In the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Through movies and television, the courtroom has become a familiar place. Each side in a case is allowed to present evidence and witnesses. When the lawyer tells the judge who he would like to be his witness, the judge may say something like, “Will the witness please step forward.”
The purpose of having witnesses is so that the court can get to the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The witnesses are called to testify to the truth, to tell the court what they have heard and seen.
I’ve given this illustration because today we hear the story of witnesses coming forth to tell the truth about Jesus. On the church calendar today is listed as The Day of Pentecost. It is ten days after we remembered The Day of our Lord’s Ascension. It is the fifth day from the Day of our Lord’s Resurrection.
Last week I spoke about how Jesus spent those first forty days with his disciples. He was “opening their minds to understand the Scriptures.” Jesus taught them the meaning of his suffering and death by showing them what God had said through the prophets about the promised Savior.
They heard it from Christ’s own lips. It was true, he had to suffer and die in order to fulfill God’s plan of salvation. Yes, Jesus had to sacrifice his own life so that all who believe in him will have eternal life.
In those forty days, Jesus said to his disciples, “You are witnesses of these things.” These men were going to be sent out into the world as witnesses of the truth. Jesus said to them, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Jesus had been preparing the witnesses with the truth, the truth as only he could give the truth. Saint John tells us that, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, … full of grace and truth.” Jesus himself said, “I am the way, The Truth, and the life.”
The truth is that sin is in all of our hearts. The truth is that the punishment for sin is death. The truth is that not one of us can free ourselves from sin and death. The truth is “God sent forth his Son born of a woman, born under the law to redeem those under the law.”
The truth is that Jesus is the One through whom all sins are forgiven and through whom the victory over death has been accomplished. The truth is that we are freed from sin and death by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
The apostles were armed with the truth. They had the witness of the prophets who the Holy Spirit instructed about God’s promise to send a savior. They had seen the fulfillment of God’s promise in the flesh and blood of Jesus. They were ready to be witnesses themselves.
On the day of his ascension, Jesus told his apostles to wait. He would signal them when to come forward as witnesses of the truth. The apostles did as Jesus commanded them to do. “They were all gathered together in one place” waiting to be called as his witnesses.
The day was The Day of Pentecost. It was a Jewish holy day. It was originally instituted by God for the people of Israel to give thanks for the spring harvest, for the first fruits of the season. People were gathered in Jerusalem by the thousands.
Now it was going to be the beginning of a new harvest, a harvest of souls. Jesus was the first fruit of those who would come forth from the grave. Those who would hear and believe the words of the prophets and apostles would be gathered in the heavenly Jerusalem.
Now the Lord Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, calls out, “Will my witnesses please step forward.” On that day, the apostles stepped into the streets of Jerusalem to be Christ’s witnesses, to tell the truth about Jesus of Nazareth, his death and his resurrection.
The Sprit of truth came to the church, this small group of apostles. They were called to be witnesses of the Good News. Angels witnessed to Mary and Joseph about Jesus. Their message was that Jesus “would save his people from their sins.” Now it was the apostles turn. They would proclaimed the words of Jesus, “It is finished.”
The apostles had witnessed the suffering and death of Jesus on a cross. They had seen the shedding of his blood as the sacrifice for their sins. He had died for all those people gathered in Jerusalem.
The apostles had witnessed the sacrifice of the beloved Son of God. Now they were about to tell the Good News that the price for all sins had been paid in full for through the suffering and death of Jesus.
With the power of the Holy Spirit, the apostles boldly witnessed to the people who were gathered in Jerusalem. The truth that came from the Spirit through the apostles was that sin brings death. Saint Paul wrote to the Christians in Ephesus “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.” Eph 2:1
Without God’s gracious gift of his Son, the world is like a field of dry lifeless bones. Without Jesus, the hope of all is lost and we are clean cut off from the kingdom of God. Without the One who became sin for us, there are no rooms in heaven prepared for us.
The truth that came from the Spirit through the apostles was that Jesus brings life. When the apostles testified about Jesus, the Holy Spirit breathed life into those who heard the words. The Holy Spirit gave faith to sinners so that sinners could live.
This is the miracle of Pentecost. Not only did the Son of God take on human flesh and blood to save us, to pay the debt we owed, the Holy Spirit came through the testimony of the apostles to give faith so that all who believe shall be saved.
You and I are gathered together in this room to celebrate what happened on that day of Pentecost years ago. We have come to give thanks for the witnesses who came forth to testify. We have come to praise the Father and the Son for sending the Holy Spirit to give the gift of faith to those thousands in Jerusalem so that they believed and were saved.
We are here to celebrate how God works his miracle of faith in our lives. We are here because Jesus has gathered us together to hear the Good News that his death on a cross saves us from our sins.
You have heard the same message that the apostles told the crowd in Jerusalem and the same Holy Spirit has given you faith. The same Holy Spirit who came that day is here today to strengthen your faith as you continue to hear the story of Jesus Christ.
Without the Holy Spirit, you would be a pile of dry lifeless bones. Your own reason could never lead you to believe that Jesus died for you and that your sins are forgiven. With your own strength, you could never have come to God trusting in his mercy and grace.
The Holy Spirit has come to you and remains with you. The Spirit did not come with a rushing wind or the appearance of tongues of fire on your head. The Holy Spirit was given to you with all the gifts of salvation when water was place on your head.
When the words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” the Spirit was given to you. The power of the Holy Spirit graciously connects you through faith with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Your sins are forgiven and you have new life.
In a courtroom, witnesses who tell the truth have the power to set the innocent free. The witness of the apostles, with the power of the Holy Spirit, was given to set the guilty free.
You and I are the guilt ones, yet in Christ, we are declared innocent and righteous before God. The apostle Paul wrote, “For our sake [God] made [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
By God’s grace you are set free, free to be children of the heavenly Father. You are free from the curse of the Law, free from punishment for your sins, free from death. You have the truth, so you are free from Satan’s power to deceive you. With the power of the Holy Spirit you have the power to resist temptation.
The Holy Spirit testifies to you today through the Word of God. The Spirit tells you about the gracious gifts God has given to you and continues to give to you. Yes, the testimony is in the Word of God, your sins are forgiven, you are free to live your new life. That life will have no end because Christ died and rose for you.
In the name of Jesus our redeemer. Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria