so He can die and rise again to take away the sin of the world. However, if we think of those words again, in a post-Easter mindset, they don’t make as much sense. “It is to your advantage that I go away.” How in the world is it good that Jesus leaves us? Wouldn’t it be better for Him to stay, always to be here, always to do what He did during His earthly ministry? As Jesus says, when He departs, He will send the “Helper,” that is, the Holy Spirit. Jesus is beginning to prepare the disciples—and us—for the important outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Each Person of the Trinity has a function, and the Holy Spirit is coming to do His.
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.
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.