Easter6 (Exaudi) - St. John 15:26-16:4 - May 17, 2015

Order of Holy Communion (pg.15)
Hymn #233 Come, Holy Ghost, Creator Blest
Hymn #467 Built on the Rock the Church Doth Stand
Hymn #437 Who Trusts in God, a Strong Abode


Almighty, Everlasting God, make us to have always a devout will toward Thee and to serve Thy Majesty with a pure heart; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.


1)         Jesus tells His disciples that He shall send the Paraclete, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, and that the Paraclete will testify of Jesus. When the Holy Ghost is poured out upon the disciples at Pentecost they will bear witness to Jesus as well, with the aid of the Holy Ghost. Since they had been with Him from the beginning of His ministry they are His chosen ones to preach the Gospel into all the world. Their witness will be more just speaking what they had seen and testifying to what they had witnessed. Their proclamation will be effectual because the Holy Ghost has promised to work through the ministry when and where it pleases God. At Pentecost the Holy Ghost will be outpoured upon the apostles and from that point on they will be always testifying, not of themselves, not of their own experiences, not of their own opinions about Jesus, their testimony will be ever and only about Jesus’ death and resurrection for repentance and the remission of sins. This is the first promise He makes to His disciples in today’s text. Their testimony will not be their own. The message it not theirs. They are simply the messengers and as messengers they are not to worry about how it is received. They are not to worry about headcount. They are those who sow the seed of the Word through the Ministry Christ gives to them. It is the Holy Ghost, working through their preaching, who is present in the ministry, who will create faith in men’s hearts that receives Jesus’ merits and passion for the forgiveness of sins.

2)         And that is exactly what will get them into trouble. Jesus tells also tells them, “They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.” (John 16:2) The world wants nothing to do with the Gospel. Neither does the false church for that matter. By false church I mean anything that looks like church, has the name church, the trappings of church, but is void of Christ or tramples on His teaching. Such was the case in the days of Christ’s earthly ministry already. In John chapter nine Jesus heals a man blind from childhood. When the Jews confront the former blind man’s parents to inquire who healed the man, the parents only confess that he was indeed born blind and they cannot say who restored his sight. His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed that He was Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue. (John 9:22) Already in Jesus’ life the unbelieving Jews were excommunicating anyone who confessed Christ from the synagogue. Rejecting Christ as the Son of God and rejecting Christ’s work of salvation by grace through faith and not works, the Jews because the false church. They had the trappings. They had the building. They had the name ‘church.’ But they did not have Christ and the true doctrine so they were church in name only. And as church in name only they were driven to persecute the Christ and His pure teaching to suppress and destroy it.

3)         Not only will the false church and the world persecute those who confess Christ, things will become so bad that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. Persecution, if left to percolate long enough, easily transforms to violence. We see this in Jesus’ own life. St. Luke paints a picture of this persecution in the Acts of the Apostles. Apostles are imprisoned for their teaching. Stephen is stoned to death. Herod killed James the brother of John with the sword. (Acts 12:2) Paul is threatened several times with death and church history tells us the violent finally caught up with him under the hand of the Emperor Nero. The world and false church hate Jesus and the Gospel so much that they will kill the Apostles in order to silence them. It didn’t stop with the Apostles though. The history of Christ’s church is one of regional state-sponsored persecutions in antiquity. Throughout the Medieval ages, the false church violently suppressed any voice urging reform of doctrine and practice within the Roman church. Though Luther escaped a violent death by Divine providence, other reformers did not. The Reformation was strengthened by the blood of Henry Voss and John van den Esschen in the summer of 1523. Henry of Zutphen was martyred December of the next year. The violent oppression of the Roman church against the reformation ranged wherever it could, finally culminating in the bloody Thirty Years War that ravaged Europe.

