The Seventh Sunday of Easter, 13 May 2018
A Sermon on John 17:6-19 by Samuel Zumwalt, STS
John 17:6-19 English Standard Version, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers]
6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 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. 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 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. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth
For Our Salvation: Guarding Us From Evil
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
When you are baptized into the Lord Jesus’ death and resurrection, you become His brother or sister. You become His friend. You no longer belong to yourself. You no longer belong to the world that is hostile to God. You become, in the washing of Holy Baptism, a child of God for Jesus’ sake. The “Holy” in Holy Baptism means you are set apart, sanctified for God’s purposes. You become a member of Christ’s Body. Your destination, your goal, indeed the point of your whole life is oneness with Jesus, His Father, and the Holy Spirit forever. In Holy Baptism, you have, through Jesus, a share in the eternal life and love of the Triune God, the one true God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. That is the Truth that Jesus shares in the Gospel today. That is the Truth about who and Whose you are. That is the Truth, because Jesus is the Truth. Reality!
“The world” in John’s Gospel is not simply the planet Earth as opposed to one of the other planets in our solar system. “The world” in John’s Gospel is not simply what happens outside Christian worship. “The world” in John’s Gospel is not simply where you spend most of the 168 hours of each week. “The world” is the combination of all the wills that are hostile to God’s will. The Lord Jesus simply says this is so as He prays for those who are His, not only the eleven gathered in the Upper Room on the night before He was crucified but, also all those who will believe in Him through the post-crucifixion and post-resurrection witness of the eleven!
So, then, whether you are baptized or not, you have a problem and so do I. We are born with a will that is hostile to God. This is what St. Paul calls “the flesh,” which is much more than simply having a human body with human desires. Our problem is not that we have a body with desires that get us in trouble. Our problem is that we are born with a will that is hostile to God! When our first parents rebelled against God, we lost the paradise of total intimacy with God and with each other. We lost the truth that we were created for serving God by serving our neighbor. We lost the truth that we are not gods but creatures. We lost the truth that we were made to love God by serving our neighbor. When our first parents rebelled, the human will was corrupted. The human heart was corrupted. The human mind was corrupted. My hostile will and your hostile will and all the hostile wills comprise “the world” about which Jesus is speaking. That’s not all.
You have a target painted on you, and so do I. And Holy Baptism does not remove that target. In fact, Holy Baptism intensifies that target. Because evil is not a kind of amorphous, undefined philosophy or label that we attach to things that are ugly or scary or that disturb us. Evil is not simply that there are other people who advocate for ideas or causes I don’t like or do things that I find morally or aesthetically repugnant. Evil is the will in rebellion against God. Evil is not just out there. Evil is also at work in my heart, my mind, my will, and my body. Evil is the lie that there is anything or anyone other than God at the center of the universe. And it gets worse.
There is a personal, malevolent force who actively promotes this lie. Jesus calls him “the father of lies” and “the thief who comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy.” The one who has painted the target on you and me. The one who has intensified his attack on us once we are baptized. The one who has so successfully promoted the lie that he doesn’t even exist is, in fact, out to try to keep the unbaptized from being baptized and to keep the baptized from becoming who and Whose they have been declared to be by God’s sheer grace and mercy in Jesus Christ.
The old enemy, the devil, Satan is on the attack relentlessly, even though he can never wrest control from God. He has already lost the war, because Christ won the victory over sin, death, and the devil on Good Friday. We know this is true, because Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! So, when Satan attacks your heart, your mind, your will, your body, your marriage, your children, your health, your family, your work life, and, yes, the congregation where you belong and Christ’s whole Church on earth, you don’t give up. You don’t give in. You don’t get depressed. You pull up your big boy or big girl pants, as the late, dear lady Beth Crawford used to say, and you tell the devil to go straight to hell. And you don’t stay away from daily prayer, weekly worship, from Bible reading, from serving, from having purpose-full Christian friendships, or from sharing the resources God has placed in your hands to manage in this life. Because if you try to go it alone, you are giving the father of lies exactly what he wants!
Dear ones, you need Jesus every minute of every hour of every week of every month of every year of every decade until you draw your last breath in your old body. And so do I! We have a target on our backs. Our loved ones have targets on their backs. The whole universe with all its constituent parts has a target on its back, as it were. You need Jesus, I need Jesus, the whole universe needs Jesus to guard us from the old evil foe. Jesus is praying for us to remain His!
Now, let me say this clearly to the fathers in particular but also to grandfathers and godfathers: your primary purpose in this life is to get your child or children baptized, to bring them to the services of God’s house every week, and to walk the talk by actually practicing the Christian faith. If you listen to the devil’s useful idiots in the world, they are blathering on and on about toxic masculinity, male privilege, and all that other marxist, feminist nonsense. If you listen to the devil’s useful idiots in the world, they will do their best to confuse you and to draw you away from your primary purpose. No surprise the devil lies. But let me ask you this?
Why do Christians allow 2-3% to wag the dog when it comes to how we keep the faith? That’s the percentage who don’t believe it’s possible for themselves to be faithful only to one spouse of the opposite sex. Why do Christians allow the 14-20% of people who are either actively hostile or indifferently hostile to the Christian faith to wag the dog? We can’t change other’s hearts and minds. Only God can do that. But as the old Germans in Texas used to say: “The moon doesn’t change its course for the barking of the dog.” Why do men not become who God wants? Lies!
Men, don’t be ashamed to be what God created you to be: a husband of one wife, the father of children, or the guy (the grandfather, the godfather, the uncle) who steps up to do the work when biological, adoptive, or stepfathers fail to perform their primary purpose: to get the child or children baptized, to bring them to the services of God’s house every week, and to walk the talk by actually practicing the Christian faith so that the children can see what it looks like to be God’s child! Girls need to see what a Christian man looks like. Boys need to have a role model!
You are going to die someday, and so am I. Every lie will be laid bare. God will be God, the goal and destiny to which every creature is moving. God will be God; we will be creatures. Those who are God’s children, those baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection, will share forever in the eternal life and love of the one true God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Those who remain hostile to God will get their way. God will not force Himself on anyone. God’s victory on the cross, God’s victory over sin, death, and the devil will be what it is, namely, Reality itself. God’s Son in human flesh, Jesus, died on the cross for the sins of the whole world. God wants none to be lost. But if anyone is lost, it will be because they have chosen to remain hostile to God. Only an idiot, a person utterly devoted to getting his or her own way, to refusing God, ends up in hell.
So, now let me do a little meddling. If you say you believe that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, if you believe Jesus Christ is your Lord and your Savior, how can you (or anyone who says he or she is a Christian) keep choosing to be indifferent to the one place He has promised to be for you? Namely, how can you stay away from receiving every week the Lord Jesus’ true Body and most precious Blood in the Eucharist, the Holy Communion, the Lord’s Supper? If you are a Dad with custody of your child or children on the weekend, how can you allow yourself and your child or children to avoid receiving Jesus in the one place He surely is?
If you say you are a Christian man, how is it that you can shirk your responsibility to have your child baptized, to bring your child to the services of God’s house every week, and to model for your child what it means to be a Christian man? This world has too many selfish, big little boys and too many confused and distracted men who don’t know who and Whose they are. On this Mother’s Day, husbands and sons and other great guys: give the women and girls in your life the gift they need and even want most. Be a Christian man. Practice the faith. Lead the way. Become who God created you to be. Become what God says you are in Holy Baptism. When you receive Jesus at the altar every week, He will guard you from evil. He will forgive and strengthen you!
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
©Samuel David Zumwalt, STS
St. Matthew’s Ev. Lutheran Church
Wilmington, North Carolina USA
Bulletin insert For Our Salvation: Guarding Us From Evil
“Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens so that he might fill all creation with his presence: Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen” (The Daily Prayer of the Church, 1340).
John 17:12 “I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction…”
St. John Chrysostom [late 4th – early 5th century Patriarch of Constantinople]: “In another place he says, ‘Of all that you gave me, I will surely lose nothing.’ Yet not only was Judas lost, but also many afterward were lost too. So how then can he say, ‘I will not lose any?’ He means, At least for my part, I will not lose them.’ So in another place, declaring the matter more clearly, he said, ‘I will not reject anyone who comes to me.’ In other words, Jesus is saying, it is not through any fault on my part. They will not be lost at my instigation or because I abandon them. But if they start going away on their own, I will not force them back” (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: John 11-21, 248).
John 17:15: “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.”
St. Cyril [5th century Patriarch of Alexandria]: “Christ does not wish for the apostles to be set free of human affairs or to be rid of life in the body when they have not yet finished the course of their apostleship or distinguished themselves by the virtues of a godly life. Rather, his desire is to see them live their lives in the company of people in the world and guide the footsteps of those who are his to a state of life well pleasing to God. After they have done this, then at last, with the glory they have achieved, they will be carried into the heavenly city and dwell with the company of the holy angels” (250).
John 17:17 “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”
St. Augustine [late 4th – early 5th century Bishop of Hippo Regius in northern Africa]: “What else did he mean than ‘I am the Truth?’ For the Greek Gospel has logos, which is also the word that is found in the passage where it is said, ‘In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’ and that Word we know to be the only begotten Son of God…made flesh and dwelt among us…The Father therefore sanctifies in the truth – that is, in his own Word, in his Only Begotten – his own heirs and his Son’s co-heirs” (253).
John 17:19 “And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.”
St. Augustine [Doctor of the Latin Church]: “But since on the ground that the Mediator between God and humanity, the man Christ Jesus, has become head of the church, they are his members. Therefore, he says in the words that follow, ‘And for their sakes I sanctify myself.’ For what does he mean by the words…but I sanctify them in myself, since they also are myself? For those of whom he speaks in this way are, as I have said, his members. And the head and body are one Christ” (254).
1. Do I understand that the Lord Jesus is constantly praying for His Church to remain in the Truth?
2. Do I willingly choose evil, telling myself that evil is good, and, in so doing, abandon Christ?
(Read this aloud daily until everyone in your home can say it from memory.)
How the head of the household should teach his household to ask a blessing and return thanks.
Also, after eating, they shall, in like manner, reverently and with folded hands say:
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever. He gives food to every creature. He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call. His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor His delight in the legs of a man; the Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love. Psalm 136:1,25; 147:9-11
Then shall be said the Lord’s Prayer and the following:
We thank You, Lord God, heavenly Father, for all Your benefits, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen. (Luther’s Small Catechism).
1. Pray for every unbaptized child and adult you know and for the child’s parents, too.
2. Pray for your unchurched loved ones and friends. Invite one or more of them to worship.
3. Ponder these: Have you ever considered that valuing anything over Jesus is evil? Have you brought that into your conversation with His Father? Do you pray in that way?
4. Pay attention this week to the ideas, things, and even people in your life that command your loyalty above Jesus. Ask yourself why that is. Ask yourself whether the trajectory of your life (and those of the people you love most) is away from the Lord Jesus Christ.
5. Hang a crucifix or cross opposite your pillow so that the last sight you see before turning out the light is your Lord’s cross and the first sight of the new day reminds you to pray.
For Husbands and Wives
Repeat daily: “I (name) take you (name) to be my wedded wife (husband), to have and to hold from this day forward; for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish until death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance, and thereto I pledge you my faith.”