In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit
“Do you know how it feels to be lonesome/ When there’s just no one left that really cares? Did you ever try to smile at some people/ And all they ever seem to do is stare? And you remember how it feels to be cold again/ When the happiness of love has gone away? And you never want to go out on the street again/ And you only seem to live from day to day?”
These are the lyrics to a song written by Gram Parsons. The song is secular, but a Christian is able to sympathize with these words because they speak about his condition. There is nothing lonelier, yet also far from lonely, as being a Christian. This condition is magnified in view of Jesus’ ascension to the Father. You would expect the Ascension of our Lord to be a sad occasion, marking the end of His dealing with mankind. Not so. Jesus promises the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to help His disciples, and you, with
COMFORT IN PERSECUTION
I. Jesus warns of persecution.
II. Jesus sends the Comforter to bear witness of Him.
III. Comfort in persecution keeps you from falling away.
There’s not a lot of comfort in Christ’s words from the Holy Gospel. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. When you read the book of Acts, you see that our blessed Lord’s words come true. Jewish and Roman authorities henpeck the apostles wherever they go. Saint Paul has a group of rabble-rousers following him from place to place. Late in Paul’s life, he tells his protégé Timothy, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
The tricky part about persecution is to remain faithful to God when everyone stands against you. The pressure of culture pushes hard. The pressure of breaking family ties also push hard, especially when family members fall away from the Christian faith and capitulate to worldly ways. You very well may have to stand alone, clinging to Christ all the more while others turn their back or perhaps threaten your way of life. No wonder that Christians cave in and go along with the broad way of tolerance. No one wants to stand alone while remaining faithful to God’s holy Word.
You shouldn’t be surprised that Jesus says these things to His disciples as well as to you. He has to say it in order that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. You cannot make the excuse that you didn’t know what you were getting into when you were baptized or confirmed. You will suffer persecution for standing with Jesus. You will know how it feels to be lonesome. You will feel the knives that come out of other people’s eyes when they stare right through you, angry with you for not turning away from Christ and His Word. You will learn what it means to live day to day, just as the song lyrics quoted earlier say.
Learning how to live day to day is not a bad thing. It shows you Whom you trust when other helpers fail and comforts flee. You might believe you are alone, but in Christ you are never alone. He sends the Helper from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father. The Helper will bear witness about Me, Jesus says. You will also bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.
You heard the witness the Helper bears about Christ two weeks ago. The Helper’s witness convicts the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. Jesus says it again today, they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor Me. Those who persecute Christ’s witnesses, even if they do so in the Name of the Triune God, stand with the prince of this world and his lies. Consider God’s Words through the prophet Ezekiel: I will vindicate the holiness of My great Name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.
The Comforter proclaims both judgment as well as vindication. You are vindicated through the innocent suffering and death of Jesus Christ. The devil’s seeming triumph is actually Christ’s glorious triumph for the sin of the world. Children of darkness think they perform the highest service in squelching the Gospel for the sake of a false gospel of the world’s comfort. The world brings no comfort. The world brings death. The world’s vindication is eternal separation from God. Your vindication is in Christ alone. The Helper draws you closer to Christ in the Means of Grace, the preached Word and administered Sacraments. There alone you find shelter from persecution.
Clinging to Christ through the Helper also keeps you from falling away from the true faith. Jesus must warn about persecution to keep you with Him lest you fall into the snare of satisfaction with the world. It is this fear of being mocked and despised because of believing in Jesus Christ as the Victor from sin and death that keeps people from being a devoted Christian. You hear people all the time talk about their “faith.” In what do they put their trust? They might say, “God,” but what god? When you talk about the joy you have in believing, those who cannot stand the scandal of believing in a particular God will hurl their venom at you.
Jesus says it will happen. Believe that you will suffer for the Truth. The time may not be right now, but perhaps soon Christians in our country will have to endure persecution. The Church will become the still small voice crying out in the wilderness that no one wants to hear. Those who hear the Voice of the Shepherd will be saved. Those who hear what they want to hear will be condemned. This is a hard saying that few are able to believe.
Because you believe that Jesus Christ covers you with His blood as the perfect ransom from hell, you are vindicated from persecution. Because you are wet with baptismal water and witness Divine Truth with your mouth and your life, you are vindicated from all harm that will happen. This also is a hard saying that few will believe. Blessed are you as you believe and endure the little while before Christ’s return in judgment. Hearing the Gospel, trusting in your Baptism, and eating and drinking the Lord’s Supper for the forgiveness of sins, you have comfort in persecution. You are no longer lonesome, for the Father sends His Helper to bear witness to Christ. You have joy that no one can take from you. You have Jesus.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit