Ask, and You Will Receive

Text: John 16:23-30

Our Lord said to His disciples on the night He was betrayed, “In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”[1] Ask, and you will receive, He said. The Latin word for ask is rogare, and it’s where we get the title and theme for the sixth Sunday of Easter, Rogate Sunday – Ask Sunday.

As our Savior was preparing to be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, suffer, die and be raised, He also had in mind that He would soon after those things be with His disciples no longer. Jesus also had in mind His ascension, the time where He would sit down at the right hand of the Father. Though He is still with us, His presence with us now is different than it was before. In order to comfort His disciples at His seeming absence, He gave them something. On the night our Lord was betrayed, He comforted His distressed disciples by inviting them to pray and promising that their (and our) prayers are heard and answered.

I.

Ask and you will receive, in order that your joy may be full,” Jesus said. Our text this morning, as well as the Gospel readings for the last few Sundays comes from John 16. Jesus’ teaching in this chapter comes as part of His final discourse with the Disciples before His passion. We’ve heard already about the work of the Holy Spirit and why Jesus was going away. But, we also heard last week about the sorrow that was filling the Disciples’ hearts. By now, they’d been with Jesus for three years. Where He went, they went. When He ate, they ate. They were there for His teaching and witnessed His miracles. Soon, He would be with them no longer. Though at this point they did not fully understand (as St. John himself said – that they didn’t understand until after the Resurrection), they knew enough to be sad.

Our Lord, who knows all things, knew their sorrow. Our Lord is also a kind Lord and, to comfort His disciples, gave them a precious gift. “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive.” Our Lord gave to the disciples the gift of prayer. Though up to this point they may not have understood their great need, they soon would. Soon, Jesus would be with them no longer. They will have sorrow while the world rejoices. And so, to comfort them, Jesus invited them to pray.

When they felt the scorn and hatred of the world, when they suffered persecution and great trial, when they encountered hostility, poverty, illness, and despair, and when the hour of death drew near, Jesus encouraged the Disciples to pray. To pray means to speak to God. In all hours of need and trial, Jesus comforted the Disciples by inviting them to pray in His name – to beseech and ask of the Father through faith in His name. “Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive,” Jesus said.

II.

In that day you will ask nothing in My name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came from God.”[2] Our gracious and kind Lord knew the sorrow His Disciples were enduring and would continue to face, and so He comforted them with the invitation and privilege to pray. But He didn’t just tell them to pray; He also promised that their prayers would be heard. The true comfort is not just in the act of praying, but in praying and knowing that our prayers are heard. “Ask, and you will receive,” Jesus said, “for the Father Himself loves you.”

Jesus invited the Disciples to pray to the Father and promised that He would hear and answer their prayers. “The Father Himself loves you,” He said, “because you loved Me and have believed that I came from God.” That is to say, those who pray to the Father through faith in Jesus can know and be assured the Father receives their prayer. And, for the sake of Jesus, He answers the faithful who pray. Those who are united with Christ by faith and through Baptism become fellow heirs with Him of the kingdom of heaven and are God’s beloved children. The Heavenly Father does not abandon His children, but watches over them and cares for them in every need. Jesus said elsewhere, “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead…give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg…a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”[3]

When Jesus said, “I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf,” He was not saying that He would no longer pray for His followers, for He will never cease that duty. In Hebrews it says that Jesus continues in His priestly office forever. He continually prays for us. Rather, Jesus means that His followers can now pray directly to the Father. Remember how, at Jesus’ death, the temple curtain was torn in two – showing the separation between God and man is removed through faith in the cross of Christ. Through faith in His death for the forgiveness of sins, the faithful in Christ find the door to the Father open wide, and so also His fatherly heart. As the Disciples were being filled with sorrow, Jesus offered them this comfort – they may pray to the Father directly and set every care before His throne, and know that He hears and loves them.

III.

My friends in Christ, the same invitation and promise that Jesus gave to the Disciples on the night He was betrayed, He has also given to us. We also can pray to God and know that our prayers are heard. By Baptism into Christ, we have received the white robes of His righteousness. When the Father looks at us, He sees only His beloved children and delights to answer our prayers. By faith in Christ’s death and resurrection for us, we have direct access to God and can know that for Christ’s sake, our prayers are heard.

