Enlightenment

Text: John 16:23-33
Date: Easter VI + 5/5/13

Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. With those words Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem…for the last time! “I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.” These were His last words to His disciples in the upper room that night in which He was betrayed. This was His last attempt to equip them to endure through the next days of His cruel and brutal suffering and death. This was the “hour” of which He spoke and told them, “you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone.” And they were. When Jesus was arrested later that night, “then all the disciples left him and fled” (Mt 26:56). But we remember His words from last Sunday, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy” (John 6:20). These words pointed to the day of His resurrection from the dead. But not only that day alone! For He also means all the coming days up to His ascension, which we celebrate this coming Thursday. Ever since the Day of Pentecost to this day He invisibly shows Himself to the eyes of faith by the power of the Holy Spirit through the preached Word and the Sacraments. This is His promised place of dwelling, where faith not only sees Him but also receives His constant supply of the forgiveness of all our sins.

“In that day,” He says, “you will ask nothing of me,” and, “whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.” Now certainly there is much for which we ask and are even urged to ask of our Lord in prayer, petitions of all kinds with regard to our daily needs, troubles, emergencies of body or soul. When He says we will ask “nothing” He means with regard to the truth and the Spirit of truth, which we have already been given in the apostolic preaching and New Testament scriptures. For everything else, “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”

“In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf.” Of course Jesus still and always intercedes for us before the Father. St. John wrote, “if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2). Whether you are an apostle or an apostate, a saint or a sinner, holier-than-thou or not quite, the life of faith is a constant struggle to remain faithful, to remain full of faith and hope regardless of the bruises, the injuries, the dirt that our sins bring upon us. There is cleansing daily in Jesus. Our sins are already paid for and we are emboldened to continue to believe and to fight the good fight of the faith.

“In that day,” even as Jesus intercedes for us, “the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” Interesting that here Jesus does not use the word for the highest form of love but the next one meaning the affectionate love as of a father for his children. This love speaks of an especially close relationship. By faith in Jesus you have become a member of the family of God, actually a son or daughter of God and, as such, you have God’s firm, unbreakable affection, His indestructible dedication to your welfare.

Jesus then concluded with a complete summary of His Person and His entire purpose and ministry when He said, “I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”

“I came from the Father.” Jesus is the Eternal Word, the Son of God, of one being with the Father, very God of very God who left heaven to come to us on His mission.

“I have come into the world.” Jesus is the Incarnate Word, not a phantom or spirit or philosophy or any other such thing, but one of us, one with us. Born of the Virgin Mary He is both God and Man.

“And now I am leaving the world.” He leaves because His work of deliverance is done, “finished” as He Himself said through His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead.

“And now I am going to the Father,” from whom He came forth, Who sent Him on His mission, to Whom He returns in His Ascension, where He reigns at the Father’s right hand until He comes again at the last day.

The Easter disciples began to catch on, but only began. There was still the severe trial that awaited that night and the next days to challenge and complete their faith. And so there continue to be trials for us, some more severe than others. But in Christ these trials serve not only to challenge but also to refine faith which is more precious than gold, that it “may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” That’s what St. Peter said about this faith, even as hard as it was for him to “catch on,” to be enlightened. And now by the Holy Spirit the chief of the apostles says of you and me and every believer, “though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:5-9).

Of all these things Jesus said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Whenever we give in to sin or as we live in a world of the seeming increase of hostility to God and people of faith, it ought to be our motto, “Take heart, I have overcome the world.” Christ has overcome the world and made us to be His new creation, and nothing and no one can steal us away from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. He is our Good Shepherd, our Lord and God, our Savior and eternal King. Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord.