Who is the Holy Spirit?

Rev. Deacon Allen Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
May 25, 2014, Easter VI – Memorial Sunday

Acts 17:22-31, Psalm 66:8-20, 1 Peter 3:13-22, John 14:15-21

From the Acts of the Apostles:
“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all men by raising him from the dead.”

From the First Letter of St. Peter:
For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.

And from the Gospel of St. John:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you.”

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

A family was sitting in church and the sermon topic was on the Holy Spirit. Their youngest daughter tugged on her mother’s dress. Mom leaned to her side and the little girl whispered: “I know who the Father and the Son are, but what’s the Holy Spearmint?

The little girl was probably not the only one in church that Sunday who was uncertain about the third person of the Trinity. Of course, we’ve all heard the term Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost. We’ve heard the expression, “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” But how many of us truly understand who the Holy Spirit is?

So, who is the Holy Spirit? You might think that I should wait until Pentecost to talk about him, but God’s Holy Spirit is always with us, not just once a year. The Spirit of God is somewhat difficult to describe. The other two persons of the Trinity are much easier to characterize. God the Father created the heavens and the earth from nothing.
He spoke and the waters were parted and dry ground appeared. He hung stars and the moon in the heavens. He breathed life into man and woman. The works of creation enable us to understand God the Father.

We can also more easily understand, God the Son. He was the baby born of a virgin in Bethlehem; He lived and walked among us. He was the Son who obeyed His Father, even unto death on a cross. However, how does the Holy Spirit enter the equation? The famous preacher, Charles Spurgeon once said, the Spirit of God is “so mysterious, so secret his acts are so removed from everything that is of sense and of the body” that we struggle to understand and appreciate the third person of the Trinity. No doubt, the disciples did also.

So, the Holy Spirit is the third person in the Trinity. He is fully God. He is eternal, omniscient, omnipresent, has a will, and can speak. He is alive. He is a person. He is not particularly visible in the Bible because His ministry is to bear witness of Jesus (John 15:26). The truth is that the Holy Spirit is a person the same as the Father and the Son are within the Trinity.

We must remind ourselves of the time and setting of our Gospel reading. Jesus is at the table with His disciples. They are behind closed doors. The city of Jerusalem was preparing to celebrate the festival of the Passover meal. Judas has left the fellowship to arrange for his act of betrayal. Jesus has predicted Peter’s denial and the desertion by the other disciples. How much of His pending doom he specifically knew, remains a mystery to us, but from His recorded words, we can assume that He was expecting to die very soon. So, to prepare the eleven for His imminent death, He tells them about the role of the Holy Spirit. The coming of the Holy Spirit will empower them in a way that Jesus’ physical presence with them never could.

For apart from the help of the Spirit of God, we cannot live the Christian life as God would have us live it. We must know who the Holy Spirit is, what He does, and how He does it.

So, Jesus tells His disciples: “I will pray to the Father, and He will give you another Counselor, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of Truth” (John 14:16).

The Holy Spirit is given two special names by our Lord: “another Counselor” or “Comforter” and “the Spirit of Truth.” The Holy Spirit does not work instead of us, or in spite of us, but in us and through us.

Our English word comfort comes from two Latin words meaning “with strength.” We usually think of “comfort” as soothing someone, consoling him or her; and to some extent this is true. But true comfort strengthens us to face life bravely and keep on going. It does not rob us of responsibility or make it easy for us to give up.

Some translations of the Bible call the Holy Spirit an “Advocate.” An “advocate” is one who represents you at court and stands at your side to plead your case. The gift of the Holy Spirit is a gift from a generous and loving Father, given without conditions, independent of merit. In fact, the Holy Spirit is the source of a whole new relationship with God. And that’s because the Holy Spirit has come to dwell in us.

As the “Spirit of Truth,” the Holy Spirit is related to Jesus, the Truth, and the Word of God, which of itself is the truth (John 14:6; 17:17). The Spirit inspired the Word and also illumines the Word so we may understand it. Since He is the “Spirit of Truth,” the Holy Spirit cannot lie or be associated with lies. He never leads us to do anything contrary to the Word of God, for again God’s Word is truth.

If we want the Holy Spirit to work in our lives, we must seek to glorify Christ; and we must make much of the Word of God. It is a life that is filled with joy, thankfulness, and submission. To be filled with the Spirit is the same as to be controlled by the Word. The Spirit of Truth uses the Word of truth to guide us into the will and the work of God.

