"When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me, and you will bear witness also, because you have been with Me from the beginning. These things I have spoken to you, that you may be kept from stumbling. They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God. And these things they will do, because they have not known the Father, or Me. But these things I have spoken to you, that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them. And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you."
You Know It Is Coming
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
I hate going to the dentist. I like my dentist, and the staff at the office are very nice people. I just hate the things I know that they will do. I particularly hate it when I know I need drilling and filling and the like - or a tooth pulled. I go to the dentist, because I know I need to, and the end result is good, usually. I just hate to have to go. I am fairly confident that I am not the only one here with that particular affliction.
I only mention it because what our text describes, what Jesus tells the disciples in the text, is very similar, except it has nothing to do with dental care. Jesus is talking about things that are coming in the future for the disciples to prepare them for the things to come. Although these words apply specifically to the disciples of Jesus at that time, they also apply by extension to us. Jesus is also warning us about what the life of the child of God in Christ Jesus is going to be like. Our theme this morning is, "You Know It Is Coming."
Jesus said, "They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God. And these things they will do, because they have not known the Father, or Me." Now these words were spoken specifically to the Disciples and to the early church. Very few of us, if any, have any interest in going to the synagogue. That part of the life of the Christian Church is long gone.
But the words do apply by extension. You have to change the context somewhat, but they still fit. The faithful Christian who stands on the clear confession of Christ and demands sound doctrine and wholesome, faithful practice in the Church will find themselves outcasts quickly enough. Pastors are being fired or forced to resign and accept shabby treatment and bad "separation compensation packages" for simply standing firm in the faith once delivered. They insist on radical ideas like using the Catechism in the instruction of youth, or practicing closed communion, or clinging to the historic liturgy. This circuit has seen several pastors drummed out for being faithful. They were simply no longer welcome in the churches that called them to be pastors.
Laymen and women face the same problem in many places. They ask uncomfortable question when their churches abandon faithful practices or begin teaching false doctrines, and they are shown the door. They are usually not excommunicated, although I know of several cases where that happened - not locally though. Usually, they are simply branded "troublemakers", eased out of positions of authority, and excluded from the social life of the church, and the message becomes clear, "you don't fit in here, find somewhere else to worship." I hear on a fairly regular basis from people who either cannot find a church they can identify as Lutheran by what is being preached and practiced inside no matter how far they drive, or who regularly drive half an hour or more to church just to hear the Word of God. Of course, some of you drive that far, too, so that is not news to your ears. But that qualifies as a modern version of being made outcasts from the synagogue - in a world where most of us have never been inside a synagogue.
And the people who are driving the changes believe they are doing God's work. Pastors who abandon the liturgy and change the message boldly proclaim that those old "fuddy-duddies" and stuck-in-the-muds who cannot adapt and don't want to follow their lead can go anywhere else and find the old-fashioned stuff they want. They are about finding the lost, and drawing in the outsider to win them for Christ. I have been told by those who claim to be in the know how sound doctrine simply cannot work. Leaders in our district and formerly in our synod have made a cottage industry out of drawing a false contrast between holding fast to pure doctrine and reaching out to the lost with the Gospel. They say you are either about doctrinal purity or missions. But, once you discard the truth, I wonder what do you have to offer anyone you reach out to but a lie?
And persecution is on the rise, even in America. The only religion that can be mocked and blasphemed with impunity in our culture today is the Christian faith. It is just what Jesus promised. Standing on the truth is never going to be widely popular, and confessing Christ is just politically incorrect and culturally insensitive. It isn't terribly dangerous to be a faithful Christian in our country today, but it is growing less safe daily. Jesus said it was going to happen. You know it is coming!
