The Seventh Sunday of Easter - May 29, 2022
[John 15:26 – 15:4] [Jesus said:] “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning. 16:1I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away.2 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. 3 And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. 4 But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.”
Martyr, Bearing Witness
“Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.” In the disciples’ lifetime, this happened – and it has happened ever since. Not just that the worshippers of false-gods – or the rejectors of all gods – would put them to death, but those in the world who bear God’s name would put them out of the synagogues and put them to death in the belief that they were serving God by doing so.
The Jews of those days put the disciples of Jesus to death. In the days of the Reformation, those bearing the name of Christ officially put to death those bearing the name of Christ truly. In the name of God, killing the children of God for their belief in God’s Word.
Indeed, to the end of the age, this promise of Jesus will remain true – In the service of God, falsely, those who believe my Word will be rejected – “Whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.”
First put out of the synagogues, then out of the church. Ostracized even by nations who say “In-God-We-Trust”. (Which God?) “They will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me.” But you are called to be witnesses to the Word of God which does not change. You are witnesses.
In every century, there have been disciples of Jesus who have faced death for their faith in Christ’s name. We call those who have died for Christ “martyrs”. But do you know what that word “martyr” means? “Martyr” doesn’t just mean, “Someone who died for their faith.” Or, “Someone who died for a cause.”
In fact, the word for “martyr” is a Greek word, and it’s used in today’s reading. It doesn’t mean “die”. It means “witness” – “to bear witness”. “But when the Helper comes, Whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, Who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness about Me. And you also will bear witness.”
“He will bear witness” – “You also will bear witness” – That word “to bear witness” is the word from which we get our word “martyr”. Someone who “bears witness” is “a witness”, a martyr. To be a martyr for Jesus is to bear witness about Him.
So, the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus sends in His name, is the Spirit of martyrdom – the Holy Spirit bears witness about Jesus. By the Holy Spirit, you too are “martyrs”, witnesses.
Those faithful Christians who have died for the name of Jesus, they are called “martyrs” because their deaths bear witness to what? Their deaths bear witness that they really believed in the resurrection of the body and in the life everlasting through Jesus.
They believed that Jesus was true God and true Man – that Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried – that, on the third day, Jesus rose from the dead – that they were justified by grace through faith alone in Jesus, and in no other name.
That they would die for this faith was the testimony, the public witness, that they really believed it was true – they could give up this life because they have another. The Apostles laid down their lives for faith in Christ’s Word because they believed that even though they died yet would they live [John 11:25-26].
The Lutheran reformers offered their heads before they would abandon the biblical faith. This was their testimony, their witness, that they believed that by that faith they had what it promised – the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
God’s people of old refused to pray to statues, idols, or any false-gods, even when in meant being thrown into a fiery furnace or a lion’s den. Today, Christians refuse and renounce the false-god of Islam, at the cost of imprisonment and death. This is their public witness that “there is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved” except the name of Jesus Christ alone [Acts 4:12].
Who can give such bold testimony? Who can give such costly testimony? Not just men of valor, but regular dads and moms – and not just adults, but little children. How do they give such testimony at such cost?
Some people are bolder than others, but that is not the reason. The reason is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the one sent to bear witness – “when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you… He will bear witness about Me.” The Holy Spirit is given you in your Baptism. “You also will bear witness.”
Brothers and sisters in Christ, what about your deeds – what about your words – what about your decisions and lifestyle indicates, bears witness, that you believe in the resurrection of the body and the life-everlasting?
How you spend your time and how you spend your tongue gives testimony to what you believe. What is the testimony given by your time and your tongue?
What gives testimony that you believe God is your Father? Is it your constant worry? The beads of sweat on your forehead as you watch the stock market? Or does a confident trust in every circumstance give witness to the faith that God gives house and home, body and soul, food and clothing, and all you need?
What gives testimony that you believe Jesus’ death on the cross has forgiven sins? Is it your constant complaint about your neighbor’s faults? Or is it love covering and overlooking a multitude of faults in your neighbor [1 Peter 4:8] that gives witness that here we believe in the forgiveness of sins?
The world says one thing about gender, sexuality, the marriage bed, male and female, husband and wife, house and home, the raising of children. God’s Word says another. What in your life and words gives witness that your faith is in what God’s Word says?
We confess Jesus as Lord. We confess this fallen world is coming to an end. We confess that our life does not end when this life ends but that our best life begins when eternal life starts. What about our life and decisions and attitude and loves and wants and words gives testimony that we believe this?
In other times, the world demanded the worship of false-gods or adherence to a false-doctrine. In our time, the world demands your conformity, your agreement, and your affirmation of its values. To belong, you have to live as if this life matters most.
The cost of bearing faithful witness to God’s Word – by our life and speech – includes embarrassment and belittlement. But we should not be ashamed. We should remember that, from the beginning, we have always been called to be martyrs – witnesses – and that this has always had a price.
And we should be careful not to be ashamed of our life’s witness to Jesus and the truth of God’s Word – “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” [Mark 8:38]. But, “Everyone who confesses me before men, I also will confess before my Father who is in heaven” [Matthew 10:32]. And, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” [Romans 1:16].
How can we bear such witness? By the Helper, the Holy Spirit, who Himself bears witness. It depends on Him. We bear witness to the Gospel as people who still need the Gospel. We do fall short and sin. The Holy Spirit bears witness that Jesus has died for your sins. You are forgiven. The Holy Spirit is strong and effective in bearing this witness.
Since in our baptism we have been given the Spirit of martyrdom – of bearing witness – let’s be the witnesses we are, both by what we say and do, so that through us others may come to know the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.