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Easter 7 – John 15:26-16:4

by pastorjuhl ~ May 11th, 2013

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

            It has been said that this Sunday is the saddest of the entire church year. Christ has ascended into heaven, but the Holy Spirit is not yet here. The disciples thought otherwise as Saint Luke writes they worshiped Jesus and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God. Christ is as near to us now as He was then. He prays for His Church as He is seated at the right hand of His Father. In today’s Gospel He promises the Holy Spirit before His departure to the Father. Why should we be sad? The Sun of the Divine Word still appears to us as usual. We are in the midst of two bright lights: the light of Ascension this past Thursday and the light of Pentecost this coming weekend, as the Lord wills. Our faithful Savior does not abandon His children on earth even as He is in heaven.

Jesus proclaims the Truth as long as He was in the world. Now that He has ascended to heaven, He gives the mandate to His disciples to proclaim the Truth. He tells them, you also will bear witness. They are eyewitnesses and, as it were, ear-witnesses to His resurrection. They bear witness that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God Who dies for sins and rises for our justification. His death and resurrection is for the entire world.

What is even more amazing about the mandate is the men to whom the mandate was given. These men are timid and even deceptive. They are sinners. A hateful world was against them, Jesus tells them: If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. These men need courage. They receive courage from the Savior in the Helper Whom Jesus sends from the Father. The Helper, the Holy Spirit, removes all obstacles in proclaiming the Gospel. He ensures success, but not as the world counts success. The world looks at numbers. The Church doesn’t care about numbers. All who hear the Good News are saved. That’s success, no matter if it is a handful in a modest building or an arena full of people.

Jesus calls the Helper the Spirit of Truth. He makes us sure and certain of the Truth that we may not doubt anything concerning our salvation. He makes us fighters for the faith. He brings us the victory. He also guides us to see what is true or not true concerning the Christian faith. The Helper does these things because He bears witness about [Jesus]. The disciples were not left to fend for themselves, and neither are we. The Holy Spirit Himself bears witness in them and in us as well. When we bear witness of Christ in our God-given vocations, we recall our Lord’s words in Matthew chapter ten: it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

The disciples’ witness not only happened in preaching and teaching the Word, but also in their manner of life, even in suffering for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As the disciples suffered, so also we sometimes suffer for the sake of the Gospel. Thanks be to God that we still remain free in our country to witness Jesus Christ to those who know Him not. However, the time may come when that freedom may be taken from us. We may be given to suffer persecution. In fact, Saint Paul says that all those who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. We will not suffer alone, for the Helper is with us as Jesus promises. He brings us comfort in the Word that forgives sins and strengthens faith in Christ to life everlasting.

Consider the fact that a good friend always warns another good friend about bad things that might happen. Jesus does this with His disciples, and with us, in today’s Gospel. When we are prepared for evil times, it is much more bearable when those times come because we have been warned beforehand.

Jesus tells us exactly how persecution will come to witnesses of the 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. Perhaps you have heard of the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in August of 1572 in France. It is thought that the mother of French King Charles the Ninth instigated the massacre four days after the king’s sister Margaret, a Roman Catholic, married the future French King Henry the Third, a Protestant. Many French Protestants, called Huguenots, gathered in Paris for the wedding. Over the next few weeks, spurred on by the attempted assassination of the military and political leader of the Huguenots, anywhere from 5,000 to 30,000 Huguenots were murdered. It was the worst of the 16th century’s religious massacres. Throughout Europe, it printed on Protestant minds the indelible conviction that Catholicism was a bloody and treacherous religion.

What is more, Pope Gregory XIII sent the King of France a Golden Rose, conferred as a token of reverence or affection. The pope also ordered a Te Deum laudamus sung as a special thanksgiving for the slaughter of the Huguenots, a practice that continued on St. Bartholomew’s Day, August 24, for many years. The massacre was interpreted by some as divine retribution against Protestants.

Against this entire travesty, we recall what Jesus says in today’s Gospel: they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. Do not forget these words of Jesus. They bring great comfort. They make you brave, bold, and courageous when those times come…and they will come.

Jesus often speaks of persecution, especially in the Sermon on the Mount. No place else in the Gospels does He speak so clearly on persecution as He does today. When He spoke of persecution before, Jesus was present among His disciples to protect them. He prays in His High Priestly Prayer in John chapter 17: While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. Now, as the Bridegroom is taken from their sight, they need to know what awaits them. We need to know what awaits us.

Joy awaits us. Jesus has promised to provide assistance. The Helper, our Advocate, the Holy Spirit, is coming, and has come to comfort us with the Gospel. He comes to guide us into all Truth in the preaching of the Gospel. He comes to bring to our remembrance our Baptism, where we are united to Christ and washed in the blood of the Lamb of God. He comes to bring us to the altar, where Christ is truly present under bread and wine to feed us with His Body and Blood. The Helper comes to proclaim Christ as conqueror over sin and death. As we sing in the hymn, “Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice”: “In trouble He [the Holy Spirit] will comfort you / And teach you always to be true / And into truth shall guide you.” Believe it for Jesus’ sake.

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

1 Response to Easter 7 – John 15:26-16:4

  1. Charles James

    Thanks for the sermon. Indeed persecution can come from fellow Christians or from those who think that they are more Christian than Christians of a different denomination. It can be experienced within the home when one parent has lost his/her faith and the family is divided and the children , after seeing the division between their parents, give up the practice of their faith. We can allow un-Christ-like behaviour to creep into our lives and negate our witness to the Gospel. Pray for me that I may persevere in living out my faith daily.

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