Video of the Divine Service is here. The sermon begins around the 22:55 mark.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Listen: Do you hear Him as He prays in that upper room? Do you hear Him as He prays for you? He prays for you and for me and for His holy Church. Listen: “I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, even as I am coming to You. Holy Father, keep them in your Name, which You have given to Me, so that they might be one just as We [are one]. While I was with them, I kept them in Your Name, which You gave to Me, and I guarded [them], and not one of them perished, except the son of perdition, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now, I am coming to You and I am saying these things in the world, in order that they might have My joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them Your Word and the world hated them, because they are not from the world, just as I Myself am not from the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but that You would keep them from the evil one…Sanctify them in the truth; Your Word is truth. Just as You sent Me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And for them I sanctify Myself, so that they also might be sanctified in truth” (John 17:11-15, 17-19).
For them—for the Eleven—and for us, He sanctified Himself. The Son was consecrated—set apart—by the Father and sent into the world (John 10:36) by means of the Virgin’s womb, so that He could be consecrated in flesh by the wood of the cross. In death and darkness, He was anointed with nails, and thorns, and whips—He was anointed with bruises on His holy Body and by His own holy blood—and there He was consecrated as the eternal sacrifice for the sins of the world which had put Him there. But He was going to the Father. He rose from the dead, still displaying the scars of His gruesome glory, and He went to the Father, ascended and filling all in all. It was in that Ascension that we rejoiced on Thursday.
And now our ascended Lord and God prays (Romans 8:34). He prayed for His Apostles before He went to the cross, and His prayer was answered when the Father sent the Spirit in the Name of Jesus. He prays for you, no less than for those who were with Him in Jerusalem. Do you think that there is any chance that the prayer of the only Son of the Father will not be heard? Or maybe you find it hard to believe that Jesus is praying for you. Beloved, your sin and your shame, everything you carry around in your body and your soul that is unholy: Jesus died to take it from you; and because of that death, the crucified, resurrected, and ascended One prays for you. And He prays very specifically: that we would be sanctified—made holy and set apart from the world as a member of His Body. And He prays that His joy would be fulfilled in us. Restore unto us the joy of Thy salvation! The strong joy that rejoices even in suffering, because God uses it to conform us to Christ; the joy that knows that our consecration, like Christ’s, will come in death and resurrection, as we follow Christ to His Father and our Father. And He prays that the Father would keep us from the evil one.
When you pray “deliver us from evil,” you are echoing Jesus’ prayer; you are doing battle with the Tempter, so make the sign under which you fight. As you go into enemy territory, into the world which hates you, remind yourself that you are marked with the sign of victory. By that cross, and nothing else, God will keep you from the evil one. Finally, Jesus prays that the Father would keep us in His Name so that we would be one as the Son and the Father are one. If you are baptized into the one Name of the Father-Son-Spirit, you are one with all those throughout time and space who share that Name. In the water blessed and consecrated by the Word, you yourself were consecrated—set apart from the world—with the Name of God and prayer. The evidence is the cross on your head and on your heart. Jesus prays to His Father that He would keep you day by day in that Name. Do not doubt the Father’s will toward you. “My Father,” Jesus says, “who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one” (John 10:29-30).
Jesus prays for us, gathered here, guarded by the Lord and His armies of angels. He guards us because you and I bear His Name and His Word in our bodies. If we are His at all, we are completely His. What we call our selves cannot be separated from the Name He has put on us. As we go out to the places where Jesus sends us, we bear His Name in the midst of a world that hates the sound of the Name and the sound of the Word. The world hates everything that is not from itself; and if there is anything that comes from outside the world, condemning its practices and its loves and its idols, it is the Word of God. If the world does not hate us, perhaps—God forbid!—it does not see us as bearers of the Word or recognize us as ones redeemed by Christ the crucified. In whatever ways we are marked by the influence, practices, and loves of the world or pay even passing homage to the gods of this age, the Name and Word that God has put on us are turned against us for our own good.
We ought to pay more attention to those things against which the Word of God is turned. Pay attention to what’s coming through all those wires that run into our houses and into our ears…. There is no image, no word, that is neutral. There is not a single product of this culture—not that song on the radio, not that TV show, not that movie, not that commercial—that does not affect us in some way. And we should realize that the cumulative effects of this world can build and build until we crumble under its weight.
In order to combat the millions of words and images that are thrown at us every day, we need the Word and images of God. So we dare not willingly keep ourselves away from the Word of Jesus; we dare not voluntarily avoid the Body and Blood of the Lord who prays for us; because all we’re doing is taking off the armor piece by piece, stripping ourselves of any defense against the evil one, telling Jesus, “You can keep Your prayer; I’m fine on my own.”
Beloved, Jesus prays for you! He prays that the Father will keep you in the baptismal and absolving Name! And He keeps you and binds you to Himself by means of His Word. You are not of this world; you do not belong to the evil one, because you follow Him who descended from heaven and ascended again. And you will follow Him to the Father, whose love gave you birth the second time. You are not from this world! And until He takes you out of it, listen as Jesus prays: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). Have good cheer, little flock; for the Father will keep you in His love forever. Have good cheer, little flock.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
— Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 5/14/21