St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles + John 15:12-21
Out of love for His Father, Jesus, the Son of God, came down from heaven to accomplish our salvation. Out of His great love for us, for you and for me, He was born of the Virgin Mary, He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified on the cross, died and was buried. Those whom He loved, hated Him. Those whom He came to save, wanted nothing to do with Him. He endured the shame of the world. He was punished for the sins that were not His. He suffered for wrongs that He did not commit. Greater love has no one than this, than for someone to lay down his life for his friends.
That is the greatest love. Truly Jesus, true God and true Man, is love and loves each one of us, laying down His life on the cross, purchasing and winning us from all sin, from death and from the power of the devil, with His holy precious blood, and with His innocent, bitter suffering and death; that we would be His own, living with Him in His kingdom, serving with everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.
Today, the One Holy Christian and Apostolic Church celebrates St. Simon and St. Jude, two of Jesus twelve disciples, whom Jesus sent out to baptize all nations teaching them to obey everything Jesus’ commanded, to forgive the sins of repentant sinners, to feed those who hunger and thirst for righteousness with the very body and blood of Jesus, and to knowing nothing but the cross of Jesus, it is the power of God unto salvation, for everyone who believes.
Jesus was persecuted and killed, so too, Jesus sent His disciples out into the world, and the persecuted and killed them. The twelve disciples are Peter and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus and Jude, also known as Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. These disciples brought Jesus love to the world and they hated them. They preached peace and the world killed them.
St. Simon and St. Jude went out preaching the Good News of Jesus to the ends of the earth, and they were martyred what what they believed and preached. Simon was sawn in two and Jude was brutalized with a battle-axe. Why were they killed? Why were they treated so poorly? The answer is, because of love. As it was with Jesus, so it is with His disciples, so it is with all those who believe and are baptized. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
The world is full of hatred, self-glory, and contempt for those who speak the Truth, especially pastors like St. Simon and St. Jude. The world does not want to be told what is right and what is wrong. The world does not want to be told that they are poor miserable sinners, in need of repentance and forgiveness. The world does not want to be told that there is no other way to enter into heaven than through the Way, the Truth and the Life, who is Jesus Christ.
Jesus said, “These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” Love your enemy and pray for them. Turn the other cheek to the one who hits you. Give your coat to the one who steals from you. Forgive the sins of those who sin against you, as our Father in heaven forgives you.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the world hates you because Jesus loves you and you love Jesus. Sometimes you will be looked at strangely, because you are a Christian. Sometimes you will suffer and you might even die, because of what you believe and teach, especially if you speak the Truth as we do here at Immanuel Lutheran and Trinity Lutheran, these two Churches in the Country. Jesus says, “You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He may give it to you.”
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, you are friends of Jesus. You know the Ten Commandments and you keep them. You know the Lord’s Prayer and you pray it. You believe that Jesus is with you always and you gather here in the Lord’s presence, to receive His gifts of grace, mercy and peace. In your eating and drinking Jesus’ body and blood, you make known the Lord’s death and resurrection until He comes again to judge the quick and the dead. Jesus said: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.”
As pastors and congregations, we remain faithful to the truth of Jesus, because He has and is and will always remain faithful to us. He never leaves us, He never forgets about us. His goodness and mercy are with us now and forever. And on the Last Day, when Jesus comes again to take us to be where He is, we will receive the crown of Life, we will wear the robe of Christ’s righteousness, we will live in the mansions known as heaven.
Today, as we celebrate and give thanks for St. Simon and St. Jude, and all those who have gone before us in the faith, we give thanks that they are an example to us, in life and in death, their love for Jesus and their love for their neighbor. Their faith in the Word of God is an example to us, in life and in death. Not only are we strengthened in our Christian faith and life by their faithfulness to God, we are also encouraged by the faithfulness of Jesus in keeping His promise to them and each one of us. God is faithful, He will do it. Jesus will deliver us from all evil, He will take us from this vale of tears to Himself in haven. Jesus said, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. That is the truth that St. Simon believed. That is the truth that St. Jude believed. That is the truth that we, as those who are loved by Jesus believe. God is faithful, and He will do it. We have nothing to fear as we keep Jesus command of loving God and loving neighbor. In +Jesus name. Amen.