The first word of today’s Introit is hear. The word from Psalm 27 is a plea to God to hear our cry for help. Your face, Lord, do I seek; hide not your face from me. Standing in between Jesus’ Ascension this past Thursday and next weekend’s coming of the Holy Spirit, the Helper promised by Jesus in today’s Gospel, the cry for our Lord to hear is a timely cry. To our reckoning, it seems as if we are alone for a while. Yet we are not alone, for Jesus promises to be with us until the end of the age.
The word hear can also be understood as a command from God. He implores us to hear His Son when Jesus is baptized and when Jesus is transfigured. On this last Sunday in Easter, this in-between time between the Ascension and Pentecost, it is good that we are reminded to hear, to hearken to the Lord, for the Collect tells us that He will “send us the Spirit of truth whom You promised from the Father.”
The Spirit of Truth, the Helper sent from the Father, will bear witness about [Jesus]. The word for bear witness in the original language of the New Testament is the same word for one who dies for the sake of the Gospel: martyr. Eleven men leave the upper room to follow Jesus to the Garden of Gethsemane after Jesus instituted His Supper and spoke these words to those men. Of those eleven men, later to include Matthias, church history tells us that ten of the eleven, eleven of the twelve including Matthias, would die a martyr’s death. Only Saint John died a natural death. The rest were killed, martyred, for their confession of faith.
We don’t know if these men knew what they were getting into when Jesus told them they would be put out of the synagogues. Or maybe we do know, for Jesus also told them that whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. Put another way, Jesus warns them that those who martyr them will think that their death is an act of worship to God. Imagine it! An apostle, one sent by Jesus as an eyewitness of the resurrection, killed for preaching the death and resurrection of Jesus, and his death considered a service performed to God for His glory.
Then Jesus has the audacity to tell them that I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. So you leave the room with Jesus that night knowing that you are going to be kicked out of the synagogue for the sake of Christ’s name. You are also told you will more than likely die for the sake of Christ’s name. Your comfort in knowing these things is that the Helper is coming from the Father and that they will do these things because they have not know the Father, nor Me.
As a person with a sinful human nature, there’s not really a lot of comfort here. A bunch of religious people, zealous for the worship of God, will find a way to throw you out of the church and kill you, yet the Helper will be there with you. Where the Helper is, there is Jesus with Him, just as He promised. It would be nice to have some more security and safety from Jesus, but there it is. You’re going to die, but you will have help.
No wonder the first word of the Introit is hear. What Jesus says to His disciples, and to you today, is hard to fathom. You will need help to make it through the difficult days when Satan wants to sift you like wheat. You will need help to deal with those who want you to renounce your confession of Jesus as Lord. Earthly weapons are not going to help you in this battle. All you have is the Word that is near you, even in your heart, and the Helper Who brings that Word to your remembrance.
Remember. There’s another watchword for today. Remember that Jesus told you these things will happen. Unlike the disciples, who had Jesus with them, you haven’t had the privilege of being in the intimate presence of Jesus for three years. However, you have the Helper, the Spirit of truth, Who brings to your remembrance not only our Lord’s promise that you will bear witness of Him, but that you will also receive comfort from the Helper. The Holy Spirit does not help by whispering in your ear what you are to say or do for Jesus’ sake. He’s not a life coach or a trail guide. He is the Helper promised by the Savior Who points you to Jesus as the One Who hears your cry for help and answers your cry with His Gifts of forgiveness and life.
The Helper “calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.” He runs the verbs. The Helper does the hard work of keeping you connected to Jesus. In this connection to Jesus, you have everything you need for sustenance against the devil, the world, and the sinful nature.
“In this Christian Church [the Helper] daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers.” There’s the help you cry for the Lord to hear. You cry for forgiveness. The Lord answers with forgiveness. He puts this forgiveness in your ears. He splashes forgiveness with baptismal water over your head. He feeds you forgiveness in His true Body and true Blood. He brings to mind the reality that you have a good conscience before the Father in heaven because of Christ’s atoning sacrifice on your behalf. Your debt of sin is paid in full because of Jesus’ death for you. Whether you die a natural death like Saint John or a martyr’s death like the other apostles, you live. You live because Jesus lives. Because Jesus lives, you have a future, because the Church has a future.
You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. Believe it for Jesus’ sake.