Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Seventh Sunday of Easter

Seventh Sunday of Easter (A)
May 4, 2008
Text: John 17:1-11

He is risen! He is risen, indeed!! Alleluia!!!

Jesus prays that the Father would glorify Him, and that in this way He may glorify the Father (John 17:1). How different is this glory that Jesus prays for than the glory that you and I desire. The glory that Jesus desires on earth, and the glory that He desires to bring His Father, is that which results from Jesus having accomplished the work the Father gave Him to do. And what is that work? It is the work of salvation, Jesus’ suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension. This is totally counterintuitive to us, completely different than anything we might think of as glory, but the true glory of Jesus is His being lifted up on the cross. For in being thus lifted up, Jesus is given the power to give eternal life to all who believe in Him, all who trust His sacrifice as sufficient for their forgiveness and salvation. This is true glory, as far as Jesus is concerned, glory both for Him and for His Father, that He accomplish the will of the Father, and in this way bring salvation to the world.

When we think of glory, we certainly do not think of suffering and the cross. We may think of resurrection, but it never enters our fallen minds that resurrection necessarily implies and includes death and the cross. When we think of glory, we think of natural wonders, spacious skies, amber waves of grain, and purple mountains’ majesty. When we think of glory for ourselves we think of honor among men, prestige at work and in society, high salaries, trophy spouses and children, the good life, perhaps even the life of a celebrated sports figure or a glamorous celebrity (or at least the life we imagine they lead).

This is not the kind of glory Jesus prays for. He is not thinking about the glory of nature. He certainly is not looking for prestige, a high salary, or a trophy family. And while one might say that Jesus possessed a certain type of celebrity among the Passover crowds in Jerusalem, Jesus knew that when He didn’t live up to their expectations, they would crucify Him. Jesus prays that He may be glorified, and may bring glory to the Father, by accomplishing the work that the Father sent Him to do. Later this same evening, He would pray, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39; ESV). Jesus doesn’t have a sick desire to suffer. But He does have the determined desire to accomplish the will of the Father, which is the salvation of the world. And Jesus knows that it is not possible that the cup should pass from Him. He must be betrayed into the hands of the chief priests and scribes, suffer, be crucified, and after three days rise again. And so even in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prays that He might be glorified and bring glory to the Father, by accomplishing the Father’s will. Our Lord prays in faith, knowing that being glorified on earth by suffering for our sins on the cross, the Father will raise Him from the dead, and seat Him at His right hand to rule all things in heaven. Then the sinless Son of God, in both natures, as God and Man, will enjoy glory in the Father’s presence, the very glory He possessed with the Father from eternity, “before the world existed” (John 17:5).

You and I simply don’t think of glory as suffering. Our old Adam will avoid suffering at all costs, looking instead for that illusive glory falsely promised by money, sex, prestige, or celebrity. But God has never promised you this glory. He never promised you the good life on earth. God does promise you suffering if you want to follow Jesus, and in this way you will finally be glorified and you will bring glory to the Father. But that’s the rub. We don’t think of glory in the same way God does. We don’t think of glory as suffering. And this just proves the point that our thoughts are not God’s thoughts, and our ways are not His ways. His thoughts and ways are so much higher than ours (Is. 55:8-9). That is why Jesus, the Son of God in human flesh, prays that He might accomplish the Father’s will, even when He knows that the Father’s will is the cross. You and I expect things from God that He has never promised us in this earthly life, and that is why we are never satisfied with what He has given us. Repent. Pleasure in this life is not the goal. It does not finally bring you glory, and it certainly does not glorify the Father. But patient endurance in godly suffering does, because it brings glory to Christ and to the Father, who will glorify you with the Spirit of glory. This is what St. Peter writes in our epistle lesson: “rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Peter 4:13-14).

Jesus knows that it is hard for you to die to yourself, to your desires and your false notions of glory. Jesus knows that it is hard for you to remain in His Word and faith when the temptations of the world are so alluring and the way of the cross is so repelling to your old Adam. That is why He also prays for you. As your High Priest, Jesus prays for you. In His High Priestly Prayer recorded in the Gospel lesson this morning, He prays for His apostles and all who would believe on account of their word, which is the Word of God (cf. John 17:20). Jesus prays for all that the Father has given Him, all people of all times and places who would believe in Him for their salvation. He prays, “Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one” (John 17:11). “Holy Father, keep them in Your Name, the Name that I possess,” prays Jesus. That is the Name bestowed upon you in Holy Baptism. That is the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. This Name is given to you in Baptism, the Christian family Name. Jesus prays that His Father would keep you in your Baptism, keep you in the true faith, keep you despite the raging of the devil, the temptations of the world, and your sinful flesh. Jesus prays that the Father would keep you in His Word, the Word He has revealed to you by His Holy Spirit, and that He would keep you in the one true faith.

So also Jesus prays that His disciples may be one, even as the Son is one with the Father. Jesus is praying for true unity here, not the superficial unity that is all the rage in much of Christendom these days. This is not a unity that sweeps differences in doctrine under the rug as if they don’t matter. This is not a unity that avoids speaking about certain hard truths because they might lead to offense. That’s not the kind of unity that the Father and the Son have together. They don’t just agree to disagree. They agree in everything. And that’s true unity. Jesus prays for true unity among His disciples, the kind of unity that is honest and takes the Word of God seriously. He prays that we might be of one mind, as He and the Father are of one mind; of one will, as He and the Father are of one will; united in love, as He and the Father are united in love. And He prays that we be united in doctrine, that we take the Word of God seriously enough that we never compromise it, not for the sake of superficial unity. Because Jesus knows it will be hard for His disciples to die to themselves and their false notions of glory, and that it will be tempting for us to fudge a little on doctrine here and there rather than suffer for confessing the truth. So Jesus prays that God would keep us in His Name, and grant that we be one, united, as are the Father and the Son.

Such preservation in the faith and unity in the Church are gifts of God, given us by the gracious working of the Holy Spirit. Jesus continues to petition the Father for you and for all His disciples. He continues to intercede for you, to pray that the Father keeps you in His Name, in His Word and faith, and that the Father would grant unity to His Church. And Jesus has the Father’s ear, for as we celebrated on Thursday night, Jesus has ascended to the right hand of God the Father almighty, been exalted “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named” (Eph. 1:21), and the Father has put all things under His feet (v. 22). The crucified and risen Jesus has ascended on high, and now does as He has promised for His Church… He has sent us another helper (John 14:16), the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, the great Pentecost blessing that we will celebrate next Sunday. This Holy Spirit is the answer to Jesus prayer for us. Jesus has been glorified and brought glory to His Father by His suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension. And we are kept in His Name and given unity in the Church by His Holy Spirit. Jesus prays for those whom the Father has given Him. And when Jesus prays, the Father’s answer is always, “Yes!” So we trace upon ourselves once more the Name God has bestowed upon us in Baptism, and the Name in which the Holy Spirit keeps us, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

He is risen! He is risen, indeed!! Alleluia!!!

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