This sermon was one I struggled with. I began it, re-wrote the first paragraph about five times, abandoned the whole thing after about a third of a page, and then came back to it when other ideas didn’t pan out any better. Usually, that’s not a good sign, but ultimately, I think this worked well in the end.
40 Days after Easter, Jesus ascends into heaven. That was Thursday. Now we’re waiting. 10 Days later – Next Sunday, the Holy Spirit comes on Pentecost. Jesus promised the gift of the holy Spirit to the disciples.
Almost done with the events Salvation History for the year.
We’ve covered the birth, the life, the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. Now we are only waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit, the comforter: The Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father. Jesus says that he will bear witness of Jesus. And that the disciples will also be his witnesses.
The disciples have seen Jesus minister. They have witnessed the miracles, they have heard the teaching, They have seen the death, burial and resurrection. They will be witnesses of Jesus. But they will not do it alone. Jesus will send the comforter, the Holy Spirit, to be with them, to give them strength and power, and to bless their preaching. That’s the difference between the Holy Apostles huddled for fear, and Peter preaching boldly, as we will hear next week.
It’s not that Jesus is somehow not enough. It’s that we are too weak to do it on our own. As we will hear next week, we can not even begin to believe on our own. We need Jesus to send the Spirit to create faith in out hearts.
And it’s not just because Jesus says there will be suffering for those who follow him. It’s not that we could do it if only it were easier. We couldn’t. We can not desire the things of God on our own. We need Jesus – the author and perfector of our faith, to send His Holy Spirit.
Jesus sacrifice is good enough. That’s something we can never doubt. His sacrifice was enough to forgive the sins of Peter who denied him, Paul who would persecute him.
Jesus even prays for forgiveness for those who crucified him. Imagine that – the blood of Jesus was effective forgiving sins that is could wipe out even the very sin of shedding that blood. That’s how powerful the forgiveness – the blood – of Jesus is. It takes away all of your sin. There is no sin so big that Jesus blood can not cover it.
And the disciples are witnesses not only to the events of Jesus death, but to the power of the blood itself. They themselves have received the forgiveness of sins. They have looked on the risen Lord, heard his word of absolution of forgiveness.
And now, they will be his witnesses. They will be the foundation of the church, with Christ as the chief cornerstone. They will record his words and deeds, they will preach and ordain ministers, they will baptize. They will carry that word of Jesus to Jerusalem, and all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. And, as we heard Jesus say last week: The world has been overcome.
The sufferings we endure are not worthy of being compared to the joy are given in Christ, the glory that will be revealed when he returns. That is why the apostles were able to take the Gospel to the ends of earth, fearlessly going to their deaths. Satan could take their lives, but he could not harm their soul. The things of the flesh can kill the flesh. But they have no power to darken our faith, to turn us from Jesus.
Satan would like nothing more than to do that very thing. And whether he does it with trials and temptations or with comforts of this world, or with pride in our accomplishments, or with distractions that keep us from hearing the Holy Word of Christ – it does not matter – Satan will take what he can get. As long as he manages to keep you from your Savior. This is why the witness of the apostles is so important to us. They saw, touched, talked to – not just Jesus, but the risen Jesus.
And when the world comes with it’s temptations, with its judgments against Christ and his flock, we should not be surprised. But neither should we be disheartened. Because Jesus told us that such things would be. The world can not accept Jesus. It’s not that the church needs to change the way it does things. The world can not accept Jesus. Jesus tells us this – those who kill us think that they do a service to God.
The apostles didn’t care. Oh, they were still weak, still needed forgiveness. And they were strong only because of Christ working in them, only because he sent his spirit to dwell in them. Otherwise, we would have seen Peter deny again, Thomas refuse to believe again, hiding day after day and year after year. Instead next week the apostles boldly preach, they speak the Word of God, they bring the Word of God to the world, despite the world’s refusal to believe. It is the task of the apostles, of the preachers, of the church, to spread the seed. We’ll let God worry about the results.
And we’ll continue to come to his Holy house to hear the word. Because that is how we are fed. We will come to receive the sacrament of forgiveness life and salvation. Because that is how we are joined to him each week. These gifts that Christ gives are how he sends his spirit. The Spirit does not work just randomly and who knows whether the spirit it there or not. The spirit works through the means God has promised – through the holy word and the blessed sacraments. Because that is what Jesus gives us.
We have only the power of his word. It’s the only offensive weapon Paul mentions when he talks about the armor of God – the sword of the spirit which is the word of God. Jesus talks about it in the Gospel reading as “you will bear witness”. The Apostles bring that word to the world. And now, through the church, the word continues to be brought. We still have the promise, the witness, the spirit creating faith. We have all those things in the church. Because the church is how God works in the world. She is his bride. He has cleansed her with his own blood, he has grafted you into the church through holy baptism, he has made the church the guardians of his witness, his promise, His Holy Word.
And now, no matter what the world does to us, we rest secure in the promise of life given by Jesus. For the life of Jesus is not a life that ends at death. He has proven that by rising from the grave. And that life is now given to you. So that you would no longer be in your sin, but would be alive in him.