“On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (verses 18-20)
The Twelve are heading out on mission, being sent by Jesus into the towns and villages of Judea with the good news of the Kingdom of God. At the same time, he gives them power and authority to drive out demons and heal diseases. But he also makes it clear the task will not be entirely smooth sailing. Indeed, there will come a time when they will be arrested and put on trial. They will encounter real hostility from local councils and synagogues, from governors and kings, from those who will act like wolves against sheep.
It is clear Jesus is looking beyond his disciples’ immediate mission in Judea into the ongoing mission of the church down the centuries since, a mission that persists still. Yes, opposition will come, but it will be met with the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit working among Christ’s messengers. “The Spirit of your Father (will be) speaking through you,” Jesus says. So, don’t worry. Simply trust.
I think of Martin Luther, the great Reformer, standing trial before the religious authorities of his day because of his own unyielding adherence to the message of the Gospel. Luther had struggled endlessly by his own effort to secure a standing of righteousness before God. It was a losing proposition. But like a beacon of light, he found in the Scriptures a phrase that opened his heart and mind to the riveting wonder of the Gospel. “The righteous will live by faith”(Romans 1:17). He discovered it didn’t depend on him. It wasn’t about his own strength. Instead, righteousness resulted simply from faith in Christ.
With mind and understanding transformed, he critiqued the current perspectives of the church in his age, those that were at odds with the truth he had rediscovered in the Scripture. His “95 Theses,” nailed to the church door in Wittenberg, were written in the hope of liberating the whole church with the good news of the Gospel. But they aroused antagonism. Standing trial, in the heat of opposition, Luther is alleged to have said, “Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me.” Although these exact words are debated (did Luther himself speak them, or were they later added into the historical record as a summary statement?), they accurately capture his position. They follow a longer statement: “My conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one’s conscience is neither safe nor sound.”
His courageous perspective inspires still. It echoes with more than human boldness. Under the glare of the spotlight, Luther was “given what to say” by the Spirit of God. Just as Jesus had promised.
The same Spirit is still at work. Because he is ever-present with Christ’s followers, Jesus’ promise applies when circumstances are dire, and also when they are less so. Wherever resistance to the Gospel is experienced, whatever its intensity, the Spirit himself will also be present, giving words beyond our own abilities – words that meet the circumstance. Those words may seem halting to us, but the Spirit himself is at work. Jesus says so.
So don’t worry. Simply trust. Speak. And allow the Spirit to do his work.
Holy Spirit, thank you for your presence. Fill me. Live in me. Speak through me. May the light of the glory of the Gospel of Christ shine out from me. To Jesus’ glory. Amen.
Reflect: Whether you are currently experiencing opposition or not, where do you need to be bold with the message of the Gospel? Ask the Spirit of God to use you.