March 29, 2017
“Dear Christians, One and All Rejoice: Your Ransom and Your Rescue”
Text: John 14:15-27; LSB 556:7-8
“To me He said: ‘Stay close to Me’” (LSB 556:7). Stay close to Me. Stay close to Jesus. And your heart need never be troubled or afraid (John 14:27). How do you stay close to Jesus? He tells you in our Holy Gospel. “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (v. 23; ESV). You stay close to Jesus by “keeping” His Word. And that word, “keep,” is a word that means so much more than simply “obey.” It means “guard, observe, attend to carefully, treasure up, meditate upon, take it to heart and put it into practice.” That is how you stay close to Jesus. In His speaking to you. In your hearing of Him. That is to say, you stay close to Jesus in your daily Scripture reading and in Bible study, and especially here in the Divine Service where His Word is publicly proclaimed and His Sacraments given to you as physical manifestations of His Word. And through this Word of Jesus, as through means, the Holy Spirit works faith as He pleases in those who hear the Gospel. That is the other Promise Jesus makes in our text. “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth” (vv. 16-17). What will the Spirit do? “(H)e will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (v. 26). The Spirit comes through the Word and He keeps you in the Word, which is to say He keeps you with Jesus. “In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.”
This is so important, because your enemy wants you back in his possession, enslaved to sin, death, and hell. He’ll do everything he can to separate you from Jesus’ Word, and so separate you from Jesus. Forever. Because that’s the only way he can get back at God for casting him out of His holy presence. The devil is condemned to hell for all eternity, and he wants to take you with him. To do that, He must divide you from the Lord Jesus. So he will tempt you to make other things more important than hearing the Gospel and receiving the Lord’s Supper. The kids’ sports are more important. The weekend chores are more important. Sleeping in is more important. When else will I have time to golf? When else will I have time to fish? I don’t have any other time to relax. And it’s not like I haven’t heard it all before. I know it. I believe it. Isn’t that enough? Beloved, I want you to learn to recognize the insidious hiss of the serpent when he whispers his sweet nothings into your ear and your heart. You must call him what he is: a liar! You must tell him where to go: to hell! And then you must run to your pastor and demand that he preach the Word to you, absolve your sins, give you the body and blood of Jesus. Jesus keeps you safe from your old master’s tricks. Stay close to Jesus! He is your Rock and Castle, your Mighty Fortress, your Protector and Savior.
He won you from your former slavery by His suffering and death on your behalf. He purchased you, redeemed you, ransomed you from slavery, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood. The corpse on the cross is the banner of your victory. The empty tomb and the risen Lord Christ are the declaration that the sum is sufficient. Your sins are forgiven. Atonement is made. Your debt to God is paid in full. You belong to Jesus, in His Kingdom, in His life, forever. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). Stay close to Him. He will see you through. He strives and wrestles with the serpent for your very soul, but the foe cannot divide you from Jesus. For He is yours and you are His. And where He is, you may remain. “I go to prepare a place for you… And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:2-3). He will take you to Himself in heaven when you die. On the Last Day He will raise you bodily from the dead, just as He is risen bodily from the dead. You will live with Him forever. Life will from death the victory win, for His innocence has borne your sin. You are blest forever (LSB 556:8).
So now you live each day of this life in the Word and Spirit of Jesus, that you may stay close to Him. And understand that the answer to all the trials and tribulations the devil and the world and your own fallen flesh can throw at you, is the Word of Jesus Christ. When your conscience troubles you, you call your pastor and ask him to absolve your sins in the stead and by the command of Jesus. When you are downcast, discouraged, depressed, you call your pastor and ask him speak the consoling Word of Christ. When you are sick or in the hospital, when you face a surgery, or when death draws near, you call your pastor and ask him to come and preach to you and give you Jesus’ body and blood. You do this, not because your pastor is anything. He is not. I promise you, he will stumble through it all like a bumbling fool. That’s okay. He’s not the important one. You need Jesus. You need to stay close to Jesus, to be in Jesus where there is now no condemnation, where healing and life flow to you through His gifts. Jesus’ Word is always the answer. It applies our Lord’s blood and death and resurrection to every circumstance. When your marriage is in trouble, you need Jesus. Call your pastor. When you’ve made a mistake and now there are consequences, you need Jesus. Call your pastor. And so also, when God has given a blessing, in times of joy and prosperity, you need Jesus. Call your pastor. All things are sanctified by the Word of God and prayer (1 Tim. 4:5). Call your pastor to bless your house. Call your pastor to say a prayer of thanksgiving for your new job. Call your pastor to visit your new baby in the hospital. And it should go without saying, but call your pastor to have that baby baptized. Call your pastor, not because you need your pastor, but because you need Jesus, who sent your pastor here for no other reason than to bring you Jesus. Be in Church every chance you get. Hear the Word. Receive the Supper. Remember your Baptism. Be in the Word and prayer every day. Stay close to Jesus.
And in this way, your heart need never be troubled or afraid. Do you still doubt? Come to the Supper. The proof of it all is Jesus’ blood, shed on the cross for your ransom and rescue, poured out from the chalice, down your throat, and through your veins for the forgiveness of all your sins. Jesus isn’t just close to you. He’s in you. And you are in Him. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.