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For this Sunday’s bulletin, click here: october 21, 2012

Note: this Sunday provides a good example of how local custom and usage can lead to variations in the church’s calendar. The day of St. Simon and St. Jude is October 28, but because our Mission Festival ended up being scheduled for that weekend, we anticipated this feast the week before. It’s never possible that everybody in the church be uniformly doing the same thing at the same time always — nor is it necessarily desirable.

 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father,and I too will love him and show myself to him.”

22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”

23 Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

— St. John 14.21-27

If you were to ask what we know about Simon and Jude, two of the Lord’s 12 apostles, the answer would be: not much. They’re usually mentioned at the end of the lists of the apostles, right before Judas Iscariot, and we know next to nothing about these two men.

Simon is called the Zealot in several places, and also Cananean, which is an Aramaic version of a Hebrew word that means, zealous. So one way or another, this is how he was known: Simon the Zealot. This could mean that he belonged to a radical political party called the Zealots. They were extreme Jewish nationalists, who hated the Romans worse than anything and were ready to attack them at times. In the eyes of most people the Zealots verged on being terrorists. Simon could have belonged to that group. Or he could have just been very eager and fired up to follow Jesus. Or he could have been very laid back and easygoing, and the other apostles called him that to rib him about it. We don’t know for sure. All we have for sure with Simon is his name.

With Jude, we have a little more, but not much more. It seems that Judas not Iscariot’s name was shortened slightly over time to avoid confusing him with Judas Iscariot, which no one wanted to do. Jude or Judas or Judah – all those names are basically the same, — was also called Thaddeus, which is a Greek form of his Hebrew name. Scholars debate whether or not the New Testament epistle of Jude was written by him. It certainly could have. The Biblical evidence fits. What’s more intriguing, although not much more certain, is that both Jude and Simon could have been half-brothers or cousins of the Lord Jesus. In Matthew 13:55, the people of Nazareth name Jesus’ brothers as James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas (or Jude). So both Simon and Jude could have been related to Jesus in some way. They may have followed Him and only later, after He rose from the dead, did they realize who their Brother really was. Or the Simon and Jude mentioned as brothers of the Lord might be different than Simon and Jude the apostles. It’s intriguing, and the Biblical evidence could be taken either way. Again, we don’t know a whole lot about Jude beyond that.

You might be wondering what the value for your faith is in knowing who Simon and Jude are, if we know so little about them. Beyond that it’s good to be as exact as possible with Scripture, and some of these details are rather fascinating, there’s maybe not much more than that – and Simon and Jude would be okay with that. They’d rather the attention and the honor went to Christ, and that’s why we remember them today: because of what God did through them.

If Simon and Jude were here today, they’d tell us to pay attention to Jesus and His Word. They’d tell us what we hear in our Gospel for today, in fact. Jesus says, “Whoever has My commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves Me. He who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love Him and show Myself to him.” It’s pretty simple. If you love Jesus, you’ll do what He says. But so many nowadays want to have it otherwise. Lots of people, church bodies too, talk endlessly about love – love for God, love for Jesus, but they do not keep His Word. When church bodies take votes on whether or not to accept what Scripture says on a given social issue, such as homosexuality, or one of their main reasons to exist is to explain away and deny what Jesus told us and what He left us to believe in and do – “oh, baptism is just a symbol, the Lord’s Supper is just bread and wine, He didn’t mean what He said” – if that’s what those who are supposed to be Christians do, then something’s gone badly wrong. That shows that they do not actually love Him, because if they did, they’d love His Word and not teach and live contrary to it.

It’s never a good idea to focus too much on the sins of others, so I ask you this: How do we do at keeping Jesus’ Word? Do we always teach and believe the right things? Are we eager to put His Word into practice in our lives, or is there a disconnect between Sunday morning and the rest of our lives? Does God go with us every day of our lives, everywhere we go, or do we treat Him like He lives in the church building and that’s a good place for Him – out of my way while I live my life? Each of us should shudder at what Jesus’ saying means for us. If we do not keep His Word, we do not love Him – how will we ever see God then? How will we ever be saved?

In reply, Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Jesus’ giving isn’t like the world’s giving. The world gives expecting to be paid back with interest, and it’s more empty promises than needed help. Jesus’ peace isn’t like that. It’s beyond anything the world can touch, because it’s based on the love of the Son of God for sinners and what that love led Him to do. His peace is real because it comes from the forgiveness of real sins and God’s real grace. His peace lasts. It quiets our hearts and enables us to tackle serving God and living out His Word every day. Jesus’ peace connects us to Him. It shows us Him in a way that the world can’t see.

