As we look forward to the seventh and last Sunday of Easter before Pentecost, Jesus is preparing his disciples to be his witnesses to the world. His warnings to His followers are clear: the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. And Peter agrees in his epistle: do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. Probably not what they want to hear – but Jesus’ came to speak the truth, not just what our itching ears want to hear.
But to focus only on His warnings is to leave out the greater part of the truth. Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit will come to be our guide, our strength, and the words in our mouths. God Himself will give us the strength to withstand any trial. As He says in Ezekiel, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. It is not about what we can do after Jesus has left us; it is about what God can do through us, when He puts His Spirit in our hearts. Jesus leaves the disciples, and us, with the great commission – to bring the light of the gospel to those living in darkness. To bear witness to Jesus, we need Him with us, which is why He promises
Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Matthew 28:20b
The Old Testament lesson is from the book of Ezekiel, chapter 36, verses 22-28:
“Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.
The Epistle lesson is from 1 Peter, chapter 4, verses 7-14:
The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
The Gospel for the seventh Sunday of Easter is from John, chapter 15, verse 26 to chapter 16, verse 4:
“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.
Jesus Ascending to Heaven, by John Singleton Copley [Public domain]