–By Elizabeth Ahlman
“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, because you have been with me from the beginning. I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. 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. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. 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” (John 15:26-16:4 ESV).
Jesus speaks these words to His apostles during the discourse on the night before His crucifixion, and just before His arrest. In a lengthy address, He prepares them for the coming changes to, well, everything. He tells them what is to come — His death, His ascension, the Holy Spirit, their rejection, the threats to their lives — precisely so that they will remember in the moment that He had said it, and that He had also promised them all that was necessary to face it. They were put out of the synagogues, hounded and martyred. But they were also His witnesses to the ends of the earth. All this they did by the power of Holy Spirit, Who was the witness to them.
We may not be the apostles. Our call may not be the same as theirs. But we, like them, face a world that is hostile to the Lord we confess and proclaim. We face a world that increasingly wants to shut us out and shut us down. They have no interest in hearing the witness of the holy and righteous God who died for sinners like them. In fact, they’d rather we not call anything sin at all. They wish to “put us out” of all public discourse, and if possible, of society altogether. Our brothers and sisters in Christ who flee war torn areas and Muslim persecution face even worse. They literally face those who think they will serve God by killing these and all Christians. Our brothers and sisters die for this faith.
But for us and all those who face horrendous persecution and even death, Jesus has already sent all that is needed. The Helper has come. He has come to us in our Baptisms and revealed to us the Jesus Who saves. The Helper has come and reminded us that Jesus stands as the victor over the persecutors, the silencers, and the murderers. The Holy Spirit points us through water, Word, bread and wine, to the Lord who stands as the victor over death itself, Who snatches us from the hands of our enemies and out of the jaws of death into resurrected life. The Holy Spirit witnesses to this Lord, and He cannot be persecuted into silence. By His working the Church stands forever. He witnesses to the Lord Who stands forever. And He makes us to stand forever as redeemed, resurrected witnesses of the Lord Who is with us even still today.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus Christ, You are our Salvation; we give You thanks and praise that You have defeated our enemies of the world, sin, death and the devil for us; send us Your Holy Spirit to witness to You so that we may ever remember Your Words of life and truth no matter what we may be facing; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.