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LSB Easter 7B Sermon – John 17:11b-19

May 25, 2015

May 17, 2015 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“I have given them Your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world…. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.”

Jesus prays for His disciples. He makes intercession for them. That fact may not be thought about all the time, though it constantly takes place. We may think about how Jesus prays to the Father, taking time away from the disciples. We may also rightly think about how Jesus instructs His disciples to pray to the Father, teaching them the Lord’s Prayer that the Church continues to use to this day. But in the Gospel Reading for this last Sunday of Easter, we heard Jesus praying to the Father, even hearing the petitions that He offers for His disciples.

John 17 is called Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer. It is offered for on behalf of His disciples on the night before He offers Himself in sacrifice for the sins of the world. In His prayer, Jesus speaks about what He has done for those whom He called and made His disciples. In the portion read this morning, Jesus notes that He had kept those whom the Father entrusted to Him: “Holy Father, keep them in Your name, which You have given Me, that they may be one, even as We are one. While I was with them, I kept them in Your name, which You have given Me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” That task of guarding and keeping the disciples had been done by the Good Shepherd, so that none of the sheep had been lost.

But as Jesus speaks about what is about to happen, He notes that His presence with the disciples would no longer be the way it was: “But now I am coming to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.” His statement refers to what would take place in His resurrection and ascension. Jesus would not be with His disciples, leading them through the hills of Galilee or the plains of Judea. But Jesus also knows that His followers will be under threat because of the status that He bestowed to them: “I have given them Your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”

So what does Jesus do? He makes intercession for His disciples. Jesus asks for a benefit that would be granted to them, so that they would be able to withstand the assaults that they will face from the opponents of Himself and His Father: “I do not ask that You take them out of the world, but that You keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” This request is made so that the disciples would not be left abandoned like sheep who have their shepherd run off from them. Instead, they would be preserved in the faith that they had placed in Jesus as the Son of God and the One who shows them the way of life.

Jesus’ prayer identifies the status that you have, including the dangers that you face. Like the first disciples, you also have had the name of the LORD placed on you. The LORD identified you as His called and chosen people. You were marked with that divine name in Holy Baptism. It is the title you bear as “Christian”—the ones who belong to Christ. You are bound together to Jesus; through Him, you are also bound to the Father. That tie has been established.

But the tie that is established between you and Jesus also comes with a danger: because you have the divine word given to you, the world hates you. Why is that so? Because it is opposed to what the LORD has spoken. It has rebelled against that divine order before. The LORD’s word shows how the world stands outside of divine righteousness in the way that it thinks and acts. Once that also actually described you. But you have been called away from that, given to hear what Jesus has said about Himself and His work and made to know the Father’s will. That is what you are bound to. That is your devotion. That is where life is found for you.

Hearing what has been spoken by Jesus is described this way by the apostle John: “If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that He has borne concerning His Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in Himself. Whoever does not believe God has made Him a liar, because He has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning His Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” That is the word which you have had spoken to you. That called you to be born of God. But it also set you in opposition to the world.

So what does the world choose to do about this? It attempts to pry you away from the testimony that has been given about Jesus. It tries to pull your trust away from the words that Jesus has spoken about Himself, about His relationship to His Father, and about His work done on earth. When that was happening with the first disciples, Jesus was there to counteract it. The Pharisees or Sadducees or the scribes, priests, and elders would rise up and challenge what Jesus said. But as you have heard in the gospel accounts, Jesus was quick to point out their error, to show how they were mistaken, to rebuke and condemn their unbelief and failure to receive Him. But what happens when Jesus is not there to do this? What can guard and protect His disciples?

The answer to that question is mentioned in the prayer that Jesus makes. Remember that Jesus’ prayer not only spoke about the status that His disciples had and the opposition that they would face. It also included the petition that Jesus offers for them: “I do not ask that You take them out of the world, but that You keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” That petition is offered for you. That is what Jesus asks His Father to do for you.

“Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” Think about the two parts of Jesus’ statement. Jesus asks His Father to make His disciples holy and set apart in the truth. And He also declares that what the Father has said—the words that Jesus has entrusted and spoken to His disciples—is truth. So in essence, Jesus is telling His Father: “Keep My followers set apart as a holy group who hear Your words and believe the truth that they reveal.” When the Father does so, then Jesus’ followers will not be pried away from trusting the words that speak about His identity and work. When the Father does so, Jesus’ disciples will be guarded and protected.

But notice that this action is tied to the LORD’s word. That can’t be ignored or overlooked. The guarding, protecting, and preserving is done through means of hearing what the Father has said which Jesus revealed to His disciples. Holiness is given through that word, as it is not just a report about what Jesus spoke, but is an active thing that bestows what it promises. The LORD’s word about forgiveness and salvation is just as powerful as His word was when it brought the creation into existence. That word sets you apart, making you alive in spirit, giving you a new identity and purpose, and renews your heart and mind.

Jesus’ petition testifies about the ability of the LORD’s word. But there is another aspect to His request. The guarding, protecting, and preserving is done through means of hearing what the Father has said which Jesus revealed to His disciples. That means Jesus’ followers actually have to be hearers of His words. Without that, the work of sanctifying isn’t being done among people. Instead, the lures of the world that try to pry you away from the truth go unchecked. The guarding and preserving start to go absent.

This is why Jesus’ prayer can be tied to what you have learned about the Sabbath Day. Recall Luther’s comment on the Third Commandment: “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.” What’s so important about hearing the LORD’s word, recognizing it as different than what the world may speak? It is how you are made part of the LORD’s kingdom. It is how you are brought into right status with the LORD. It is how you are made to be of the LORD, as the Holy Spirit works through this. It’s how you are preserved in this status that is granted to you with its benefit of everlasting life.

What’s so important about hearing the LORD’s word? Let John the apostle remind you: “Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made Him a liar, because He has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning His Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” 

That’s why Jesus prays to the Father for you. He desires that you would rightly hear the words of the Father that He has revealed through His teaching. He desires that you would receive the benefit of His work done to fulfill the commands that the Father gave Him. He desires that you would know Him as the Son of God who has brought eternal life to you.

Jesus knows the status that He has given to you and He knows the opposition that you will face: “I have given them Your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” But Jesus has offered the petition for you: “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” As you faithfully continue to be frequent hearers of the Father’s word that Jesus has revealed, you will be kept holy. He has prayed: “Holy Father, keep them in Your name, which you have given Me, that they may be one, even as We are one.” Kept in the truth of the Father’s word, that bond between you and Jesus and the Father will be preserved. Jesus has declared that is His will: “These things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.” And the desire that Jesus has for you and all His followers will be fulfilled.

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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From → Sunday Sermon

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