The Sermon for The Fourth Sunday after Easter, and the Festival of St. George the Martyr, Sunday, April 28th, 2024

The Lessons: Psalm 34; Jeremiah 15:15-21; Luke 12:4-12

The Text: Jeremiah 15:15-21

The Topic:  A Lesson from Jeremiah’s dejection over his rejection


It was the encouragement of the Word that sustained young William Carey during his first months as pioneer missionary in India. Everything seemed to conspire against him. No one was responding to his message. His coworker, John Thomas, was in constant danger of being arrested in Kolkata (Calcutta) due to indebtedness, and he was dragging William down with him. the Carey family was ill-housed and nearly destitute. Two of the four children suffered from severe dysentery. Worst of all, his own wife, Dorothy, was hostile, unhappy, and appeared to be losing her mind.

But this is what he wrote:

If my family were but hearty in the work, I should find a great burden removed, but the carnal discourse of the passage, and the pomp and grandeur of Americans here, have intoxicated their minds, so as to make them unhappy in one of the finest countries of the world, and lonely in the midst of a hundred thousand people. These are burdens and afflictions for me, but I bless God that I faint not, and when my soul can drink her fill at the word of God, I forget all….[1]

– p. 70, Mary Drewery: William Carey: A Biography. Chicago: Moody Press, 1978.

The word of God is the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17) and we could think of it as the sword that St. George used to slay the dragon, but we can also think of the word of God as the means used by God to cause the prophet Jeremiah to return to good standing in his presence.

Today, British Day, we commemorate the Patron Saint of England, St. George, whose festival falls on April 23rd. St. George was a Christian martyr of the third century who died in Lydda, Palestine [now Lod in Israel]. Nothing is known of St. George’s life, but according to tradition he was a Roman soldier who was decapitated during the Emperor Diocletian’s persecution of Christians in A.D. 303. During the Middle Ages, legends about him popularized him as a courageous and selfless warrior-saint. Jacob de Voragine’s Golden Legend (1265-66) tells the story of his rescuing a Libyan king’s daughter from a dragon and then killing the dragon in exchange for a promise by the king’s subjects to be baptized. George’s slaying of the dragon may be a Christian version of the legend of Perseus, who rescued Andromeda from a sea monster near Lydda.[2] What such legends tend to downplay is the actual cost to the martyr himself of victory over Satan. The slain dragon foreshadows the eventual defeat of Satan and his end in the lake of fire and sulfur, the second death. The slain dragon, though, remains a symbol of victory over the Devil and all his evil hosts, and St. George, who slays him, a symbol of the eternal victory of the Lord Jesus Christ and the armies of heaven over all evil.


Since we are commemorating St. George today, our Lessons are taken from the Common of a Martyr in the 2019 ACNA Prayer Book. In these lessons we find instruction and encouragement to be faithful witnesses. A recurring them in them all is the fear of the Lord, which is not a slavish dread of the Lord, but that fear and respect which lead a person to deep repentance from sin and to lead a life of obedience to God.


Whereas the martyr has laid down his life and become obedient to death following the example of the Lord Jesus Christ for the sake of the Gospel, the prophet has followed God’s call to proclaim God’s word to his people, whether they listen or they refuse to listen. Near the end of the seventh century and in the early sixth century B.C., Jeremiah proclaimed God’s words to Judah, calling them back to the worship of the one true God and warning them of the coming destruction of Judah and Jerusalem by Babylon if they did not repent of their idolatry. Did the people of Judah accept the prophet Jeremiah’s message? Just a little earlier in the same chapter of Jeremiah, Jeremiah expresses the depths of his discouragement and distress by wishing that his mother had not given birth to him (Jeremiah 15:10). Though he has not lent money to anyone nor borrowed it from anyone, everyone is cursing him. The reason that they are doing so is probably because they hate and reject his message to them to turn away from their sins. God’s response to this complaint was His promise that he would cause his enemy to come to him asking for help (Jeremiah 15:11). Still nothing would stop the deportation of the people of Judah to a foreign land (Jeremiah 15:12-14).