The Holy Spirit abides in the believer. He is a gift from the Father in answer to the prayer of the Son. During His earthy ministry, Jesus had guided, guarded, and taught His disciples; but now He was going to leave them and dwell in them, taking the place of their Master. Jesus called the Spirit “another Comforter,” and the Greek word translated “another” means “another of the same kind.” The Spirit of God is not different from the Son of God, for both are God. The Spirit of God had dwelt with the disciples in the person of Jesus Christ. Now He would dwell in them.

Of course, the Spirit of God had been on earth before. He empowered men and women in the Old Testament to accomplish God’s work. However, during the Old Testament Age, the Spirit of God would come on people and then leave them. God’s Spirit departed from King Saul (1 Sam. 16:14; 18:12); and David, when confessing his sin, and he asked that the Spirit not be taken from him (Ps. 51:11). When the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost, He was given to God’s people to remain with them forever. Even though we may grieve the Spirit, He will not leave us.

The way we treat the Holy Spirit is the way we treat the Lord Jesus Christ. The believer’s body is the temple of the Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19-20), so what he or she does with that body affects the indwelling Holy Spirit. The Spirit wrote the Word of God, and the way we treat the Bible is the way we treat the Spirit of God and the Son of God.

The world cannot receive the Spirit because the world lives “by sight” and not by faith. Furthermore, the world does not know Jesus Christ; and you cannot have knowledge of the Spirit apart from the Son. The presence of the Spirit in this world is actually an indictment against the world, for the world rejected Jesus Christ.

And when Jesus says, “I will not leave you desolate,” He means “comfortless” or “orphaned.” We are not alone, abandoned, helpless, and hopeless! Wherever we go, the Spirit is with us, so why should we feel like orphans? There is no need to have a troubled heart when you have the very Spirit of God dwelling within you!

Orphans feel unwanted and unloved, but our Father shares His love with us. “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us” (Rom. 5:5).

It would be very tempting of me to end this sermon on that wonderful promise that God would never leave us desolate. Our lives are marked by many unexpected events that create turmoil and distress. Our world is still plagued by wars, famine, terrorist attacks, death and destruction.

Tomorrow is Memorial Day – a day set aside to remember those who gave their lives for the freedom we as Americans all share. Tomorrow, all across America people of all ages, ethnic backgrounds and faiths will join together to remember the sacrifice that our service men and women have made in wars past and present so that we can enjoy our freedom – those brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice so that you and I could be here today. And we must also remember that Jesus Christ gave His life to guarantee our eternal freedom.

The last time the world saw Jesus was when Joseph and Nicodemus took Him from the cross and buried Him. The next time the world sees Him, He will come in power and great glory to judge lost sinners.

Jesus returned to heaven as the exalted Head of the church (Eph. 1:19-23); then He sent the Spirit at Pentecost so that the members of the body would be joined to their Head in a living union. Believers today, of course, did not see Jesus after His resurrection or in His ascension, but we are united to Him by the indwelling Holy Spirit.

When the sinner trusts Christ, he is born again and the Spirit immediately enters his body and bears witness that he is a child of God. The Spirit is resident and will not depart. But as the believer yields to the Father, loves the Word, prays, and obeys, there is a deeper relationship with the Father, Son, and Spirit. Salvation means we are going to heaven, but submission means that heaven comes to us!

This truth is illustrated in the experiences of Abraham and Lot, recorded in Genesis 18 and 19. When Jesus and the two angels visited Abraham’s tent, they felt right at home. They even enjoyed a meal, and Jesus had a private talk with Abraham. But our Lord did not go to Sodom to visit Lot, because He did not feel at home there. Instead, He sent the two angels.

Our experience with God ought to go deeper and deeper, and it will as we yield to the Spirit of Truth and permit Him to teach us and guide us. If we love God and obey Him, He will manifest His love to us in a deeper way each day.

Jesus had been rejected by His own people, so He could not manifest Himself to them. In fact, it was an act of mercy that He did not manifest Himself to the world, because that would have meant judgment. He has revealed Himself to His church and left the church in the world to be a witness of God’s love. He is patiently waiting, still giving lost sinners opportunity to repent and be saved (2 Peter 3:1-10). One day He will return (Rev. 1:7) and the world will behold Him.

One of the best ways to ease a troubled heart is to bathe it in the love of God. When you feel like an “orphan,” let the Spirit of God reveal God’s love to you in a deeper way. Charles Spurgeon said, “Little faith will take your soul to heaven, but great faith will bring heaven to your soul.” Your heart can become a “heaven on earth” as you commune with the Lord and worship Him.

God the Spirit not only comforts us during the terrors of the night but He keeps pointing us back to the truth about the Son of God. He is our counselor who stands with us during a crises and He is also the one who guides us into the truth. He brings the security of God’s love but also teaches so that we might live as faithful disciples.

