Seventh Sunday of Easter (B)
May 16, 2021
Text: John 17:11b-19
Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!
Jesus prays for us. Not just on the night He was betrayed, in what we call the “High Priestly Prayer,” but even now, ascended to the right hand of the Father, He bends the Father’s ear on our behalf. He prays that we be kept in the Father’s Name, that we be one holy Christian and Apostolic Church united in Him, that we be kept and guarded in these days when our Lord is hidden from our sight. He prays that His joy would be in us in spite of the world’s hatred and opposition, that we be kept from the evil one, and sanctified in the truth that is the Father’s Word. Jesus prays for us. And what can the Father possibly answer His Son… what can God possibly answer God, but yes? Yes, my Son. Yes, because I love You. Yes, because You died for them. Yes, because You are risen and live for them. Yes, because Your will is My will, and My will is Your will, for We are one.
What does it mean that God keeps us in His Name? It means that He keeps us in Jesus. The Father gives the Son His Name (John 17:11). Remember that God’s Name is not just the word by which we designate Him. God’s Name is His whole character and reputation. It is His revelation of Himself to man, and it is His very essence. Our God is YHWH, “I AM.” He is the God who is (incidentally, as opposed to the other so-called gods, who are not). All things that exist have their existence from Him, for He is the Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things, visible and invisible. Jesus, the eternally begotten Son of the Father, the Word who was with God in the beginning and who is God, is the revelation of the Father to us. To be kept in God’s Name is to be kept in Jesus.
And that is to say, it is to be kept in the one true faith. It is to be kept in His Word. It is to be kept in our Baptism into the Name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are called Christians, and that means “little Christs.” It is really shorthand for the Triune Name into which we are baptized. It is to be kept in His Family, His Church, around His Table. It is to be kept for salvation in spite of all the opposition of the devil, the world, and our own sinful nature. If this is to happen, God must do it. Thus Jesus prays for us.
This is so important, that God keeps us in His Name, because the truth of the matter is, Jesus has been removed from our earthly eyesight. He has ascended into heaven. Now, as we heard on Thursday evening, this does not mean He is gone, removed from our presence. It rather means He is present now in a hidden way in His divinely appointed Means of Grace. But that makes it awfully hard for Christians in a world that hates us, as it hated our Lord. It makes it awfully hard when Christians have to bear what our Lord bore: The rejection, the mockery, the abuse, and scorn, and even death at the hands of unbelievers. It makes it awfully hard, because Satan himself is against us. He tempts us, he trips us up, and then he accuses us. He leads us to doubt Christ and His Word. He afflicts us. He orders people and things to act against us. He is a powerful enemy. Now, we know that Christ has defeated him by His death and resurrection, but this is Satan’s little hour, and we must suffer through it. And, of course, our sinful nature is a constant enemy. Old Adam hangs around our necks and weighs us down, and would turn us away from Christ and back to the world and the Egypt of our sins. This is why Jesus prays for us. We are in the world, and He does not pray that we be taken out of it. We are in the world as His agents, and we are in the flesh, and this is Satan’s realm to all appearances, so our Lord knows the danger. But He prays for us to the Father, to keep us in His Name, and the Father hears His Son, and answers, and that is how we are kept, and even given joy. We rejoice, with the very joy of Christ. Because we know His victory, and that He is with us, and that He is coming again soon, visibly, to set all that is wrong right again.
The Father keeps us in His Name by the Word Jesus has given us (v. 14), and by the Spirit He will pour out upon us in that Word. “Sanctify them in the truth,” He prays; “your word is truth” (v. 17). Well, this Word is that which written for our learning in the Holy Scriptures, the revelation of God’s will for us and His saving acts for us. This Word is that which God sends His preachers out to preach. And that means, first of all, the Apostles, of whom our Lord is speaking in the original context of our Holy Gospel. It is of them, specifically, that Jesus says to the Father, “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world” (v. 18). (The word “Apostle” means “sent one,” one sent with all the authority of the one sending him in the matter for which he is sent.) But then it is also those who are sent to continue the apostolic preaching of the Word, the Christian pastors. By their preaching and teaching, God continues to sanctify (set apart for holy use) Jesus’ disciples, you, in the truth that is His Word.
