Sermon: Because of His Name…
Scripture: Luke 21:5-19
Preacher: Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min.
Location: First Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Date: November 17, 2019
Turn in your Bible to Luke 21:5-19. Jesus has entered Jerusalem for his last week alive and thus far he has been having to defend himself from the leading religious authorities in town. Now he is reflectively speaking with his disciples as they pause to soak in their beautiful surroundings. The ancient historian Josephus wrote roughly 40 to 50 years after Jesus died and describes the setting which will help us better appreciate the scripture story. Josephus reflects upon what the Temple in Jerusalem looked like in its glory. He writes,
The exterior of the building wanted nothing that could astound either mind or eye. For, being covered on all sides by massive plates of Gold, the sun was no sooner up than it radiated so fiery a flash that persons straining to look at it were compelled to avert their eyes, as from the solar rays.
Now listen to the Word of the Lord!
5When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, 6“As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.”
7They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” 8And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them.
9“When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.” 10Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.
12“But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. 13This will give you an opportunity to testify. 14So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; 15for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. 16You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17You will be hated by all because of my name. 18But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.
This Sunday’s text has Jesus talking with his disciples about what to expect when he has gone. Granted, at this point, they are too obtuse to realize Jesus is about to “go away” via a cruel death, and Jesus is trying to give them a heads up. He tells them,
When I’m gone there will be wars and rumors of war.
When I’m gone, family members will turn against one another and stab each other in the back.
When I’m gone, you will be run out of all your social and civic clubs.
When I’m gone, you are going to be expelled from the Temple as well as the synagogues.
When I’m gone, you will be mocked and made fun of because of me.
When I’m gone, you are going to be seen as a threat by the religious officials and civic government and arrested because you know my Name.
When I’m gone, you are going to be hunted down like wild animals, beat, tortured, and killed because of me.
When I’m gone, your friends will throw you under the bus and will leave you high and dry to figure out life’s hardships on your own.
I wonder if our Christ-followership would have more meaning if all Christians had to sign an indemnity clause before they joined a church and professed their faith. Indemnity clauses are signed when one party agrees to hold harmless another party in case there are problems or bad consequences while undergoing an activity or experience. You have signed one of those before, haven’t you?
Years ago, I went on a thrill ride in Orlando called the Skycoaster invented by a church member and friend of mine, Bill Kitchen. Three people are strapped into a harness which is then attached to a cable on your back. You are then hoisted straight up into the air 300 feet high coming to an abrupt stop causing you to rock and sway totally exposed some thirty stories up in the air. If that wasn’t scary enough, one of the three riders has to pull the ripcord which causes the trio to fall over 120 vertical feet reaching terminal velocity before you began to arc out and over the crowds below. Even though he was a motorcycle riding buddy of mine and a member of my church, I still had to sign an indemnity clause releasing him from responsibility if the cable snapped. Indemnity clauses are sober reminders to us to really reflect and think upon what we are about to do and sign up for on the dotted line.
What if Christians had to sign an indemnity clause before we followed Jesus promising not to hold him responsible for any harm, discomfort – mental or physical – or any other liability we may encumber as we follow him?
Now, some may laugh at that thought. I mean, how hard is it to be a Christian in our western culture today? Well, in our culture’s eyes, not very hard at all. Christian discipleship today is marked with rugged utilitarian individualism; who needs the church or a community of people to be close to God when I can do it by myself? People crow, “The church is full of hypocrites!” and I smile and respond, “And we’ve got the room for one more just like you to join us!”
The reality is, Jesus tells his disciples that before the signs of the end appear before the Temple is torn down and wars and rumors of war emerge, disciples will be persecuted. He did not say they would be inconvenienced but they would be persecuted. Why? Because of his name. Twice in a short few verses, Jesus reminds us that the faith we hold onto in his name will bring us in confrontation with authorities and will cause people to hate us. All because of his name. But we protest, “I don’t like confrontation and I want to be liked!”
When we follow in Jesus’ name it means our professed faith in Christ matches our outwardly lived allegiance to him in the world. It means when we say they will know we are Christians by our love that our praises in worship will not turn into snippy, snarky, grousing, backbiting attacks about other church members by the time you reach the parking lot.
When we sign up to follow Christ, we don’t sign up to follow a list of rules; however, there does need to be congruence to what we say we believe and how we live and relate with God and each other. Why? Because we are sharing in his name. Professor Alan Culpepper notes, “Truth is tested and faith is confirmed not in idle speculation but in the crucible of adversity. Those who wish to find a more vibrant religious experience, therefore, should not look for a sign of the future but for signals that it is time to live by Jesus’ call for obedience here and now.”
Perhaps Christians in America need an indemnity clause to sign to remind us of what we are agreeing to get involved with when we say, “I believe in Jesus.” Perhaps the Christian Indemnity Form reads like this and we are being asked to check these boxes in agreement. From the comfort of your seats, see if you can honestly complete this indemnity clause for being a Christ-follower.
Do you agree to be personally responsible for all actions encumbered or enacted by you or someone else if you accept Jesus Christ and Lord and Savior?
Do you acknowledge your new life in Christ will cause you hardship at best and hardship at worst?
Do you acknowledge that by checking the box you hereby relinquish all personal control of your tangible and financial assets?
Do you acknowledge you will be discriminated against because of your fealty to Jesus Christ?
Do you acknowledge that by signing this form you publicly agree that there will be congruence in your life between the faith you profess and the quality of life you lead at home, work, play, or in any social arena, online or otherwise?
By checking this box, do you acknowledge public shame, mockery, imprisonment or possible death may occur because of the faith you proclaim?
Just maybe, beloved, our faith should cost us something as it did Jesus his final week before he died because of the congruence of what he said and lived for the sake of his name. This week, our homework is this: Does the quality of my faith even demand an indemnity clause? Amen.
Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min.
Senior Pastor & Teaching Elder
First Presbyterian Church
401 SE 15th Avenue
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
© 2019 Patrick H. Wrisley. Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, Florida and may not be altered, re-purposed, published or preached without permission. All rights reserved.
R. Alan Culpepper, The Gospel of Luke, The New Interpreters Bible, Vol. IX, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995), 399.
 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 Culpepper, 403