Our Old Testament Lesson begins with Jeremiah’s petition to God, that since God understands him, he will remember him and care for him by taking vengeance on his persecutors (Jeremiah 15:15). This is most unlike either the prayer of forgiveness of the Roman soldiers prayed by the Lord Jesus Christ when he was being crucified (“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” – Luke 23:34a, KJV), or the prayer prayed by the martyr St. Stephen the Deacon when he was being stoned to death for his righteous testimony (“And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge – Acts 7:60a, KJV). Jeremiah’s personal feelings of despair and discouragement are being revealed here, as well as his conviction that God’s justice required his persecutors to be punished for opposing his preaching of God’s holy words. Jeremiah wants to see God’s divine justice at work on his persecutors. He does not want to be taken away out of this world before he has seen God mete out justice, since he has suffered this persecution for the sake of God and his word (Jeremiah 15:15). He is relying on God’s patience to keep him alive to see God’s recompense of his enemies.

In the verse beginning, “Thy words were found, and I did eat them” (Jeremiah 15:16, KJV), the prophet Jeremiah remembers the joy of being called to be a prophet by the Lord. In fact, this is the only verse in the Book of the prophet Jeremiah that testifies that he found joy in God’s words and in being called to proclaim them and to bear God’s Name (Jeremiah 15:16). But in obeying his call, he had not kept company with mockers (Psalm 1} nor made merry with merrymakers, but had sat alone, because of God’s hand on him and the call to be a prophet. God had filled him with indignation at the sins and rebellion of his countrymen (Jeremiah 15:18). That loneliness in terms of separation from his people to hear and know God’s word was part of Jeremiah’s call, but he allowed it so to overwhelm him that he experienced perpetual pain and an incurable wound (Jeremiah 15:18). He then complains to God that He is like a deceitful brook and as waters that fail.

At this point, God brings correction to Jeremiah, promising him that if he returns to God, God will bring him again to stand before him. This is a promise to restore his prophetic ministry. The prophet must not be so overcome by rejection as to begin to reject God. Jeremiah had to learn to distinguish the preciousness of God’s word from evil thoughts and words. Further, he had to learn not to return to the sinful people of Judah as if seeking their favor, but stand with God, calling the people to return to God (Jeremiah 15:19). Then God would make the prophet “a fortified brazen wall” (Jeremiah 15:20a, ASV). This would mean that even if the people of Judah fought against Jeremiah, they would not prevail, for God would defend him, deliver him, and redeem him from the power of the wicked and the terrible (Jeremiah 15:20-21). He did return to God, and God was faithful to deliver him from his enemies (see, for example, Jeremiah 26 and 38:1-13).

It is helpful for us to witness the honesty of the prophet Jeremiah. Of all the Old Testament prophets, he seems to show the thoughts and feelings that human beings called to this ministry would be likely to reveal. Martyrs died on account of their truthful and honorable testimony to the saving Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Some prophets, like Uriah (Jeremiah 26:20-23), died because they spoke the word of God to people who rejected it, but other prophets endured many hard trials for the sake of speaking God’s word truthfully.

Even today, there are those gifted with prophetic gifts or a prophetic ministry that go down the path that Jeremiah trod for a while, feeling so overwhelmed by the world and the Church’s sin, that they complain against God and speak evil of everyone. Our love for God and for one another, as well as our fear of God, should keep us from turning away from the Lord in this way. Though not all of are called to suffer martyrdom, we must not allow opposition to the Gospel that we share and live out in our lives, to mar our relationship with God or our resolve to conform to his will in all that we think, do, or say.


Whether God calls us to be martyrs like St. George, or prophets like Jeremiah, or missionaries, or evangelists, or pastors, or teachers, or ordinary Christians sharing God’s word with others, using our spiritual gifts and other abilities with God has endowed us, we must lead our lives in the fear, or reverence, of God that expresses itself in wholehearted love for God, love for others, and obedience to the Lord.

[1] p. 263, Robert J. Morgan: Preacher’s Sourcebook of Creative Sermon Illustrations. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007.

[2] Retrieved from

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