So the Holy Spirit is given to all who love Jesus Christ, to empower us for His work, to teach us all things, and to give us a real and lasting peace in the knowledge that Jesus has overcome the world.

How do you receive that gift of the Holy Spirit?
By being one who loves Jesus Christ.

How do you know if you’re someone like that?
By the way you desire to obey His commandments.

Let us pray:

O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever.

Amen. †

Holy Structures

Rev. Deacon Allen Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
May 18, 2014, Easter V

Acts 7:55-60, Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16; 1 Peter 2:2-10, John 14:1-14

From the Acts of the Apostles:
But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God.”

From the First Letter of St. Peter:
For it stands in scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and he who believes in him will not be put to shame.”

And from the Gospel of St. John:
“Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

We all know the expression: “there are two things certain in life: death and taxes.” I suppose the only way to eliminate taxes would be to mount a revolution, but I don’t see that happening. And as far as death is concerned, well we all know that some day and at some hour, we are going to die. And the questions that everyone seems to ask are: What’s next? Where am I going? Is there a heaven? Is there a hell?

For answers to these questions, you only need to look at the Scriptures. In our Gospel reading today, we have the comforting words of Jesus: “Let not your heart be troubled” (John 14:1, 27).

We are not surprised that the Apostles were troubled after Jesus had announced that one of them was a traitor, and then He warned Peter that he was going to deny his Lord three times. Self-confident Peter was certain that he could not only follow his Lord, but even die with Him and for Him. Alas, Peter did not know his own heart, nor do we really know our hearts until they are tested. One thing is certain, our hearts can easily become troubled.
Perhaps the heaviest blow of all was the realization that Jesus was going to die and leave them (John 13:33). Where was He going? Could they go with Him? How could they get where He was going? These were some of the perplexing questions that tumbled around in their minds and hearts and were tossed back and forth in their conversations at the table.

How did Jesus calm their troubled hearts? By giving them six wonderful assurances to lay hold of, assurances that we today may claim and thus enjoy untroubled hearts. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you may claim every single one of these assurances.

1) You are going to heaven 4) We have the Holy Spirit
2) You know the Father 5) We Enjoy the Father’s Love
3) You have the privilege of prayer 6) You have His gift of Peace

Jesus did not rebuke Peter for asking Him where He was going, but His reply was somewhat cryptic. One day Peter would “follow” Jesus to the cross (John 21:18-19), and then he would follow Him to heaven. Tradition tells us that Peter was crucified, though he asked to be crucified head-downward because he did not feel worthy to die as his Master died.

Just as Peter was beginning to feel like a hero, Jesus announced that he himself would soon become a casualty. The message not only shocked Peter, but it also stunned the rest of the disciples. After all, if brave Peter denied the Lord, what hope was there for the rest of them? It was then that Jesus gave His message to calm their troubled hearts.

According to Jesus, heaven is a real place. It is not a product of religious imagination or the result of a psyched-up mentality, looking for “pie in the sky by and by.” Heaven is the place where God dwells and where Jesus sits today at the right hand of the Father. Heaven is described as a kingdom (2 Peter 1:11), and inheritance (1 Peter 1:4), a country (Heb. 11:16), a city (Heb. 11:16), and a home (John 14:2).

A kingdom:“For in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you;” An inheritance: “To obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you;” A country: “But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them”; and a home, with many rooms, “if it were not so, I would have told you.”

Heaven is “My Father’s house,” according to the Son of God. It is “home” for God’s children! The poet Robert Frost said that home is the place that, when you arrive there, they have to take you in.

Jesus Christ is now preparing places for all true believers, and each place will be beautiful. When He was on earth, Jesus was a carpenter (Mark 6:3). Now that He has returned to glory, He is building a church on earth and a home for that church in heaven.

In Peter’s first letter we read that there is only one Saviour, Jesus Christ, and only one spiritual building, the church. Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone of the church (Eph. 2:20), binding the building together. Whether we agree with each other or not, all true Christians belong to each other as stones in God’s building.

Peter gave a full description on Jesus Christ, the stone. He is a living stone because He was raised from the dead in victory. He is the chosen stone of the Father, and He is precious. Peter quoted Isaiah 28:16 and Psalm 118:22 in his description and pointed out that Jesus Christ, though chosen by God, was rejected by men. He was not the kind of Messiah they were expecting, so they stumbled over Him. Jesus referred to this same Scripture when He debated with the Jewish leaders (Matt. 21:42ff). Though rejected by men, Jesus Christ was exalted by God!