4)         There is no golden age of Christianity where in it not under attack. It is always under attack by the world and false church. Jesus’ words are true in every age of the world, even in ours. Once again, the Islamic threat rears its head in our day, threatening the lives of Christians in the Middle East but also in North America. Melanchthon, in the introduction the Augsburg Confession, calls the Mohammedans that most atrocious, hereditary, and ancient enemy of the Christian name and religion.” What was true in 1530 is true in 2015. Leopards don’t change their spots and the Devil does not cease to wage his war on Christ and His church. As the Islamic threat was real and tangible during Luther’s day, so it is in our own. We pray for their conversion to the truth and also that the Lord would shield us from their war upon Christ. So we are entering an era where we may very well be called upon to give our lives for our confession of Christ. If that happens, the Lord will prepare and strengthen His saints just as He did in every other age of the world.

5)         The persecution with which we are most familiar is not yet violent with the sword but it is with the tongue and pen. You know this. We are immersed in a culture which hates Christ. Morality is out the window. What God calls good our world calls evil and what the world calls evil is what God calls good. So cohabiting, divorce, homosexuality and plastic gender identity are good while the estate of marriage is to be despised and degraded to an ancient, and therefore wrong-headed, worn out notion. The world attacks the church on that front while the false church attacks Christ by teaching a different gospel which is really no gospel at all. Droves of people flock to false preachers teaching them a version of Christianity unrecognizable to the Apostles and the fathers of the church. Christ’s Sacraments are despised in exchange for the sacrament of human emotion and decision. The forgiveness of sins is tucked away in the corners of so many churches while a law-based ‘how to please God through holy living’ slowly gums people’s souls to death with more and more demands on the law, the gospel of the forgiveness of those sins being suppressed more and more with each new fad from megachurches trying to maintain their memberships. It is on every side, this persecution. The world hates Christ and wants to tear Him down from His heavenly throne and out of the throne of your heart. The false church, Rome on one side and Protestantism on the other, wants to supplant Christ and His Gospel with your own works and merits and a rampant subjectivism which makes the Christian faith about the Christian and not the Christ. But this is exactly what Jesus said would happen. Why does it happen? Your Lord tells you. These things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. (John 16:3)

6)         Jesus tells His apostles this (and us, for though we are not apostles, we believe their testimony and confess Christ and the doctrine of the Scriptures), for a specific purpose. These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. (John 16:1) Christ desires that none of His baptized fall away from Him, especially on account of the world’s hatred. That is precisely what is at stake here. We hear the word “stumble” and think of a momentary lapse, that we lose our balance for a moment but quickly regain our footing. But the word Jesus chooses in Greek is fraught with more severity than a mere misstep. skandali,zw is His word. You can hear our word ‘scandal’ in there. To scandalize someone is to lead them into sin, or to cause someone to give up their faith. Jesus tells us this so that when we see the violent persecution of the world and false church we do not lose heart, thinking that maybe all this Christianity stuff isn’t worth the trouble. Many are scandalized by persecution because they think that Christianity ought to make their life better, easier, more comfortable. But Jesus never promises His baptized a life of ease, the opposite is what He promises His Christians. But it is His desire that you not be scandalized, that you not fall away on account of persecution from the world and the false church. So He tells you this beforehand, just as He told the women who mourned Him on Good Friday, For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry? (Luke 23:31) Do not despise Christ when persecution comes. He told you it would happen and why.

7)         Your Lord tells you all this so that you look to Him during whatever kind of persecution you endure for His sake. He bore His cross patiently and desires you do the say. He intercedes for you in your trials just as He did for St. Peter on the night in which He was betrayed. He said, Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail. (Luke 22:31-32) So He intercedes on our behalf to God the Father because He does not want you to stumble and be scandalized by what you see. Christ also upholds you and strengthens you with His Word preached and His Word given to you in the Sacraments, since those are His means for forgiving your sins and strengthening your faith. David reminds us in Psalm 73:23, Nevertheless I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand, so that we pray with the Psalmist in 119:116, Uphold me according to Your word, that I may live; And do not let me be ashamed of my hope. Dear saints of God, you must suffer many things at the hands of the world, our culture, the false church. But Christ your Lord suffered far greater persecution in His flesh. As God the Father vindicated Christ by raising Him from the dead on the third day, He will vindicate you, if not this day, then on the Last Day when Christ returns to judge the quick and dead and give the crown of life to all who have remained faithful to His gospel of the forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ.

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