Jude’s ears perk up when he hears Jesus talk about showing himself. He asks, “But, Lord, why do You intend to show Yourself to us and not to the world?” Jude’s question has more than a hint of impatience about it. He wants Jesus to be visibly seen as Lord by everybody, right away, so they’ll know how great He is and their nation can be strong and powerful again. He once again displays the earthly-minded Jewish idea of a Messiah: a political ruler, a war fighter, who’d kick the Romans out and make the nation of Israel great again.

Jude’s impatience – he wanted it all right away, visibly; he wanted God’s kingdom to come right then and there – mirrors our own impatience with life in the church sometimes. We get dissatisfied, frustrated, eager for results or improvement right away, on the hurry up, so we’re tempted to change things. Changing things always seems like a sure-fire way to push things along, especially when God seems to be taking His dear sweet time working through His Word, like He’s promised to. We think, Aha, this will help; this will fix things – so we neglect God’s Word, preaching it, teaching it, studying it for ourselves, teaching it to our children, because we think that if we go chasing after other solutions those other things will work better.

It’s almost like Jesus knew that that’s how we’d be thinking after He left us on earth and ascended into heaven. Why else would He point us back to His Word over and over again, as He does here? To Jude’s question that hints at impatience, Jesus gives a wonderfully patient answer: “If someone loves Me he will keep my Word, and My Father will love him and to him We will come and a lingering with him We will accomplish,” we might say.

When someone loves and trusts Jesus, they naturally will keep His Word – and then God’s kingdom comes to them, God’s royal reign enters your life, and you live under Him in His kingdom forever. The kingdom of God is not a political nation or a piece of real estate in this world. The kingdom of God is within you, when you trust God’s Word and try your best to live by it.

Jesus keeps giving us calm, joyful encouragement to focus the eyes of our hearts on Him and His Word. That’s what’s most important. That’s what works. His Word gives the best results. It ultimately gives us what we’re really longing for, what we want most of all: union with God. To be with God forever, and never have Him leave us. To have God dwell with us and be our God always, and we will be His people. That’s what we all want, isn’t it? That’s why we believe, because we have been promised that we will have life with God forever after we rise from the dead, just as Christ did.

Simon and Jude understood all this far better after Christ rose from the dead, and after Pentecost. They understood how God’s kingdom truly grows and He is glorified. It’s not by big, flashy, outward results, at least not usually; it’s by a lifetime of faithful, joyful confession of His Word and living out that Word every day – believing in His Word and keeping His commands, despite everything the world throws at you: opposition, hatred, sneers and whispers, and even the threat of a martyr’s death. Maybe even an actual martyr’s death. Simon and Jude were killed because of their faith in Christ, just like all the apostles except John, and he died in exile, far away from his home and family.

They all gladly accepted their martyr’s end because they understood it was a natural, logical consequence of speaking up for God, of preaching and teaching His Word, confessing the faith and living according to His Word in a world that hates God and can’t wait to tear down everyone who belongs to Him. They finally saw that love for Jesus and keeping His Word – not wealth, not power, not earthly glory or prestige or honor – was most important. They gave their lives as a testimony to that truth, and because they did, Jesus’ Word of promise to them at last came true: they got to see Jesus in person. He showed Himself to them fully, not holding back any of His glory, when He welcomed them into the mansions of heaven with the words, “Well done, good and faithful servants. You have confessed Me before men; now I confess you as My faithful servants before the Father and the holy angels and all the world. Have rest from your labors.”

They may have done more and endured more than we do, but the Lord may have also given them more for the work He called them to do. He’s called you to serve Him too, and the command of the Lord is the same: be faithful with what you’ve been given. Hold on to what you have until I come. Proclaim My Word in the world. Show people what it means by the way you live.

Will we be faithful as they were? How will we respond to Jesus’ Word? Will we compromise, give up, lean on our oars and coast? Or will we ask the Holy Spirit to keep us strong to the end? Will we call on Him and trust Him to teach us everything, even though the world will hate us when we try and put it into practice? God grant that we live and believe His Word, the Word that gives us His peace, so that one day we may see Him face to face, along with Simon and Jude and all the holy apostles, martyrs, and children of God. Amen.