The real cause of this Jewish stumbling was their refusal to submit to the Word (1 Peter 2:8). Had they believed and obeyed the Word, they would have received their Messiah and been saved. Of course, people today still stumble over Christ and His cross (1 Cor. 1:18ff). Those who believe on Christ “shall not be confounded [ashamed].”

In His first mention of the church, Jesus compared it to a building: “I will build My church” (Matt. 16:18). Believers are living stones in His building. Each time someone trusts Christ; another stone is quarried out of the pit of sin and cemented by grace into the building. It may look to us that the church on earth is a pile of rubble and ruins, especially in New England, but God sees the total structure as it grows (Eph. 2:19-22). What a privilege we have to be a part of His church, “a habitation of God through the Spirit.”

Peter wrote this first letter to believers living in five different provinces, yet he said that they all belonged to one “spiritual house.” There is a unity of God’s people that transcends all local and individual assemblies and fellowships. We belong to each other because we belong to Christ. This does not mean that doctrinal and denominational differences are wrong, because each local church must be fully persuaded by the Spirit. But it does mean that we must not permit our differences to destroy the spiritual unity we have in Christ. We ought to be mature enough to disagree without in any sense becoming disagreeable.

A contractor was building a house and the construction of the first floor went smoothly. But when they started on the second floor, they had nothing but trouble. None of the materials from the lumberyard would fit properly. Then they discovered the reason: they were working with two different sets of blueprints! Once they got rid of the old set, everything went well and they built a lovely house.

Too often, Christians hinder the building of the church because they are following the wrong plans or different plans. When Solomon built his temple, his workmen followed the plans so carefully that everything fit together on the construction site (1 Kings 6:7). If all of us would follow God’s blueprints given in His Word, we would be able to work together without discord and build His church for His glory.

In the Book of Acts this morning, we heard the very sad story of Stephen who was stoned to death and martyred. You wonder what kind of a world we live in when good and godly men like Stephen can be murdered by religious bigots! But our world has not changed in 2000 years.
We have similar problems in our “enlightened” age today: taking hostages, bombings that kill and maim innocent people, assassinations, and all in the name of politics or religion. The heart of man has not changed, nor can it be changed apart from the grace of God.

What were the results of Stephen’s death? For Stephen, death meant coronation (Rev. 2:10). He saw the glory of God and the Son of God standing to receive him into heaven. Our Lord sat down when He ascended to heaven (Mark 16:19), but He stood up to welcome to glory the first Christian martyr (Luke 12:8).

For Israel, Stephen’s death meant condemnation. This was their third murder: they had permitted John the Baptist to be killed; they had asked for Jesus to be killed; and now they were killing Stephen themselves. When they allowed Herod to kill John, the Jews sinned against God the Father who had sent John (Matt. 21:28-32). When they asked Pilate to crucify Jesus, they sinned against God the Son (Matt. 21:33-46). When they stoned Stephen, Israel sinned against the Holy Spirit who was working in and through the Apostles (Acts 7:51). Jesus said that this sin could never be forgiven (Matt. 12:31-32). Judgment finally came in A.D. 70 when Titus and the Roman armies destroyed Jerusalem and the temple. The Temple, the holy structure of the Jews, was destroyed because of their sin.

For the church in Jerusalem, the death of Stephen meant liberation. They had been witnessing “to the Jew first” ever since Pentecost, but now they would be directed to take the message out of Jerusalem to the Samaritans (Acts 8) and even to the Gentiles (Acts 11:19-26).

Finally, as far as Saul (Acts 7:58) was concerned, the death of Stephen eventually meant salvation. He never forgot the event (Acts 22:17-21), and no doubt Stephen’s message, prayers, and glorious death were used of the Spirit to prepare Saul for his own meeting with the Lord (Acts 9). God never wastes the blood of His saints. Saul would one day see the same glory that Stephen saw and would behold the Son of God and hear Him speak!

When Christians die, they “fall asleep” (John 11:11). The body sleeps and the spirit goes to be with the Lord in heaven (Acts 7:59). When Jesus returns, He will bring with Him the spirits of those who have died (1 Thes. 4:14), their bodies will be raised and glorified, and body and spirit will be united in glory to be “forever with the Lord.” Even though we Christians weep at the death of a loved one (Acts 8:2), we do not sorrow hopelessly; for we know we shall meet again when we die or when the Lord returns.

“And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3).

This is a clear promise of our Lord’s return for His people. Some will go to heaven through the valley of the shadow of death, but those who are alive when Jesus returns will never see death (John 11:25-26). They will be changed to be like Christ and will go to heaven (1 Thes. 4:13-18).

Since heaven is the Father’s house, it must be a place of love and joy. When the Apostle John tried to describe heaven in the Book of Revelations, he almost ran out of symbols and comparisons! (Rev. 21-22) Finally, he listed the things that would not be there: death, sorrow, crying, pain, night, etc. What a wonderful home it will be – and we will enjoy it forever!

The disciple Thomas wanted to know where His Lord was going. The question revealed his keen desire to be with Jesus, and this meant that he had to know where the Master was going and how he himself would get there. The Lord made it clear that He was going to the Father, and that He was the only way to the Father. Heaven is a real place, a loving place, and an exclusive place. Not everybody is going to heaven, but rather only those who have trusted Jesus Christ.

Jesus does not simply teach the way or point the way; He is the way. In fact, “the Way” was one of the early names for the Christian faith (Acts 9:2; 19:9). Our Lord’s statement, “No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” Wipes away any other proposed way to heaven – good works, religious ceremonies, costly gifts, etc. There is only one way, and that way is Jesus Christ.

How would this assurance of going to heaven help to calm the disciples’ troubled hearts? Dr. James M. Gray, a pastor in the Reformed Episcopal Church and hymn writer, put it beautifully in a song (1933) entitled “The Road Leads Home.” It went like this:

O pilgrim, as you journey, Do you ever gladly say,
In spite of heavy weather and the roughness of the way,
That it really does not matter, all the strange and bitter stress,
Heat and cold, and toil and sorrow, Will be healed with blessedness!

O safe and blessed shelter, Heavenly mansions of content!
There are the holy kindred from our hearthstones early rent;
And our precious, loving Savior, who our sins on Calvary bore –
Who would ever mind the journey, with such blessedness in store?

O who would mind the journey, when the road leads home?

The assurance of a heavenly home at the end of life’s road enables us to bear joyfully with the obstacles and battles along the way. It was this assurance that even encouraged our Lord, “who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2). Paul had this truth in mind when he wrote, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18).
We do not have to wait until we enter heaven to get to know the Father. We can know Him today and receive from Him the spiritual resources we need to keep going when the days are difficult. The very Lord of heaven and earth is our Father (Luke 10:21).There is no need for us to have troubled hearts, for He is in control.

Let us pray:

Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know
your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow
his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever.

Amen. †

I Am the Door

Rev. Deacon Allen Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
May 11, 2014, Easter IV

Acts 2:42-47, Psalm 23, 1 Peter 2:19-25, John 10:1-10

From the Acts of the Apostles:
And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

From the First Letter of St. Peter:
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.

And from the Gospel of St. John:
I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

Any of us who travel by airplane can relate to this story: His plane had just landed, and he had a very tight window of time to catch his connecting flight. He jumped out of his seat to grab his carryon from the overhead bin. He hurriedly tried to squeeze by others to get off the plane as quickly as possible, apologizing to others that if he didn’t hurry, he’d miss his connecting flight. The other passengers parted like the waters of the Red Sea and graciously allowed him to get to the front of the plane. The door popped open and he took off through the jet way, spilling into the airport, where the mad dash was on to catch his flight. He was the guy who scrambles by and everyone turning their heads to watch him knows he’s trying to catch his connecting flight. As he neared his gate, he glanced down at his watch and felt a sense of relief, realizing he had just made it in time.

Or, he would have made it in time, except for one thing: arriving at what he thought was the gate of his connecting flight, he looked up at the board and saw that he was at the wrong gate. Sure enough, just as soon as he realized it, he heard over the loudspeaker that there was a gate change, and that his flight was departing from another gate; in fact, a gate on the other side of the airport from where he had just come. At that moment the reality had settled in that he wouldn’t make his connecting flight. It wasn’t because he hadn’t tried. It wasn’t because he didn’t rush as quickly as he could have to make it to his gate. Rather, it was because he was at the wrong gate, and finally, the thing that matters most in catching a connecting flight is making sure you’re at the right gate.
And it just so happens that having the right gate is the thing that matters most for each of us for eternity as well. The gate or door which we’re focusing this morning though is much more than a matter of airplanes and airports, though I suppose this gate does determine one’s final destination – his “arrival” flight, so to speak. There is only one gate or door that is the difference maker for eternity, and Jesus is it.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who come before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them. I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

In the 10th chapter of John, John focuses on the image of sheep, sheepfolds, and shepherds. It is a rural and Eastern image, to be sure; but it is an image that can say a great deal to us today, even in our urban industrialize world. Paul used this image when admonishing the spiritual leaders in the church at Ephesus (Acts 20:28ff). The truths that cluster around the image of the shepherd and the sheep are found throughout the Bible, and they are important to us today.

This particular teaching or sermon grew out of our Lord’s confrontation with the Jewish leaders, following the excommunication of the beggar (John 9). As you might recall, this beggar was blind from birth and Jesus healed him. This beggar stood up to the religious leaders and was cast out. Jesus had briefly spoken to the people about light and darkness, but now He changed the image to that of the shepherd and the sheep. Why did He do that? It was because to the Jewish mind, a “shepherd” was any kind of leader, spiritual or political. People looked on the king and prophets as shepherds. Israel was privileged to be “the flock of the Lord” (Ps. 100:3).

Jesus opened His sermon with a familiar illustration (John10:1-6), one that every listener would understand. The sheepfold was usually an enclosure made of rocks, with an opening for the gate or door. The shepherd or a porter would guard the flock, or flocks, at night by lying across the opening. It was not unusual for several flocks to be sheltered together in the same fold. In the morning, the shepherds would come, call their sheep, and assemble their own flocks. Each sheep recognized his own master’s voice.

The true shepherd comes in through the door, and the porter recognizes him. The thieves and robbers could never enter through the door, so they have to climb over the wall and enter the fold through deception. But even if they did get in, they would never get the sheep to follow them, for the sheep follow only the voice of their own shepherd. The false shepherds can never lead the sheep, so they must steal them away.

The question we should be asking is, “How can I know the voice of God?” Knowing the voice of God, results in finding the Will of God. God wants you to know His will:

Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4).

It is clear that the listeners did not understand what Jesus said or why He said it. The occasion for this lesson was the excommunication of the beggar from the synagogue (John 9:34). The false shepherd did not care for this man; instead, they mistreated him and threw him out. But Jesus, the true Shepherd, came to him and took him in (John 9:35-38).

Quite often, this passage of scripture is used to teach that the sheepfold is heaven, and that those who try to get in by any way other than Christ are destined to fail. While the teaching is true (Acts 4:12), it is not based on this passage. Jesus made it clear that the fold is the nation of Israel (John 10:16). The Gentiles are the “other sheep” not of the fold of Israel.

When Jesus came to the nation of Israel, he came the appointed way, just as the Scriptures promised. Every true shepherd must be called of God and sent by God. If he truly speaks God’s Word, the sheep will “hear his voice” and not be afraid to follow him. The true shepherd will love the sheep and care for them.

Since people did not understand His symbolic language, Jesus followed the illustration with an application (John 10:7-10). Twice He said, “I am the Door.” He is the Door of the sheepfold and makes it possible for the sheep to leave the fold, which is the religion of Judaism, and to enter His flock. The Pharisees threw the beggar out of the synagogue, but Jesus led him out of Judaism and into the flock of God!

Jesus doesn’t mince words. He doesn’t say that other religious leaders are merely misguided or misunderstood; he doesn’t sympathize with them; reasoning that they mean well. When eternity of souls hangs in the balance, Jesus does not care about being politically correct and tolerant of those who hold different views on religion; he called them “thieves” and “robbers,” who came “to steal and kill and destroy.” How could Jesus state it any more clearly? Those who deny Jesus as the Saviour and guide others to do the same are hell-bent on the destruction of souls.

But the Shepherd does not stop with leading the sheep out; He also leads them in. They become a part of the “one flock” which is His church. He is the Door of salvation (John 10:9). Those who trust Him enter into the Lord’s flock and fold, and they have the wonderful privilege of going “in and out” and finding pasture. When you keep in mind that the shepherd actually was the “door” of the fold, this image becomes very real.

As the Door, Jesus delivers sinners from bondage and leads them into freedom. They have salvation! When Jesus was talking about “thieves and robbers,” He was talking about the religious leaders of the day. They were not true shepherds nor did they have the approval of God on their ministry. They did not love the sheep, but instead exploited them and abused them. The beggar was a good example of what the “thieves and robbers” could do.

It is clear in the Gospel record that the religious rulers of Israel were interested only in providing for themselves and protecting themselves. The Pharisees were covetous (Luke 16:14) and even took advantage of the poor widows (Mark 12:40).
They turned God’s temple into a den of thieves (Matt. 21:13), and they plotted to kill Jesus so that Rome would not take away their privileges (John 11:49-53).

The true Shepherd came to save the sheep, but the false shepherds take advantage of the sheep and exploit them. Behind the false shepherd is “the thief” (John 10:10), probably a reference to Satan. The thief wants to steal the sheep from the fold, slaughter them, and destroy them.

Peter stated in his Letter, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls” (John 2:24-25).