What things, then, should we pray for? Everything! Every trial, need, temptation, distress, trouble. But, also, we should pray in thanksgiving for the many blessings and the gifts which God has already freely given us. It is true that God knows our every need even before we do and even if we don’t know it at all, but He loves to be asked and loves to answer. He hears and answers our prayers not because of any personal holiness or goodness on our part, but because we have been purchased back from sin and death by the blood of Christ and have been given faith in His name. Therefore, we can have confidence when we pray. The answer to our prayer depends not only our holiness, but on Christ’s holiness for us and the Father’s love.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night He was betrayed, knew His Disciples’ sorrow. He knew, also, that He would soon no longer be with them. He would be separated from them by His death and, later – in a different way – by His ascension. To comfort them, Jesus invited them to pray to the Father and assured them that their prayers are heard. This invitation and promise, He has given also to us – His Church. In every trial and temptation, and also in every blessing, we may pray to God and be comforted that He hears and answers our prayers for the sake of His Son.


[1] John 16:23-24, English Standard Version.

[2] Jn. 16:26-27.

[3] Lk. 11:11-13.

Hallowed Be Our Father’s Name

Text: Introduction and First Petition of the Lord’s Prayer

From ancient times, the season of Lent – the season in the Church Year we have now entered – has been used as a time of catechesis, a time of learning. It was during this time of year that candidates for Baptism used to increase their devotion to God’s Word in preparation for receiving the washing of the Water and the Word on the Vigil of Easter – the Saturday before Easter, after sundown. Though we now Baptize in all parts of the Church Year, Lent, as a period of learning can still be seen in the readings for each Sunday, especially in the epistles.

In the Lutheran Church there has been a longstanding tradition of studying the Catechism during Lent. This stands as both a welcome refresher for those of us who’ve long since been through confirmation, and a continuing help to those who are currently receiving instruction. In our congregations, we continue this practice. Two years ago, we studied the Commandments, which show us what God’s will for our live is and what sort of actions are pleasing to Him. Last year, we confessed the Apostles’ Creed and learned what it means to believe in God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This year we take up the prayer our Lord Jesus has taught us. We’ve already learned what we should do and believe. In the Lord’s Prayer, we learn how to pray. Today, we learn that in the Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer we are encouraged to pray to our heavenly Father as His dear children, and in the First Petition we ask that His name would be kept holy in our words and lives.

I.

Before we go further, perhaps we should answer this question first: What is prayer? A month ago, when we celebrated the Transfiguration, I asked this question at the start of the sermon: What is the Bible? Today’s question, what is prayer, is likewise simple but easy to overthink. Prayer is speaking to God. The synodical explanation in the back of the catechism says that prayer is “speaking to God in words or thoughts.” From there, prayer can take any number of different forms. The most familiar form of prayer is often the spoken. Prayers to God are often spoken out loud, especially when we pray as a congregation. When we pray as a congregation, we are praying as one body together. Praying out loud facilitates that. Prayers are also often sung, such as in the liturgy when the pastor chants a prayer or in the hymns the congregation sings. Prayers may be spoken or sung, but the most frequent prayers are those offered silently in our thoughts.

As prayers may take many different forms, they may also be concerned with many things. Prayers may be prayers of praise. They may be prayers of supplication, requests for ourselves and others. Often times, we offer prayers of thanksgiving and some are prayers of confession. We address our prayers to the Triune God first, because He does command it. In the Psalms it says, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”[1] Our Lord also has said, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.’”[2] He says when, and does not leave it open for us not to pray. In addition to God’s command to pray, which also falls under the Second Commandment, He has promised to hear us. Our Father in heaven hears and answers all prayers made in faith.

Third, in addition to God’s command and promise, our own great need should move us to pray. None of us live such perfect lives that we have no wants or needs – to say nothing of our need for forgiveness. And, even if our own needs don’t move us to pray – those of our neighbors should. And finally, we can pray using words that our Lord Himself has given us. We call it the Lord’s Prayer because He is the author and it is for us both the best prayer and the model for how we should pray and what we should pray for.

II.

Having said that, let’s say the Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer together. With the words, “Our Father,” God invites us to believe that He is our true Father and we His true children, so that we might address Him with all boldness and confidence. The Lord’s Prayer, then, begins with a Gospel promise. Our God, the God, is not some distant deity who is not truly concerned for us inhabitants of earth. Instead, He is our Father and we are His children. We are His children by faith. Though we, by the Fall into Sin and by our own personal sin, had separated ourselves and become children of wrath, God the Father sent forth His Son to fulfill the Law and redeem us. Through faith in Christ we are restored to a right relationship with God. By faith, Jesus is our Lord and brother, His Father becomes our Father, and we His children.

