Pastor James Hopkins preached this sermon on the Seventh Sunday of Easter, 5/29/2022. The bulletin is available as a PDF: Easter7 Bulletin
The text for the sermon was the day’s gospel lesson. To read the Bible texts for Exaudi, click here.
As we approach the end of the Easter season, Jesus’ long discourse in John’s Gospel is beginning to make sense. Jesus is preparing His disciples to live in the world after His ascension into heaven.
He will go to the right hand of the Father, but He will not leave them as orphans. He will send them the Holy Spirit.
And as surely as the Holy Spirit will bear witness concerning Jesus, so also will Jesus’ apostles. But this will come at a price.
The cost of proclaiming that Christ is the world’s Redeemer is a high one. They’ll become outcasts when they are put out of the synagogues. At a minimum this is a severe public shaming. They’d be mocked and ridiculed far worse than a certain celebrity in court right now.
But that cannot compare to what would follow. The apostles would become so reprehensible, that folks who don’t even know Jesus or the Father, people who don’t know God, would consider it their God-given duty to murder them. Thus, every apostle but John was executed; and even he was slowly martyred in exile.
Now, before these things take place, Jesus gives the disciples warning. But He is not doing it for the same reasons we do.
We provide warnings so that people can avoid accidents, mishaps, and tragedies. But that doesn’t always work. For example, the weatherman warns about hurricanes, but that won’t stop them from coming; and regardless of the forecast, some folks are just going to hunker down and wait it out.
Likewise, there’s a perfectly good sign at the edge of the Grand Canyon. It warns everyone not to walk past it, lest they fall to their deaths; and every year, sadly, people do.
But Jesus isn’t warning the apostles about these things so that they can avoid them. Jesus is warning them so that they would not be surprised, but prepared. He wants them to remember that this is precisely what He said would happen. That way, they will also remember everything else He said would happen.
Jesus wants them to remember all His promises. He wants them to remember His cross and passion, His life, His death, and His resurrection. He wants them to remember His Ascension, and what it means: that He lives to intercede for them as He draws them to Himself. Jesus wants them to remember that He is alive, and that, come what may, they, too, shall live with Him.
Without that kind of comfort, they would have no hope. Without the Holy Spirit, calling these things to mind, and keeping them in the faith, they will become undone.
But Jesus has sent the Spirit from His Father. He has given the Holy Spirit to them. And so, they are prepared for their trials as ones self-controlled and sober-minded.
They were not careless with their lives. St. Paul, for example, made judicious use of the legal system, using every moment and opportunity he could to proclaim God’s Kingdom.
Regardless of the many and various ways in which they were martyred, they all died as faithful witnesses. They were prepared because they understood that Christ’s death and resurrection had ushered in a new age, and that the end of all things had begun in Him.
This is why Paul’s brother in ministry, St. Peter, writes as he does.
The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. verse 7
Between now and the day Jesus comes back, the end of all things is at hand. That’s something I can warn you about. It’s a reality that becomes particularly important whenever you are reminded, that there are some things I can’t perfectly warn you about:
A faulty door on the subway,
A drunk driver in your lane,
A gunman in your school.
For the sake of your prayers, soberly consider what Jesus has done for you, and what sort of life you ought to live now.
The love to which St. Peter exhorts the church is a love that imitates Jesus. That is the only love which covers any sin, let alone a multitude of sins. We cannot replicate this love, but we can receive it, live in it, and share it.
You can be hospitable in this world without complaint. You can use your gifts faithfully to the glory of God. You can speak and serve and comfort others by the strength that God supplies.
You can listen when people are hurting, and not just wait for your turn to reply. You can pray for your enemies. Jesus is actively listening, and He loves to hear your voice. You can mourn with those who suffer loss, even as you let them see how to mourn as one who has hope.
You don’t have to wait around for ten awkward days, as the disciples did in anticipation of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit who was poured out on them has been poured out on you.
In between now and then and earth and Eden, for the sake of Christ, everything you need has been given to you. So whether it is the things of which I can warn you, or those things of which I cannot fully warn you,
With self-control, sober minds, and full hearts, love one another as ones who are beloved of Christ, in order that in everything God may be glorified through Him. To Him belong glory and dominion forever and ever.