He died as the sinner’s Substitute. Jesus did not die as a martyr; He died as a Saviour, a sinless Substitute. It is not Jesus the Example or Teacher who saves us, but Jesus the spotless Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).

In the Old Testament, the sheep died for the shepherd; but at Calvary, the Shepherd died for the sheep (John 10). Every lost sinner is like a sheep gone astray; ignorant, lost, wandering, in danger, away from the place of safety, and unable to help himself. The Shepherd went out to search for the lost sheep (Luke 15:1-7). He died for the sheep!

Now that we have been returned to the fold and are safely in His care, He watches over us lest we stray and get into sin. Just as the elder-bishop oversees the flock of God, the church (1 Peter 5:2), so the Saviour in glory watches over His sheep to protect them and perfect them (Heb. 13:20-21).

Here is the wonderful truth Peter wanted to share: as we live godly lives and submit in times of suffering, we are following Christ’s example and becoming more like Him. We submit and obey, not only for the sake of lost souls and for the Lord’s sake, but also for our own sake that we might grow spiritually and become more like Christ.

When you go through “the Door,” you receive life and you are saved. As you go “in and out,” you enjoy abundant life in the rich pastures of the Lord. His sheep enjoy fullness and freedom. Jesus not only gave His life for us, but He gave His life to us right now!

People who enjoy the abundant life will possess all of these qualities: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, compassion, character, wisdom, honesty, salvation, and a relationship with God. You can get everyone of these things from God, who is the giver of all good things. The Bible says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change…” (James 1:17).

To have life abundantly starts with Jesus’ promise that my eternity is safe because it is in His hands, and has already been bought and paid for with His blood. Then, with the certainty of Jesus, the Door, guarding my heart, my eyes see my life in this world in a different light. Fear and trepidation have been cast aside; they don’t need to follow me or haunt me, for all is well with the Door. Guilt and regret don’t hang around my neck like a noose, for all is well with the Door. Failure and folly don’t disqualify me, for all is well with the Door. Loving and serving are not obligations, but opportunities; for all is well with the Door. I have abundant life, for I have Jesus, the Door.

Let us pray:

O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, now and forever.

Amen. †

Broken Hearts to Burning Hearts

Rev. Deacon Allen Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
May 4, 2014, Easter III

Acts 2:14a, 36-41, Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19; 1 Peter 1:17-23, Luke 24:13-27

From the Acts of the Apostles:
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

From the First Letter of St. Peter:
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere love of the brethren, love one another earnestly from the heart.

And from the Gospel of St. Luke:
And he said to them, “O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

The Emmaus road experience is a well-known story; it is such a gripping story because it is in many ways our own story; when we lose hope and the desire to move on because our dreams have been crushed.

This story highlights the living hope that we have in the Resurrection of Jesus. Paul wrote to his friends in Corinth, “If we have hope in Christ in this life only, we are the most miserable of all men. But now Christ is risen from the dead” (1 Cor. 15:19-20).

But on that first Easter day that living hope was all but snuffed out for the two disciples on their way back home to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35).

Emmaus was a small village eight miles north-west of Jerusalem. The two men walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus were discouraged disciples who had no reason to be discouraged. They had heard the reports of the women that the tomb was empty and that Jesus was alive, but they did not believe them.
They had hoped that Jesus would redeem Israel (Luke 24:21), but their hopes had been shattered. We get the impression that these men were discouraged and disappointed because God did not do what they wanted Him to do. They saw the glory of the kingdom, but they failed to understand the suffering.

Have you ever noticed that some of the saddest words in our language begin with the letter D? For example: disappointment, doubt, disillusionment, defeat, despair and death. All of these are summed up in the words of Cleopas and his companion to the unrecognized stranger on the road to Emmaus.

They had left the demoralized and confused group of disciples with the events of Good Friday fresh in their memories. We can understand their confusion and grief; can’t we?
The Master they had loved and followed had been horribly put to death on a Roman cross. Death by crucifixion was the most shameful of deaths; the victim was made a public spectacle, exposed to the jeers of all that passed by.

Only a week before, on Palm Sunday, the hopes of the disciples had risen to fever pitch when the excited crowds had hailed their Master as the longed-for-deliverer from the tyranny of Roman occupation…but now He lay dead in a sealed tomb!

The hopes were dashed…the dream was over! The followers of Jesus were without a leader and they were falling apart quickly…These two were already on their way home. Peter and his fishing partners had returned to their former life as fishermen.

What else was there left to do? Life goes on…Life must go on…

The reports that Christ’s tomb was empty had only confused the disciples more. Their entire world had come apart. The two downhearted disciples summed up the situation when they said, “we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.”

