Hope Evangelical Lutheran Church | Portage, Indiana

March 11th, 2020

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

“The High Priest Prays for our Protection”

Midweek Lent 3

READINGS

Psalm 25 (ESV)

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in you I trust;
    let me not be put to shame;
    let not my enemies exult over me.
Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame;
    they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
    teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are the God of my salvation;
    for you I wait all the day long.

Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love,
    for they have been from of old.
Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
    according to your steadfast love remember me,
    for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!

Good and upright is the Lord;
    therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right,
    and teaches the humble his way.
10 All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

11 For your name’s sake, O Lord,
    pardon my guilt, for it is great.
12 Who is the man who fears the Lord?
    Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.
13 His soul shall abide in well-being,
    and his offspring shall inherit the land.
14 The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him,
    and he makes known to them his covenant.
15 My eyes are ever toward the Lord,
    for he will pluck my feet out of the net.

16 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
    for I am lonely and afflicted.
17 The troubles of my heart are enlarged;
    bring me out of my distresses.
18 Consider my affliction and my trouble,
    and forgive all my sins.

19 Consider how many are my foes,
    and with what violent hatred they hate me.
20 Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me!
    Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.
21 May integrity and uprightness preserve me,
    for I wait for you.

22 Redeem Israel, O God,
    out of all his troubles.

Passion History: Mark 14:53-72 (ESV)

53 And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. 54 And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he was sitting with the guards and warming himself at the fire. 55 Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. 56 For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. 57 And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” 59 Yet even about this their testimony did not agree. 60 And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” 61 But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” 62 And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” 63 And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? 64 You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. 65 And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him with blows.

66 And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. 69 And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” 72 And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.

Homily: The High Priest Prays for our Protection

Rev. David H. Locklair

John 17:11-16

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.

          Dear fellow redeemed,

          In a sense, the Old Testament High Priests were protectors. No, they did not lead the Israelites into battle. No, they were not armed with weapons to defend the people against invaders. Yet, there were protectors of an even more important type: spiritual protectors. They were to protect the people from falsehood by teaching the truth. They were to arm the people for eternity by proclaiming God’s Word. They were to offer sacrifices on behalf of the people to shield them from God’s wrath on account of their sin. The High Priests were protectors. In a much greater way, Christ Jesus is The Protector. Tonight we see that our great High Priest prays for our protection.

          Jesus said in this prayer that shortly He would “no longer” be in the world because He was coming to the Father. Very soon, Jesus would not be in the world in the same manner that He was that night. Christ would still be present but not outwardly perceptible to the senses as He was prior to His ascension.

          Therefore, Jesus made this prayer to His Father: “keep them in your name.” He prays for the protection of those who believe in Him. The “name” of God in Scripture refers to the revelation of God, the Word of God. This is how we know God. This Word Jesus had given to the disciples and so they were connected to God through His Word.

          The Word of God protects us from all spiritual harm. The Word in our baptism delivered us from the kingdom of Satan into the family of God. The Word in Holy Communion delivers us from the penalty of sin unto forgiveness of sins. The Word keeps our faith alive that we should one day enter into the eternal security of heaven. Christ prays for our protection and God protects us by His Word.

          Here, Christ made this prayer, “that they may be one, even as we are one.” Christ and His Father are one in essence. The Church’s unity is an essential unity of faith in Christ. Those who believe in Christ share an invisible bond of faith. The Eleven disciples were one in Christ, and Christ prayed they would remain so by remaining in the faith.

          Unity is found in the Word of God. God creates our unity for which Christ prayed. Sadly, people often damage this unity by going against Scripture. Unity is caused by God’s Word, so disunity results when people go against this Word. This is why there are so many different denominations in the world: people often reject parts, or all, of God’s Word. We cannot restore unity by agreeing to disagree or setting aside unpopular teachings; unity is only found in holding to God’s Word. This is why we do not express unity with those who do not hold to all of God’s Word; true unity is not present so it would be a lie to act as if it is.

          In His prayer, Jesus said that all the disciples had been “guarded,” kept through the Word, except for one. That one, called “the son of destruction,” was Judas. It is not that the protection of the Word failed; quite the opposite, in fact. Judas willfully turned away from the Word that had been delivered to him and so he was lost.

          There are warnings for us in this text: warnings to not forfeit God’s protection, to not turn away from His Word, to not reject the protection of the Word. These are the things Judas did and he will spend eternity in hell.

          We will certainly be tempted, as Judas was, to do such things. As our Lord noted, “the world” hates believers. This puts pressure on us. Who wants to be hated? Who wants to be ridiculed? Who wants to be mocked? So we are tempted: we are tempted to use the same foul speech as the unbelieving world, or give approval of the same sinful things as the unbelieving world, or shy away from letting our Christian beliefs be widely known. When we have given into such temptations, we have sinned against our High Priest.

          But, remember what High Priests do. They protect. Jesus is our ultimate Protector. Jesus perfectly bore the hatred of the world. He endured it for our benefit. First, He perfectly guarded His Father’s Word and walked and taught according to it even in the face of mockery, scorn, and persecution. Second, He endured hatred in the form of His arrest, His torture, and His crucifixion for through those events He would also suffer the punishment for all our sins. Upon the cross, He endured the wrath of the Father so that we should be protected from it. Jesus protects us: His holy life covers our unholy lives and His innocent death has taken away the punishment we deserved.

          The Word of Jesus delivers to us the protection He won. It takes us out of membership in the unbelieving world and makes us members of God’s own family. It protects us by keeping our faith alive through which we have the protection of the great High Priest. So, Jesus says of those who believe in Him, “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”

          And Jesus prays that you be protected from the assaults of Satan, the prince of this world, as you live in this world. “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” By His Word, God will protect you.

          Dear friends, you are not of this world. You are different. You not of the same nature as the unbelieving world. You trust in Jesus The High Priest. Live as you are; shun the sin of this world and cling to your Savior. As you live in this world full of evil, remember that Christ prays for your protection. Christ is your protection. Amen.

 (link to audio: https://soundcloud.com/hopeportage/midweeklent3_2020)

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