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 09, 2010

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Sixth Sunday of Easter (C)
May 9, 2010
Text: John 16:23-33

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

Beloved in the Lord, “the world” is often used in the Bible and in theology as a collective term for all unbelievers. In this sense, then, “the world” does not mean planet earth, which is part of God’s creation and which He originally pronounced good. Nor does “the world” include everyone in the world. “The world,” as Jesus uses it in our text, is the world of unbelievers. “The world,” in this sense, does not include Jesus and it does not include Christians. It is in using the term in this sense that Jesus says elsewhere that His disciples are in the world, but not of the world (John 17:14-15). In fact, “the world” in this sense is an enemy of Christ and His Christians, that which is ruled by the devil, a force arrayed against the followers of Jesus Christ, seeking sometimes overtly, sometimes covertly, to seduce the people of God into sin and unbelief. Thus we speak of our three main enemies: “the devil,” the sly serpent who brought sin and unbelief into the world in the first place and continues to tempt us and to accuse us; then “the world” itself, again, all unbelievers and the collective pressure they bring against Christians in temptation and persecution; and finally, our own sinful flesh, which is all too willing to heed the seductive voices of the devil and the world, and so give in to their demands. God protect us from this. Thus the world is hostile to Christ and to Christians. We can and should expect nothing less. Jesus tells His disciples, His Christians, who are in the world, but not of the world, that “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33; ESV).

In the world, you will have tribulation. It is a promise, straight from the Savior’s lips. Now this tribulation can take many forms. When the Bible speaks of tribulation, it can mean the tribulations we bring on ourselves from sin, or the crosses we have to carry as a result of living in a fallen world. In this context, however, Jesus is primarily speaking of the tribulation Christians experience at the hands of the world on account of His Name and Gospel. This includes subtle temptations to forsake the faith, be it temptation to succumb to sin or the implication that anyone who believes all this Bible/miracle/sin/Savior stuff is ignorant. And this includes outright persecution, as happens even today in many places throughout the world. We Americans don’t have to suffer a lot of this persecution. While there are certainly movements within American culture to discredit and ultimately squeeze out Christianity, not many Americans have been imprisoned for the faith or been called upon to confess Christ with their blood. Still, in many places in the world, it is illegal to be baptized, illegal to own a Bible, illegal to go to church, and especially illegal to evangelize. Even in places where Christianity is legal, it is so unpopular, that Christians are beaten, robbed, raped, burned out of house and home, and martyred on account of Christ. In the last century alone, more Christians were killed for confessing Christ than in all previous centuries combined. It does not regularly happen here. But it could. Do not be deceived. Deception is the work of the evil one. Jesus has promised that in the world you will have tribulation. If you are to be a Christian, there is no way around it.

But we don’t fear those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul. We fear only the One who can kill both body and soul in hell. More importantly, we trust Him. We believe in Him. We believe His Word. He has overcome the world. And this makes all the difference. The world did its best to eliminate our Savior, Jesus Christ. When His hour came, Jews and Gentiles together conspired to snuff Him out. The Jews charged Him with blasphemy, a capital offense, because He made Himself equal with God. The Romans charged Him with sedition, punishable by crucifixion, because He called Himself a King. So, while the disciples are scattered for fear of the world, our King Jesus, crowned with thorns, is lifted up on the throne of His cross. Behold, Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. He is also King of the Gentiles. He is your King, and my King. He is King of all creation. And He dies. He dies to redeem the Jews, and the Gentiles, and you and me, and all creation. He dies as the payment price for our sin. He dies for the world. Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He sheds His precious blood and gives His innocent life. The world thought it had won that Friday we call “good.” The world thought it could bury our King in a tomb and forget about Him forever. But on the third day, the stone was rolled away. The tomb was empty, except for the grave cloths, neatly folded. And Jesus appeared to His disciples ALIVE!

Jesus has overcome the world. He lives! He is still alive. He died, and now He can never die again. He is risen, and lives, and reigns to all eternity with the Father and the Holy Spirit. And here is the good news for those of us who are still in the world, but no longer of the world. Jesus calls us His own. And because Jesus calls us His own, the Father calls us His own. Because you are in Christ, baptized into Him, united to Him by faith, Jesus’ Father is your Father. And you can approach His throne with every request as a child to their dear father because you come in Jesus’ Name. “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you… Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (vv. 23-24). Now to ask in Jesus’ Name means not to ask for foolish or sinful or self-centered things, but to ask according to His will and according to the revelation of a merciful God in Christ Jesus. It is to ask for all the things promised in the Scriptures with confidence, knowing your heavenly Father will give these things to you without condition, and it is to ask for help in all other needs according to God’s time and in His way. It is to ask for yourself and for your neighbor. It is to pray for the Church and for the world, even for your enemies, even for those who persecute you. You can ask boldly, because you are God’s own children. What is a child forbidden to ask his father?

God loves you. God so loves you and the whole world that He sent His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16). And more than this, in spite of your sins, in spite of your selfish prayers, in spite of your despising of the world, in spite of your failure to engage the world while you are in it with the blessed good news of forgiveness and life in Christ Jesus, in spite of your failure to confess Him when the pressure is on, in spite of all of this, God is pleased with you. He is pleased with you because your sins have been washed away by the blood of Christ. He is pleased with you because your debt to God was paid in full by Christ on the cross. He is pleased with you because all the righteousness of His innocent Son, now risen from the dead, has been credited to your account. Now when God looks at you, He sees Christ. And He cannot turn His Son away.

So the Church prays to God as Father. We pray “Our Father…” And we do so in the knowledge that God is able to help us in every tribulation the world can throw at us. And not only is He able, He is willing, because He loves us. Well, if that is the case, let the tribulation come. We recognize that it won’t be pleasant at the time. It will be hard. Jesus promises it. But we take heart, because Jesus has overcome the world, and the Father who loves Jesus loves us also, and is our Father, and the Father and the Son have sent us the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, to counsel and comfort us in every tribulation. What do we do, then, in the midst of tribulation? We commend ourselves to God. As we sang in the Introit: “Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you” (Ps. 55:22). We pray. We pray to our Father, through His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, in the Spirit, who makes our prayers perfect as He brings them before God’s throne, and who Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express (Rom. 8:26). And having thus prayed, we await His help, in His time, in His way, knowing for certain that He who has overcome the world for us can and will deliver us from the tribulation.

He will deliver us. If not in this earthly life, then in the life to come. Because of our flesh, it is difficult for us to realize that the end of tribulation does not come in this world. That’s just the point. “In the world you will have tribulation.” But then Jesus points to Himself and says, “I have overcome the world.” How did Jesus overcome the world? He died, and He is risen. But what about you? How do you overcome the world? In Christ, you have overcome the world already. In your Baptism into Christ, you died, and you have eternal life now. One day your body will die, but your soul will be in heaven with Jesus. And on the Last Day, Jesus will raise you from the dead. Knowing the end of the story casts a whole new perspective on the tribulations we have in the world. They are passing storms that ultimately cannot harm us. For we are in Christ. Our names are written in the Lamb’s book of life (Rev. 21:27). Tribulation is coming to an end. As Jesus promises: “Behold, I am making all things new” (v. 5)! 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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