The Holy Ministry Preaches Christ in Spite of Persecution
These are the readings for the Fifth Sunday of Pentecost.
God’s Word for This Week
Are you afraid to be on the outreach committee of your congregation? If so, why? Are you afraid of rejection? Today’s lessons and Gospel remind us that―if that’s what we’re afraid of―there’s nothing to fear! That doesn’t mean we won’t be rejected as we proclaim God’s Word. We certainly will. But we’re not the ones being rejected; Jesus is. And he will take care of himself and us! Jesus has called us to proclaim his Word to others and promises to be with us every step of the way. (See Matthew 29:19,20.) So we don’t need to be timid or afraid. We can be fearless in our proclamation. We have the Lord’s backing!
Traditional First Lesson – Jeremiah 20:7-13
What is Jeremiah’s complaint?
Jeremiah complained that he felt compelled to preach the Word of the Lord, even though the people mocked him for doing it.
What comfort did Jeremiah have in his suffering?
He recognized that he had the Lord’s backing and that he could be fearless in his proclamation.
What can we learn about facing persecution for the Word of God from Jeremiah?
Persecution can come from any quarter. For Jeremiah, it came from within the visible church. Pashhur, the chief officer of the temple, heard the message Jeremiah proclaimed and had him beaten and put into stocks. How telling that the first time the Bible calls Jeremiah by the title “prophet” is also the first time he faced bodily persecution! Proclaimers of the pure Word of God will always face persecution from without and within the visible church. But what could Jeremiah do? He could not hold in the Word because it was like a fire in his heart. He did his job and found his courage in the mighty warrior of the Lord and the knowledge that God will prevail. In the face of persecution, Jeremiah found courage, praise, and joy.
Supplemental First Lesson – Jeremiah 19:14–20:6
This lesson gives the preceding context of the First Lesson. Note the courage of Jeremiah, first in speaking the Word of the Lord that landed him in the stocks, and then speaking the subsequent Word of the Lord as soon as he is released from the stocks. To the man who had beaten him, Jeremiah proclaimed a message of doom and death by God’s hand. Pashhur could merely kill the body, so Jeremiah did not fear him, but placed his life in the hands of the God who numbered every hair on his head. In those hands, Jeremiah found the courage to testify in the face of persecution, and even in the midst of it.
Traditional Second Lesson – Romans 5:12-15
What unpopular message does St. Paul preach in verses 12-14?
He proclaims the message that God has about us: We are all held accountable for Adam’s one sin from the time we enter this world, and the punishment for that sin is death.
What is greater than the sin of Adam?
Only the gift of Jesus’ perfect life, innocent death, and powerful resurrection was able to overcome the sin of Adam. In the same way that God held us accountable for Adam’s one sin, so also, he credits Jesus’ perfection to our accounts. (See Romans 5:18,19.)
True or false: the message of God’s free forgiveness is never unpopular.
False. The message of God’s free forgiveness is often ridiculed as being “too easy.” Many people are convinced that God’s forgiveness is only for those who meet certain God-given requirements. Free forgiveness is thought to be foolishness (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:18-25).
Supplemental Second Lesson – Acts 23:1-11
What made Paul such an expert on the subject of persecution?
St. Paul knew persecution well: He knew how to give it, and he knew how to take it. The man who once had been the Church’s worst nightmare had become, by God’s amazing grace, the Church’s great Apostle to the Gentiles. But the self-proclaimed chief of sinners, who once persecuted the Church, then endured a ministry filled with persecutions. The list of dangers and violence that Paul faced is lengthy. By the time we find Paul in this lesson he had faced persecutions many times. Yet, his Savior never forgot him, and his Savior never forgot to remind him of the courage he could have in Christ. He was going to Rome, and he would testify. Not even a martyr’s death would be able to stop the testimony Paul would make for Christ. What the Lord whispered in the dark, Paul shouted from the rooftop. And when he met his martyr’s death, it was only the door to eternity where his Savior acknowledged him before God the Father. Grant us that courage to testify, O Lord!
Gospel – Matthew 10:24-33
Since we are Jesus’ disciples, how should we expect the people of this world to treat us?
We should expect to be mocked like Jeremiah was in the First Lesson and like Jesus was throughout his ministry.
If people reject the truth of God’s Word, are they rejecting us?
No. They are rejecting God, and on the Last Day, God will reject them. In other words, as we fearlessly proclaim God’s Word, we should never take rejection personally. God will act with swift justice on the Day of Judgment.