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Sixth Sunday After Easter – John 15:26-16:4

by pastorjuhl ~ May 13th, 2010

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

“I will fight no more forever.” Chief Joseph spoke those words years ago concerning his tribe’s fight against the United States government. You and I resonate with that statement. No one likes to fight. Nevertheless, fight we must. The enemies are sin, death, and the devil. They don’t stop fighting. They press about on every side. There comes a time when you want to scream Chief Joseph’s words. No one listens. No one helps. Everyone is against me. Everyone ignores God’s Word. Everyone goes their own way. I’d rather switch than fight.

Jesus warns you that you will say, “I will fight no more forever”. Before those words leap from your mouth, consider these Words from our Lord’s mouth in today’s Gospel: when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you will also witness, because you have been with me from the beginning. These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. What are these things? They are the Words Jesus has spoken over the previous three weeks. Your sorrow will be turned to joy in a little while. When the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. Ask, and you shall receive, that your joy may be full.

The testimony of Jesus Christ surrounds you like a comfortable blanket. His ascension brings the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Helper from the Father. The Helper does more than fluff your pillows and tucks you into that comfortable blanket. He brings to your remembrance everything Jesus tells you. The problem is you forget everything Jesus says about being His witness to an unbelieving world.

The word for “witness” in the Greek New Testament is synonymous with the word “martyr”. When the Bible speaks of witnesses, they are more than eyewitnesses to an event or a person. They are men and women who will give up their lives for the sake of Jesus Christ. All of the apostles except Saint John died a martyr’s death. Their death witnessed the death of Jesus Christ. The martyrs believed eternal life was more important than life in this temporal realm.

No one seems willing to give up their lives for the sake of Jesus. Others will give up their lives for false gods. Consider the Islamic men who brought about the terrible acts of September 11, 2001. Consider the Buddhist monk who set himself on fire in Saigon to protest the Vietnam War. Religious fervor drives otherwise sane people to do insane things. However, you rarely hear of Christian martyrs around the world who hearken to God rather than men and suffer the consequences.

American Christians lead charmed lives. Now and then, you hear about a Christian willing to die rather than go against God’s Word. For the most part you and I live in relative safety. Are the days coming when Christian congregations must go back to the catacombs? Will sermons condemning public sin be considered hate speech as it is in Canada? Are you willing to give up your life, property, and family for the sake of the Gospel?

You were asked that same question in confirmation. You’ll hear that question asked again next week. It’s a tough question. Leaving everything behind and following God rather than man seems irrational. Nevertheless, it is the life you and I are called to lead as Christians under God’s grace and protection. That’s why the Holy Spirit is called the Helper. He helps you, especially in times of persecution. Saint Paul tells Saint Timothy: all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. Persecution may not be open and blatant, but those who live godly in Jesus will suffer persecution.

The disciples had Jesus with them. Soon they won’t. They need to hear His comfort. So do you. Do not fear. The Helper is with you. He will give you the Words to speak when you must speak out against sin. You may not have the world’s stage, but you will have the attention of people who need to hear the Truth. You may not be thrown to the lions like the Christians in the first four centuries, but you may be thrown out of a house or lose a friend or even suffer family members turning against you. As Blessed Martin Luther teaches us to sing: Though these all be gone/ The victory has been won/ The kingdom ours remaineth.

The witness of Jesus Christ is life everlasting. Jesus appears to more than five hundred people after His resurrection. Twelve of these men will be sent into the world to witness what they saw and heard Jesus say and do. The apostles aren’t sent alone. The Helper goes with them. You’ll hear more about how the Helper comes to them next week.

Though the Holy Spirit does not come to you in as dramatic a way as He did to the apostles, He does come to you. He comes to you in the Word preached and taught in this holy house. He comes through the ear and plants Himself in your life. He comes in water with the Word, washing you clean of sin and making you a new creation. He comes under bread and wine in His true Body and Blood, forgiving your sins and strengthening your faith. He comes in Absolution, speaking pardon of sin from the Father and the Son. He comes to strengthen you for the task ahead.

The task ahead of you is to witness what you have seen and heard in your daily life. A martyr doesn’t go looking for a cross. The cross finds a martyr. Wherever God calls you to serve Him, there will be opportunities to witness the hope that is within you. That opportunity might lead to persecution. It might also lead to someone repenting of unbelief and joining you in trusting God alone for help and strength. Whatever the outcome, the Lord hears your cries for help. He has not hidden His face from you. Wherever the Helper is, there is Jesus. Wherever Jesus is, there your heart rejoices.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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