Easter 2011 Year A
June 5, 2011
In the name of Jesus:
He is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
The last two Sundays we’ve been back in the upper room before Jesus’ betrayal, trial, sufferings and eventual death upon a cross. The Gospel readings were from the middle of Jesus’ final sermon to His disciples. The sermon was an extraordinary summary of the Gospel that Jesus is leaving His disciples after three years as a remembrance of why what is going to happen to Jesus must happen.
Among the many things John recounts for us, the focus of the last two sermons was on Jesus being The Way, The Truth and The Life and how Jesus was going to send to these men His Comforter, Paraclete, Helper and Advocate, that is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, to be with them until His resurrection and defeat of sin, death and the devil.
This morning’s Gospel follows Jesus’ last sermon. This is His prayer to The Father. This prayer is often referred to as the High Priestly Prayer because Jesus is the High Priest, He is the interceder between man and God. He is the Priest that stands before the throne of God the Father and offers the sacrifice, not of another animal, but of His own body and blood.
A body and blood that were willingly given. John 10:18 Jesus said “No one takes My life from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have the authority to give it up and I have authority to take it again.” In our text Jesus says: “Father, the hour has come.” His hour of glory was the hour of death and the cross.
Scripture does not teach us that we should pray to the saints or that the saints pray for us and intercede on our behalf, like the Roman Catholics believe. However, Jesus does pray and intercede for us before the Father.
As Augsburg Confession Article XXI says “Of the Worship of Saints they teach that the memory of saints may be set before us, that we may follow their faith and good works, according to our calling, as the Emperor may follow the example of David in making war to drive away the Turk from his country. For both are kings. But the Scripture teaches not the invocation of saints or to ask help of saints, since it sets before us the one Christ as the Mediator, Propitiation, High Priest, and Intercessor. He is to be prayed to, and has promised that He will hear our prayer; and this worship He approves above all, to wit, that in all afflictions He be called upon, 1 John 2:1: If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, etc.”
The author of Hebrews 7 says ” The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.” (v 23-28).
The High Priestly Prayer that Jesus prays in John 17 can be broken into several sections: 1. prayer for Himself (1-5), 2. prayer for the disciples (6-19), 3. prayer for the church of all ages (20-23), and the everlasting security of His children (24-26). This morning’s focus will be on the first section, verses 1-5… Jesus’ prayer for Himself. His hour has come. The hour of His death on the cross when God’s glory is shone is now here.
St. Paul said: “We preach Christ crucified.” (1 Cor 1:23). The cross was the center of his life. That’s what he knew and that’s what he preached. Because the cross is where God’s glory was displayed for all to see. The world itself saw that God’s Son the God-Man, Jesus Christ, had died and the rocks split in agony. Even the pagan centurion and those around him in Matthew 27:54 couldn’t help but say “Truly this was the Son of God!
Before all of this could happen on that fateful Good Friday, Jesus prayed “Glorify Your Son that the Son may glorify You.”
The Son, the God-Man Jesus Christ was glorified at His incarnation. Jesus was glorified when He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born the Virgin Mary.
John 1:14 says “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
God the Father glorified His Son by giving Him to you, and you, and you… and to all mankind. As true God, Jesus had the glory and majesty of knowing the glory of the Father from eternity.
John 1:1-2 says “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
Matthew 11:27 says, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
Jesus follows this train of thought up with 17:5 “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” This glory that Jesus had from eternity, His Divine nature, He prayed would be given to His Human nature, as true man to save sinners, to save you, from your state of sinfulness.
Sinfulness, the devil and the world, attack you constantly by saying that you can seek your own glory. A glory that is temporal and fleeting. You convince yourself that it’s ok because it at least it makes you feel good from time to time.
You seek this glory for yourself by getting and acquiring wealth. Maybe it’s from doing everything in your power to be seen as powerful in the eyes of the world. For some of you it’s just in having a good name that is well known in town or at least in the circles that you go around in.
Jesus is different than you. He is glorified in His being given as God’s Son instead of in getting something from you. A Son that when He was born, the angles says, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace.” The work that this Son would eventually do would bring glory both the Father who sent Him and to Himself.
In Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer, Jesus asked the Father to glorify the Son so that the Son could glorify the Father. How did the Father do this? The Father did this by giving His Son authority over all of creation … an authority not to rule with an iron first, but to die for … and in so doing to earn eternal life for.
In vs. 4 Jesus says: “I have glorified You on earth by completing the work which You gave Me to do.” What was this work that Jesus completed?
Jesus life, teachings, death and resurrection revealed the true God to us, the God of everlasting mercy. Jesus took the sins of you upon Himself. Jesus became poor so that you might become rich. The God-man, Jesus Christ, suffered and died for you. He became a curse for you. In so doing He removed your death and punishment by taking them upon Himself. In the Person of Christ God died. The God-man, Jesus Christ, truly died physically and rose again physically.
You remember God’s glory and how it was manifest with Christ hanging cursed on the cross every time we make the sign of the cross upon our head and chest. We sign ourselves with the cross as a remembrance of the suffering and death that Christ endured which has become ours in our baptism.
St. Paul says, ”Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (Roman 6:3) and ”For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.” (2 Corinthians 4:11-12)
Martin Chemnitz in The Explanation of the Council of Trent, Part IV says, “Among all the ancient writers there is indeed frequent mention of the sign of the cross. …at the time of Tertullian and afterward the Christians with their fingers formed a transverse figure like a cross in the air, and in this way identified themselves. It was…a profession and reminder that they believed in Christ crucified, and that they were placing all their hope and confidence in Him.”
It is in the cross that you have glory. St. Paul wrote in Gal. 6:14, “God forbid that I should boast of anything except the cross of Christ through which the world is crucified to me and I am crucified to the world.” Jesus’ cross separates you from the sinful world and the sinful world from you.
It is in the cross that you have knowledge, true knowledge, of God the creator of the world. The works of His hands in nature give man a natural knowledge of God’s power. Just look west and see the gorgeous, some times snow capped, mountains that His hands formed on the third day. Just look at the intricacies of the human body.
Or as St. Paul says in Romans 1:18-20 ” For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”
However, this natural knowledge man has of God does not save man. The Jews at the time of Jesus had a natural knowledge of God, but they still remained dead in their sins and trespasses because of unbelief.
Many today also have a natural knowledge of God, and are yet dead in their sins and trespasses because of unbelief. They do not have a saving knowledge of God.
Why did Jesus come? In vs. 2 Jesus says that the Father has given Him rightful authority over all of mankind so that everything which the Father has given to the God-man may have life eternal. The Father gave you to the Son as a gift. And the Son gives you eternal life. You did not choose Him. He chose you. Despite what you may believe at times, you did not save yourself. Jesus, hanging on the cross, bloody and beaten saved you. Nobody makes a decision to be saved only to be condemned.
It is the cross that God gives to you eternal life. Jesus says in vs. 3 ” And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
When does eternal life begin? It’s not when most people think. Eternal life does not begin when you die. Eternal life means to know God, the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Eternal life began at your baptism and continues for all eternity.
In conclusion: How are the Father, Son and you glorified? The simple Sunday School answer works, and in fact, fits perfectly here … Jesus. In Jesus’ coming into this world as a man, meeting and conquering sin, death and the devil on the cross of calvary, you glorified and have life eternal. Amen.
*Based on an outline by Dr. Harold Buls*