Hope Evangelical Lutheran Church | Portage, Indiana

April 1st, 2020

Midweek Lent 2020: Jesus our Great High Priest (John 17)

“The High Priest Prays for our Certainty”

Midweek Lent 6


Psalm 40 (ESV)

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
    out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
    making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
    and put their trust in the Lord.

Blessed is the man who makes
    the Lord his trust,
who does not turn to the proud,
    to those who go astray after a lie!
You have multiplied, O Lord my God,
    your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
    none can compare with you!
I will proclaim and tell of them,
    yet they are more than can be told.

In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted,
    but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt offering and sin offering
    you have not required.
Then I said, “Behold, I have come;
    in the scroll of the book it is written of me:
I delight to do your will, O my God;
    your law is within my heart.”

I have told the glad news of deliverance
    in the great congregation;
behold, I have not restrained my lips,
    as you know, O Lord.
10 I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart;
    I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
    from the great congregation.

11 As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain
    your mercy from me;
your steadfast love and your faithfulness will
    ever preserve me!
12 For evils have encompassed me
    beyond number;
my iniquities have overtaken me,
    and I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head;
    my heart fails me.

13 Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me!
    O Lord, make haste to help me!
14 Let those be put to shame and disappointed altogether
    who seek to snatch away my life;
let those be turned back and brought to dishonor
    who delight in my hurt!
15 Let those be appalled because of their shame
    who say to me, “Aha, Aha!”

16 But may all who seek you
    rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation
    say continually, “Great is the Lord!”
17 As for me, I am poor and needy,
    but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
    do not delay, O my God!

Passion History: Mark 15:33-47 (ESV)

33 And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” 36 And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

40 There were also women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 41 When he was in Galilee, they followed him and ministered to him, and there were also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem.

42 And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. 45 And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. 46 And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.

Homily: The High Priest Prays for our Certainty

Rev. David H. Locklair

John 17:24-26

24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.

          Dear fellow redeemed,

          Christ Jesus is our great High Priest. That’s been the theme for our midweek Lenten Services this year. As we’ve worked our way through Jesus’ High Priestly prayer, prayed the day before His death for us, we’ve seen Him intercede for us. On a much greater scale than the High Priests of the Old Testament, Jesus pleads for us. The High Priest prays for our certainty.

          The verses before us this evening are the final words in Jesus’ prayer. After this, He and the disciples went to Gethsemane, where He would be arrested. The comfort which this prayer offers us culminates in these verses. Martin Luther would note: “This is the final but most comforting part of this prayer for all those who cling to Christ, so that we may be sure and certain of our ultimate hope, rest, and abode, since here in the world we are miserable, destitute, and have no sure or permanent abiding place.”[1]

          Jesus again speaks of glory in these verses. “Glory” has been a key word throughout this prayer. On our own, God’s glory is a terrifying thing. We see this reflected in Scripture. The Israelites are terrified by God’s glory at Mt. Sinai; Peter, James, and John are terrified at God’s glory on the mount of transfiguration. In light of God’s glory, we recognize that we are the opposite of God. We are sinful and we deserve to be punished for that sin. It’s a terrifying realization.

          Yet, take heart and see what Jesus prays for: “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” Christ Jesus desires, Christ Jesus prays, that you should be in the presence of God in paradise. And therefore, Jesus did something about the problem of your sin.

          Jesus comes to save us and He comes in a way we can stand. He hides His glory with His humanity. God hides His full glory in the person of Jesus. Jesus prevents us from melting in fear before the all holy God. He came to win our salvation, our place in God’s glorious presence. In the strange package of a little baby, He entered into our world. In the strange package of a man who looked like any other man of that time, He lived a holy life in our place. In the strange package of a beaten and bloodied Nazarene dying on a cross, He paid for our sins.

          Through Christ you will see the glory of God in eternity. The very essence of the blessedness of heaven is seeing God. From that seeing arises eternal happiness. This awaits you. In Christ, it is certain.

          Sadly, not everyone will have certainty because not everyone knows God. Those who do not know the one true God can have no certainty because they have no salvation. “O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me.” Sadly, the world does not want to know Christ. It rejects the revelation of Him, and will be lost to hell.

          But, believers do know the one true God. Christ knows the Father and Christ makes the Father known to us. We have come to know that Christ is sent from the Father to proclaim the truth.

          How can we have certainty? How is this prayer of Jesus answered? It is in our gracious God revealing Himself to us. “I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” Remember the “name” of God includes everything about God and what He has done for our salvation. Jesus makes known everything you need for certainty of salvation.

          How do we come to the Father? How do we come to eternity in God’s loving presence? Through faith. And how is faith given? Through the Word. Hear the Word; read the Word; study the Word; the Word will give you certainty.

          Ponder the amazing words of comfort in the last words of this text: “that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” The love that God has for the believer is the same love which the Father has for the Son. The Christian has this love as his constant possession. Our safe keeping was planned in eternity and will reach into eternity. This love of God for us is ours in Christ Jesus. The Father loved us from eternity and still loves us through His Son, Jesus Christ. We can be certain.

          Dear friends, Jesus’ High Priestly prayer is a source of tremendous comfort for the Christian. It reminds us that in Christ we are kept safe, both now and forever. It assures us that Christ ever has our safe keeping in mind. It teaches us that these things are true and unchanging from before the world began. In this prayer Christ also promises the revelation of the Word and reveals much of that Word. That Word is truth – the saving truth of God. You can be certain of your salvation in Jesus. Amen.

 (link to audio: https://soundcloud.com/hopeportage/midweeklent6_2020)

(cover art by Rev. Jeff Hendrix, Lutheran Synod Digital Publishing, https://lutheransynodpublishing.com/ )

[1] Luther, Luther’s Works: Vol. 69, 112.