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 17, 2015

Seventh Sunday of Easter

Seventh Sunday of Easter (B)

May 17, 2015
Text: John 17:11b-19

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

            Our Holy Gospel this morning is a portion of our Lord’s High Priestly Prayer.  Jesus is our High Priest.  The High Priest represents the people of Israel before God in prayer and sacrifice.  So Jesus represents us, His Church, before the Father.  He makes the sacrifice of atonement for our sins by His death on the cross.  And here in our text, on the night in which He is betrayed, the night He institutes the Holy Supper of His Body and Blood, Jesus prays for us.  It is a sneak-peak into what Jesus always prays for us now, as He sits in glory at the right hand of the Father.  Jesus continues to pray for His Church.  And, of course, the Father hears and answers His prayer.  How could the Father fail to hear His Son?  He says “yes” to Jesus’ prayer.  He bestows upon the Church whatever the Son asks for us.  And here in our text there are three particular petitions that Jesus lifts before the Father for our sake.  He prays first of all that we be kept as one in God’s Name (John 17:11).  Second, He prays that we be kept from the evil one, Satan (v. 15).  And third, He prays that we be sanctified in the truth of His holy Word (v. 17).
            Jesus prays: “Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one” (v. 11; ESV).  He prays that we be kept in the Name of the Father which is given to and revealed in the Son: That is the Name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  This is a prayer that we be kept in our Baptism!  This is a prayer that we not wander away from our Baptism into Christ, in which all of our sins have been washed away and each one of us has been made God’s own child.  It is a prayer that we return to our Baptism daily in repentance, as once again we drown the old sinful nature that the new man daily emerge and arise to newness of life in Christ by faith.  Now, the world does not want this.  There is a reason the penalty for Baptism is death in those countries where persecution of Christians is the hottest.  The world hates Baptism, and the world hates the Baptized.  The world hates you because the world hates Jesus.  The world wants to tear you away from Jesus.  And the most effective way the world can do that is to lure you away by enticing your sinful flesh, so that you come away all-too-willingly.  These allurements can be money, power, influence, sex, altered consciousness, you name it; but whatever it is, the allurements are captivating.  They appeal to your lust, your covetousness, your selfishness.  And they trap you.  But upon closer inspection, these things are ultimately empty and unable to give you the pleasure they promise.  That is why you are always itching for more. 
            Our Lord knows how weak we are.  And though our Lord Jesus is very much with us in His Word and Sacraments, with us in all His fullness as God and Man, still, He is no longer visible to the naked, fallen eye.  We do not see Him and hear Him in precisely the same way the disciples did during His earthly ministry.  So Jesus prays for us that we not fall away from our Baptism.  He prays that God keep us by His Spirit from the allurements of the world and the weakness of our flesh.  He does not pray that God would take us out of the world.  That is interesting.  It seems like it would be easier if He just took us out of the world the moment we are baptized so there would be no danger of us falling away.  But He doesn’t do that.  He want us in the world, confessing Christ and serving our neighbor in our various vocations.  But He prays we would not be of the world, that we wouldn’t be at home here, but remain His own in Baptism.
            He prays this so that we might be one, even as the Father and Son are one along with the Holy Spirit, three Persons, one God, the Holy Trinity.  Jesus wants us who are baptized into Him to enjoy an intimate unity and communion with one another in Him.  As we heard last week, we are a family, the Holy Church.  We are brothers and sisters in Christ.  Actually, the Communion of the Baptized is even more intimate than that.  In this Communion, we are one Body, the Body of Jesus.  There are many members of this Body, each with our own particular functions, but we are one Body.  That is the reality of our Baptism.  And so, just as it is in the human body, when one member suffers, we all suffer.  When one member rejoices, we all rejoice.  When you stub your toe, your whole body hurts with that injured member.  When your stomach is satisfied after a delicious meal, your whole body relaxes and delights in the goodness.  St. Paul reminds us that we are one Body, the Body of Christ, and individually members of it (1 Cor. 12).  That’s the reality of our Baptism and our Communion in the Body and Blood of Christ around His altar.  We sometimes rebel against this notion.  Sometimes we fight.  Sometimes we offend one another.  Sometimes we hurt one another.  Brothers and sisters, this should not be.  When this happens, repent.  And forgive.  Forgive, as you have been forgiven by God.  And stick it out.  That’s what families do.  My family hasn’t cast me out yet, even when I’ve deserved it.  The Father has made us a family, one Body, in fact, in Baptism.  And He keeps us in His Name, the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. 
            And He keeps us from the evil one, the devil.  The devil is our main enemy, the driving force of the unholy trinity: the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh.  Needless to say, the devil does not want us to remain in God’s Name any more than the world does.  He wants to sever us from Christ and divide us from one another.  If he can’t do it with the help of the world’s allurements, he’ll try to do it by causing divisions among us.  When such division begins to rear its ugly head in our midst, we need to recognize it for what it is: Another trick of the serpent!  Don’t turn against your brothers and sisters.  Stamp it out!  Repent!  Return to your Baptism.  Die to yourself.  Live in Christ.  Forgive your neighbor.  Love him.  Pray the Lord’s Prayer: “Deliver us from evil,” or more accurately, “Deliver us from the evil one.”  Jesus, our Praying Priest, gave us that prayer to use against the devil whenever he afflicts us.  He also prays that prayer for us in our text: “keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15).  And the Father answers by sending the Spirit to keep us by the Means of Grace, the Word and the Sacraments, in the one true faith of Jesus Christ; to be ever pointing us to Jesus Christ our Savior; to guide us into all the truth (16:13).  This is the Gift of God we celebrate especially next Sunday on the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out in all His fullness upon the early Church to guide them into all truth, even as He is poured out on each one of us in Holy Baptism.  This is what Jesus prays for us: Keep them in Your Name.  Keep them from the evil one.  And finally, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (17:17). 
            Jesus prays that we be kept steadfast in His Word of truth, the Holy Scriptures.  In this way, Jesus prays that the Father would sanctify us, make us holy.  God makes us holy by the Word.  That is why you come to hear the preaching.  That is why you read the Bible.  By His Word God gives you the righteousness of Jesus.  That’s justification.  And by His Word God gives you the holiness of Jesus.  That’s sanctification.  By His Word you are sanctified, consecrated, set apart for God as the Holy Spirit calls you by the Gospel, enlightens you with His gifts, and keeps you in the true faith.  The Word gives you faith in Jesus and keeps you in that faith.  The Word gives you to know the truth and hold it sacred, putting it into practice.  The Word gives you to love and serve your neighbor and seek to do what God commands.  Jesus consecrated Himself, set Himself apart, for the saving work of our redemption, so that we might be sanctified in the truth of His Word (v. 19).  In that Word we have eternal life, because the Word imparts Christ.  And He sends us out with that Word into the world as His Body, the Baptized, the holy Christian Church.

            Jesus prays for us.  And what a comfort.  We know that the Father will not deny the prayer of the Son.  He hears His Son, and He answers Him.  He keeps us in our Baptism.  He keeps us from the evil one.  He sanctifies us in the truth; His Word is truth.  And so we have eternal life.  All our sins are forgiven.  We have peace with God.  We have peace with one another in love and the unity of the Spirit.  And we gather in that unity for the Communion around the altar.  The Body of Christ eats and rinks the Body and Blood of Christ.  It is the answer to Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer.  Because here at the altar, with one another, with Christians throughout the world, with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, we are one.  And the joy of Jesus Christ our Savior is fulfilled in us.  He is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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