And, to continue the extension of this sending, this is why He sends you. To be His agents in the world. To be salt and light and leaven that permeates every dark and sinful corner of humanity with your confession of Christ and your loving service and sacrifice in His Name. Jesus does not pray that God would take you out of the world, and this is why. This is your purpose in life. Through you, living your Christian life in your various vocations and stations in life, He seasons, enlightens, and leavens the whole world, so that others hear the Gospel and believe. So that others become His disciples. So that others live under His blessing bestowed in Christ who died, and who is risen from the dead.
God loves the world for Jesus’ sake, and He enacts that love in the world through you. You are His mask, His hands and feet, His voice in the world. God loves your neighbor through you. God feeds and clothes children and changes their diapers through the hands of parents. God fed and clothed you through your parents. God governs through earthly authorities. He teaches through teachers. He employs through employers. He serves through servants. He feeds through the work of the farmer and the grocery store clerk. We learned an important lesson this week about how God enables us to drive from point A to point B through the work of people in the oil and gas industry. And you know the list could go on and on. Of course, all of these things He does through believers and unbelievers alike. But He doesn’t just leave it in the hands of unbelievers. Have you ever thought about that? He gives His Christians to season all the various activities and stations in life. Why? Because only the Christian will strive to do it in the way God has given. Only a Christian can be a Christian spouse, a Christian parent, a Christian citizen, a Christian worker. And particularly relevant at this cultural moment, only a Christian can be a Christian friend. Yes, this is an important part of our mission. Befriend people. Be present for them, as in your bodily presence. In a world of social media virtual friends (and virtual, by definition, means not the real thing!), and especially in the way we have treated one another over the past year as pathogens to be avoided at all cost, our culture is absolutely starving for real, bodily present friendships.
And all this is to say, only a Christian can show that God’s order is the very best for all. And only a Christian can bring the presence of Christ into every situation. When spouses love one another with self-sacrificial love and remain faithful to each other for life, as the living picture of Christ and His Bride, the Church. When parents raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord and teach them to grow in faith toward God and fervent love toward their neighbor. When citizens honor the governing authority for God’s sake, and work for the good of all citizens, not out of a sense of entitlement or victimization, but out of Christian love. When workers work, not just for a paycheck, but in mission for God, to love their neighbor with God’s love, to love and serve their employer and their fellow workers and their patrons. When friends bring the incarnational presence of Christ to all their associations, confessing Christ, and loving for the sake of Christ, and simply being in Christ and bearing Christ in the presence of their friends. Think about this. Wherever you are, you are God’s agent. Be intentional about this. Pray for this. In every circumstance, everywhere you go, in every relationship, in your speaking and your acting, you bear the presence of Christ. That is why He leaves you in the world.
But not forever. He is coming back. He is coming soon. Then He will raise you and all the dead, and give eternal life to you and all believers in Christ. Then He will be vindicated in the eyes of all, as every knee bows, and every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2). Then He will glorify His Church. And the world that hated Jesus, and hated His Christians, along with the very evil one himself, will be condemned. And your sinful nature will be at an end. You will live in the New Heavens and the New Earth, fully restored and perfected, this creation risen from the dead. For the sake of those yet to come into the full number of those who will believe and have life in Jesus’ Name, God leaves you in the world. But you know the reality of that which is to come. Wait patiently. Pray. Trust. And go as God sends you.
In the midst of the danger, Jesus prays for us, and God keeps us in His Name, and sanctifies us by His Word. Jesus prays, and God in heaven hears, and He answers: “Yes, My Son, that one, too, is Mine. I will keep him. I will sanctify him. I will name him with My Name, and grant him life, for Your sake.”
Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! In the Name of the Father, and of the Son X, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.