Jesus also said that the Helper is coming. "When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me, and you will bear witness also, because you have been with Me from the beginning." Jesus actually told them that the Helper was coming before He told them about the troubles that were to come. He let them know - and let us know - that we were not going to face all the troubles alone. Yes, some unpleasant things were going to happen, and still are, for us. But He has foreseen it, and He has sent us the help we need to get through. The Spirit will bear witness, but so will they, the Disciples, and so will we! They, of course could bear witness because they had been with Jesus. They had seen everything and heard Him and they were the first-hand, eye-witnesses of the marvelous salvation God has planned and worked. We cannot be eye-witnesses because we weren't there. But we can be confessors!
We have received their witness and read it and we also have that Helper, doing for us as He did for them. He prompts us, reminds us, teaches us, and gives power to the Word even when we speak it, so that it does not return without accomplishing that for which God has sent it. While we did not see the events of the Gospel with our own eyes, the eye-witnesses have left us their accounts and the Holy Spirit has guided us into faith and so we can confess the wonder of the Gospel, and not just as bystanders, but as participants in it and recipients of its blessings. I can preach it, and you can bear witness to the truth of it by your lives and your faithfulness. And the Helper will be there to help you live in it and believe it - and He will also make your confession effective, drawing men and women through you to His Word and to the comforts of the Gospel.
Jesus told His disciples about this because He was soon to be leaving them, and leaving the work of the church in their hands, at least outwardly. More than that, however, He knew that the future would come to them as a rude awakening, if they were not prepared. Even today, with clear Scriptures to warn us, people think that because they are Christian, they are supposed to have life easy and sweet. I bump into born-again type Protestants all the time, or so it seems, who have that theology of glory going on in their minds. The woman who says she just claims healing when she comes down with a cold and her sickness goes away.
I am glad for her if it really works that way for her. It doesn't work that way for me, or for most of the people I know. And the Bible makes no promise about that sort of thing whatsoever. There is no promise of glory on this earth, connected with the faith. Jesus promises us just the opposite. He tells us that we will suffer, be persecuted, and that we need to bear the cross daily - at lest if we intend to follow Him. The world will hate us just as it hated Him. But in spite of the promises and warnings, we are always caught just a little off guard at how quick and sharp and painful the troubles of life are for us. The flesh expects to be treated better, as one of God's favorite people, and never settles for the cross, but always reaches for the glory - a glory that we have no promise of seeing in this world.
Jesus said He told them in advance so that they would not stumble. "These things I have spoken to you, that you may be kept from stumbling." By stumbling, Jesus did not mean tripping a little. He meant falling from the faith. He warned us so that the rough and tumble of life in the faith would not scare us away, or convince us that we were not beloved of God. This is precisely what God's people will face. This is how He would have us live, to show forth His glory among men.
So, when life is a pain and you are having troubles that seem to you like the sorts of troubles that God's people should not face, you can say that you knew it was coming! And so is salvation! The cross in your life does not mean that you have fallen out of favor with God. It means that the world sees Christ in you, and is trying to kill Him off again, and deprive you of the salvation that Jesus won. But your salvation is not assured by how you feel, whether you feel good or bad. It is assured by Jesus, by His death and resurrection on your behalf. How life feels does not tell you how you stand with God. The cross - like the crucifix standing over there, tells you. God loves you so much He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life with Him in Glory. God loves you! Your sins are forgiven.
The pains of the persecutions of the world are simply a reminder. They don't earn you anything, but they do remind you that you are connected to Christ who has earned eternal life, forgiveness, and glory for you. The hatred of the world, and the pains, both small and great, that the world around you visits upon you to try to distract you or cause you to doubt God and His love for you are to be expected. Jesus does not want you to be tripped up. If they are small and irritating pains, thank God and remember, He told you in advance that they were coming. If the pains are huge and life-threatening, and it seems that surely God has forgotten you, that feeling is just the lie of the world tempting you - - and you know it is coming!
And so is Jesus.
And so is salvation.
And so is the Helper,
And so is the end.
God will not allow you to suffer more than you are able to bear, but will provide you a way of escape that you may endure! And Jesus warned us right from the start, so you know it is coming.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)
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