As the travelers made their weary way to Emmaus, a stranger fell alongside them. It was going to be one of the most wonderful walks in history! We know, of course, that it was the risen Jesus, but somehow they didn’t recognize Him. In fact, Luke tells us “they were kept from recognizing Him.” Maybe they were too preoccupied to look him in the eye. Maybe they didn’t care. What difference did it make who was walking with them…They were grieving a great loss in their lives! And along comes a chatty stranger, who hasn’t a clue about the things that happened in Jerusalem.

Jesus graciously walked with them and listened to their “animated heated conversation” (Luke 24:17). No doubt they were quoting various Old Testament prophecies and trying to remember what Jesus had taught, but they were unable to put it all together and come up with an explanation that made sense. Was He a failure or a success? Why did He have to die? Was there a future for the nation? Would God send someone else?

There was a touch of humor in this passage when Jesus asked these two disciples what had happened in Jerusalem; why were they so unhappy? He had been at the heart of all that had happened in Jerusalem, and now He was asking them to tell Him what occurred! How patient our Lord is with us as He listens to us tell Him what He already knows (Rom. 8:34). But we may come “boldly” to His throne and pour out our hearts to Him, and He will help us (Heb. 4:16).

The longer Cleopas, the disciple talked, the more he indicted himself and his friend for their unbelief. What more evidence could they want? Witnesses had seen the tomb empty. Angels had announced that Jesus was alive. Witnesses had seen Him alive and heard Him speak. The proof was there, but they wouldn’t accept it!

“Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17). This explains why Jesus opened the Word to these two men as the three of them walked to Emmaus. Their real problem was not in their heads but in their hearts. They could have discussed the subject for days and never arrived at a satisfactory answer. What they needed was a fresh understanding of the Word of God, and Jesus gave that understanding to them. He opened the Scriptures and then opened their eyes, and they realized that Jesus was not only alive but right there with them!

What was their basic problem? They did not believe all that the prophets had written about the Messiah. That was the problem with most of the Jews in that day: they saw the Messiah as a conquering Redeemer, but they did not see Him as Suffering Servant. As they read the Old Testament, they saw the glory but not the suffering, the crown but not the cross. The teachers in that day were not unlike some of the Christian preachers today, blind to the total message of the Bible.

If you think about it, that was some Bible conference on the road to Emmaus, and I wish I could have been there! Imagine the greatest Teacher explaining the greatest themes from the greatest Book and bringing the greatest blessings to men’s lives; eyes open to see Him, hearts open to receive the Word, and lips open to tell others what Jesus said to them!

Perhaps Jesus started at the fall of man and the first promise of the Redeemer, and traced that promise through the Scriptures. He may have lingered at the story of Abraham (Genesis 22), which tells of Abraham placing his only son on the altar. Surely He touched on Passover, the Levitical sacrifices, the tabernacle ceremonies, the Day of Atonement, the serpent in the wilderness, the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53, and the prophetic messages of Psalms 22 and 69. The key to understanding the Bible is to see Jesus Christ on every page. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end; and also in between. He did not teach them only doctrine or prophecy; He taught “the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27).

These men had talked to Jesus and listened to Jesus, and when Jesus motioned that He was going to leave them, they asked Jesus to come home with them. They had been won by the Word of God, and they did not even know who the Stranger was. All they knew was that their hearts were “burning” within them, and they wanted the blessing to last.
Jesus opened the Scriptures to them, and then He opened their eyes so that they recognized Him. Now they knew for themselves that Jesus was alive. They had the evidence of the open tomb, the angels, the witnesses, the Scriptures and now their own personal experience with the Lord. The fact that Jesus vanished did not mean that He abandoned them, for He was with them even though they could not see Him; and they would see Him again.

A simple two hour walk turned into a life-transforming experience. Now their hearts were burning with passion to share with everyone what they had seen and experienced. The two men immediately left Emmaus and returned to Jerusalem to tell the believers that they had met Jesus. I am almost certain that the two-hour journey back to Jerusalem took these two men a mere 45 minutes. They were on a Mission! Their hearts were burning! They had some Good News to share! They couldn’t keep it to themselves. Their broken hearts had been transformed into hearts that were on fire for their Lord!

You see, Hope has that powerful effect on us. It transforms ordinary people, like the Emmaus Disciples…like you and me…into passionate witnesses of the risen Lord!

As we journey along life’s road, and as we experience defeat, despair and disappointment in our daily life, let us welcome the stranger that joins us on our journey. May our hearts also be warmed by His presence and may our lives be ignited with passion to share with all, that we have seen the risen Lord!

Let us pray:

Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Amen. †