Last week on the Church Calendar was Pentecost Sunday, and we looked a little at the role of the Holy Spirit, specifically the power of the Holy Spirit, the difference He made in the disciples, and the difference He can make for each of us. We continue that today, on Trinity Sunday, as we look at the concept of the trinity, and what we need to know about it in our daily lives.
This message is based on John 16:12-15. To read it now, click here.
This week is Trinity Sunday, a day that we take a look at the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, look at their relationship and how they fit together to be one entity, three persons in one entity, three forms of one whole.
And how they fit together is a mystery. We know enough from what Jesus said to know that they are all related. Father, Son & Spirit. But the roles of each is sketchy. They are all God. They all come together to form one Godhead. One being.
There are some different ideas floating around as to how they fit together, which one might be sub-servient to the others, which one might be most important. In fact, I think people have been trying to figure that out for two thousand years. The early church struggled with this, in fact the notion of identifying the three heads was one of the criticisms the Jewish people laid on the early church, calling them theists, saying they worship three Gods, and that they don’t just worship the one God of the universe, they have added other Gods as well.
That’s a difficult criticism. We need to be careful how we understand the trinity. It’s difficult to balance this out in our faith. Yet I think it’s something that we need to look at from time to time, just to make sure we’re still on solid ground. And I’m not trying to give you all the answers here either, because I have to admit, I don’t fully understand the relationship. I know that there is one God, creator of heaven and earth. And I know that somehow this one God speaks to us in three different ways. As the Father, as the Son, as and the Holy Spirit.
Let’s take a look at our reading this morning. First of all, lets get a good grip on the context of the reading. John places this passage on the road to the Mount of Olives where they were going to pray. So they had just come from the upper room. Jesus had washed their feet. They were in the upper room, celebrated the Passover there, the last supper. They left the upper room to walk out to the Mount of Olives where Jesus spent time praying, and where He would soon be arrested.
Time was passing quickly. His Time with them was running out. Jesus was trying to get everything in before the end of his ministry. He had so much more to say, but yet, he was aware that the disciples were just not ready to take it all in.
Up to this point, they were struggling to understand what He had been trying to tell them. They were still trying to figure out the parables, trying to figure out how these stories could be applied, how they related to what was happening.
They were often bickering with each other, trying to get a more prominent place in the order of things, they remind me of kids lining up for something. Everybody pushing, trying to get a better spot in line, everybody wants to be first. For twelve grown men, you’d think things would have been different. But we have to remember that these were common men, men of passion, used to living hard lives on fishing boats, on farms, in workshops, even tax offices. They were the blue-collar workers of their day, skilled at what they did, but not educated men. Hard workers, used to the basics, but yet not interested in what the future might hold because I bet they found life difficult enough living for today.
Does that sound familiar? These disciples were like you and me. Jesus was trying to talk to a group of people who could be sitting with us today, and fit right in. He wanted to speak clearly and directly. But how could He expect them to learn all that they needed to know with so little time left? So much information, so much they still needed to know, but I think they were struggling with it. The more He spoke about the future, the more fear and anxiety filled their minds and faces. The more difficulty they had trying to understand.
Did you ever notice how it gets harder to hear when someone is telling you something you do not want to hear? Has the doctor ever come in with test results that are not good, something that you just didn’t want to hear. Did you struggle to understand what he was trying to say. How about when things aren’t going well at work, and a boss tries to tell you about some changes that need to be made, things that you don’t like, things that you don’t want to hear. It’s difficult to stay focused. If it’s news that you don’t really want, it can really cause you to struggle with it.
We tend to be alarmists, too, don’t we? We tend to panic when hear about things we think are bad. We can get easily confused, we just assume it’s bad when we don’t really understand it. I bet the disciples were doing a little of this. To illustrate what I mean by this, let me share a story:
A freshman in high school did a little experiment that proves this. During the science fair, his project was to talk to people to urge them to sign a petition demanding stricter control, or better yet total elimination, of a chemical called “Dihydrogen monoxide”.
So on the surface, these sound like very compelling reasons to control this chemical, and he asked 50 people if they would support a total ban, 43 said yes, while only 1 said no. Six were undecided.
Only one of the fifty knew what the chemical really was, yet 43 wanted a total ban. They were alarmists. They didn’t really understand what it was, they just assumed it must be bad. They thought the worst. By the way, Dihydrogen monoxide – di means two – two hydrogens, mono means one, one oxygen. The chemical symbol is H2O. Water. 43 out of 50 were ready to call for a total ban of water, because they didn’t understand what was being told to them. Hearing all the bad things, they became alarmed, they panicked. They didn’t understand.
When we’re faced with information we don’t really want to hear, negative stuff, that’s how we react, we get fuzzy and confused. I have a feeling that is what Jesus could see in the disciples’ faces as they listened to what he was saying. They certainly didn’t want to hear that He would soon die. They spent the last three years with Him, they loved Him. He was trying to tell them this would be good, the Spirit will come, but they were becoming alarmists, assuming it would be terrible.
Jesus sensed this, and He didn’t push the matter. Instead He gives us what we heard this morning. He told them about the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, who will guide them. And He gives them a little glimpse of that relationship I was talking about in the trinity. The Father, who created all things on heaven and earth, has given all things to Jesus, the Son. The Spirit will come and take what is Jesus’, which is everything, isn’t it. Verse 15 tells us that all that belongs to the father is mine. Verse 16 tells us the Spirit will take this and make it known to you. The Spirit will make all things known to you. We can know and understand scripture because the spirit is with us and makes it known to us. We can know and understand God’s will for our lives because the Spirit is with us and makes it known to us.
We may not fully understand the trinity. But we can know that all that God has for us, has been given to Jesus. And all that Jesus has for us will come to us through the work of the Holy Spirit.
We aren’t that different today then the disciples were then. I already mentioned this as far as backgrounds, education levels perhaps, they were common folk, average Joes, not the best of the best. And we see in our reading that they were struggling to understand what Jesus was trying to tell them. It has occurred to me that perhaps we are similar to them in that we don’t always understand what Jesus is telling us either.
Jesus had so much more to tell them, so much more they needed to understand before it would all make sense, so much they didn’t know. There is a lot that we don’t know, too. A lot that we need to know before it all makes sense to us. We lack understanding. Jesus can provide that understanding. He can teach us, making it known to us through the Holy Spirit that is with us.
When you pray, remember to pray that the Spirit may guide you, pray that the Spirit will lead you in understanding, that he will guide you in truth. Jesus still speaks to us. But we need the Holy Spirit to deliver that message, to help us understand what he is saying.