Jesus teaches us to pray in this way, so that we might pray with boldness and confidence. This confidence is not based on anything in us, however. By faith, we address God as Father. By faith, He is our Father and we are His dear children. Therefore, we should not fear to speak to Him. In fact, He doesn’t just command it; He desires it. God wants to hear from us and for us to speak to Him. He invites us to. With the words, “our Father,” we are encouraged to speak to Him as children would their own fathers – with boldness and with confidence. In the Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches and invites us to pray to God our father with boldness and confidence in His promise to hear and answer.

III.

Now, the First Petition. We speak it together. In this petition we ask that God’s name would be kept holy in our words and our lives. In the Large Catechism, Luther points out that “Hallowed be Thy name,” doesn’t make for good German – and maybe neither English – because God’s name is holy in and of itself. Simply put, God is holy. His name is holy. There is nothing that can change or add to that. In this petition, we’re not praying that God’s name be made holy but that it be kept holy in our lives. That’s exactly what we just spoke, “We pray in this petition that it [God’s name] may be kept holy among us also.”[3]

How is God’s name kept holy among us? Two ways. First, when God’s Word is taught among us in its truth and purity. That is to say, God’s name is kept holy when His saving Word is taught, spoken, and preached rightly, without any human doctrine snuck it. Second, God’s name is kept holy among us when we, as His children, lead holy lives according to His Word. Just as unruly children often reflect poorly on their parents, we dishonor God when we – as His children – live contrary to His Word. In this way, the First Petition is asking God to lead us to keep the Second Commandment. The Second Commandment means that we should fear and love God so that don’t lie or deceive by His name, but instead call upon it in every trouble, “pray, praise, and give thanks.”[4]

So far, we’ve learned what it means to pray. Praying is speaking to God in words or thoughts; be they spoken, sung, or simply prayed in silence. We pray because God commands it, but also because He promises to hear and answer – and because of our own great need. In the Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer, God invites to pray to Him as dear children speak to their own dear father. God, indeed, desires to hear from us – His children. In the First Petition, we ask that God would lead us to keep His name holy by keeping His Word pure and undefiled, and by living our lives according to it. Next week we will continue with the Second and Third Petitions: Thy Kingdom Come and Thy Will Be Done.


 

[1] Ps. 50:15, English Standard Version.

[2] Lk. 11:2.

[3] Lutheran Service Book, 323.

[4] Ibid., 321.

Call Upon the Lord

Text: Psalm 50:1-15

Bulletin: 2017-12-13 Advent Midweek II

Right in a middle chunk of the Augsburg Confession, the Lutheran confessors bring up a great point that goes with our psalm tonight. The Augsburg Confession, beyond Luther’s Small Catechism, is what defines us as, “The Lutheran Church.” The Augsburg Confession is divided into 28 articles, the first 21 of which are given just for the sake of clarity. They show that the Lutherans did not teach anything new, nor did they depart from what the Church throughout the world has always taught. The last of those articles talks about praying to the saints. There, it says, “Scripture sets before us the one Christ as the Mediator, Atoning Sacrifice, High Priest, and Intercessor. He is to be prayed to. He has promised that He will hear our prayer. This is the worship that He approves above all other worship, that He be called upon in all afflictions.”[1]

I bring this up, because it bears on our psalm this evening. In Psalm 50, God is described to us as drawing near for judgement. He summons all earth and heaven, and testifies against His people. He testifies against them for, although their sacrifices were continually before Him, their hearts were far away. Instead of offering sacrifices of thanksgiving from cleansed hearts, they offered only out of obligation. They blessed with one side of the mouth and cursed out the other. God urged His people in this psalm to call upon Him in their times of trouble, for He will deliver them. Tonight, we confess that true worship of God is to call upon Him in trouble, for He will deliver us.

I.

In their statement, the confessors found themselves aligned with God in their sentiment. In the time of the Reformation, the worship life of the Church at large had become corrupted. In many cases, no parts of the service were in the language of the people, so they went only out of obligation or fear. In places where the common language was spoken, it was often not a level people could understand. There were priests whose sole job was to offer private communion services for donors day and night. It would be one thing if people were seeking the forgiveness of sins in the sacrament at all hours of the day – but that wasn’t the case. Instead, receiving the mass was an act to merit grace.

