Afflicted and Oppressed

2nd Sunday After Pentecost.


Rev. David Domanski

6/2/20243 min read

For this Sunday, I really wanted to preach of our Gospel lesson. It’s easy. It shows a case of the Gospel trumping the Law as Jesus makes a case for receiving God’s blessings during the Sabbath rather than following man-made laws and being hypocrites. But sometimes it’s important for us to remember that our salvation in Jesus is not just about being showered by God’s many daily and life-long blessings—it is also about us reflecting the self-sacrificial love of our Savior so that others may share in His love and forgiveness. Our choices and our behaviors on behalf of Jesus may be the most powerful Good News a person will “hear,” and in our Epistle today, Paul makes the case that it is our privilege and joy to serve in Christ’s name.

So let’s give Paul’s powerful words more attention this morning and allow God’s Word to trouble us even as it provides us with peace that passes all understanding. Probably the most alarming thing about our lesson from 2 Corinthians 4:5-12 is that it tells us we are “afflicted” and “oppressed” as followers of Jesus. Maybe it’s difficult for us today to understand the necessity of sharing the Good News of Jesus with others because we don’t really feel afflicted or oppressed as Christians. When was the last time you or I personally suffered for the name of Jesus? It’s tough to come up with an answer to that for me, and I’ll bet it is for you too. Even though we don’t live in an overtly Christian country any longer, we are not at a point in our country’s history when religious persecution of Christians is a norm. We may feel uncomfortable politically identifying ourselves as Christians, but we are still under the protection of authorities in expressing our religious preferences.

But in Paul’s time, in a pagan Roman world, Christians were “the other.” They were people who stood out as a visible minority among the masses, and their love of life, their love of one another, and their love of Jesus made them emanate a note of grace that was unmistakable in a harsh time. They knew they would face affliction and oppression because of Jesus’ name, and they were ready to suffer for it. Paul tells them and us that they were well-prepared to endure such difficulties from their neighbors and even the political authorities as they “carried in their bodies the death of Jesus.” What an interesting way of putting our relationship to our Savior! It is interesting because we don’t often think about the death of Jesus as something we lug around with us—we would rather focus on the life of Jesus that we take with us everywhere we go. But Paul’s got it right here because when we are being persecuted for the sake of the Gospel, it’s not the reward of heaven to come that brings us peace—it's acknowledging that Jesus has saved us from death through His own death that encourages us to sympathize with our persecutors who have NOT YET BEEN SAVED that keeps us going in humility and gives us a sense of purpose in forgiving those who do us wrong.

Carrying the death of Jesus with us reminds us that we are vulnerable, even as Jesus made Himself vulnerable to suffer our deaths. And this vulnerability keeps us humble, reminding us that we are really fragile “jars of clay” who cannot suffer ANY injuries without cracking if not for the grace of Jesus Christ being our strength that holds us together and continues to allow us to carry the precious and life-giving water of the Gospel to a thirsty world.

And as humble (maybe oppressed), fragile vessels who carry the wonderful message of Jesus, we can be sure that any blessings we receive from our Savior, from our Father, or from the Holy Spirit will be put to use through us for the good of our neighbors that others may be welcomed into sharing with us the life of Jesus. It is the life of Jesus that we allow God to bring forth in us as our witness to the sinful world. And this witness of Jesus’ love and mercy toward us is our Gospel light that, as Paul puts it, “shines out of darkness” to give the light of Christ unto all.

Because our Lord was afflicted and oppressed by sinful men, even us, we carry in us His life and the helpful reminder that His death was for us. And because Jesus conquered death we don’t shy away from suffering for His holy name. Every day, we proclaim the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus—allowing God’s light to shine in the darkness. May your light shine this summer wherever you go, near and far, so that the joy of Christ’s salvation may be your strength and hope. Amen.