This is a similar picture to how God’s people throughout the Old Testament, and what is described in the psalm. At many points, the people are described as misusing God’s Word and misunderstanding the sacrifices. In the psalm, God says the point He is upset with His people over is not a lack of sacrifices. Those were always before Him. Rather, God testified against them, “You hate discipline, and you cast My Words behind you…You give your mouth free rein for evil, and your tongue frames deceit.”[2] God’s people lied and spoke evil, they did not live according to His Word. Then, they came to offer sacrifices out of obligation, and thought that was worship.

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon Me in the day of trouble.”[3] When the topic of worship is brought up in the Book of Concord as a whole, Psalm 50 is called upon to define the Lutheran understanding of worship. True worship of God is not to just go through the motions, but to look to God for all things good. True worship is begun in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Through the Word, He convicts us of our sins and points us to Christ, who made full payment for the sins of the whole world. True worship is to look to God for the forgiveness of sins and for all blessings, both temporal and eternal. Especially, as God named, true worship is to call upon Him in the day of trouble.

II.

Psalm 50 portrays God as drawing near to judge His people. He testifies against them. For, although their sacrifices were always before Him, their hearts were not, and they did not call upon Him in the day of trouble. If they would call upon Him in faith, He would deliver them. Often, instead, the people treated the sacrifices like pagans would. Their understanding was, if you wanted Baal to act, you had to bribe him first. Or, they treated sacrifices like doing God a favor. You do right by Him, He does right by you. Or, they treated God like a vending machine. Sacrifice a goat, get a boat. For this, God bore witness against His people.

God teaches and calls upon us here to pray, because He wants to answer. As we learned in the Catechism, God answers our prayers not because we deserve it, but because of His own fatherly, divine, goodness and mercy. To those who call upon Him in faith, He does answer and bless. Jesus has said, “Whatever you ask in My name, this I will do.”[4] Throughout our lives, we have received blessing upon blessing from God. Everything that we have, we receive from His loving hand. For all this it is our duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.

God also offers this promise to those who worship Him in truth, who call upon Him in faith, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.”[5] As our lives have been filled with blessing after blessing, so also has God delivered us from our troubles. We would not be here today, had not God brought us this far. And, who knows how many traps the devil has laid out for us, that God has sprung – we unaware? What great comfort this is for when we are suffering; we can call upon God and He will deliver. He will deliver us, also, on that Final Day when our redemption draws near.

The Augsburg Confession states with our psalm, that the worship that God desires and approves above all others is that we call upon Him in times of need. May God, by His Holy Spirit, keep us mindful of the deliverance He has provided us in the past and in the confidence that He will deliver us from all troubles, even on that Last Day.


[1] AC XXI, 2-3. Reader’s Edition.

[2] Ps. 50:17, 19.

[3] Ps. 50:14-15.

[4] Jn. 14:13.

[5] Ps. 50:15.

The Pharisee and the Tax Collector

Text: Luke 18:9-14

Listen to the sermon here

Two men enter, and two men leave. Two men go up to the temple to pray, and both go down again. Two men go in, but only one returns justified. One man was a Pharisee and the other, a tax collector. Yet, the one who went down justified was not the one people would’ve expected. Our text today from St. Luke’s Gospel often gets combined with another occasion where Jesus talks about Pharisees and prayer. In Matthew 6, Jesus says, “when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.” Jesus uses the word “hypocrites” there, but it’s clear that He’s talking about the Pharisees, who habitually put on shows of piety for others to see.

Passages about the Pharisees often get combined, and most of the time when they come up, the sermon becomes an opportunity to encourage humility and tolerance. For, every knows how judgmental those evil Pharisees were; and, of course, we are better than they are. Or, if you like – take out Pharisee and put in whatever other people you want. Although we could preach a sermon on humility from this text, I’m not convinced that’s the main point. St. Luke gives us why Jesus preached this parable in verse 9, “He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous.”

This parable is a little more sophisticated than it appears at first. It actually cuts right to the core of the Christian faith and the thing that separates the true faith from all the other falsehoods out there. The core of the Christian faith and what separates us from all other religions is how we are justified, how we are made righteous – how we are saved. Two men go into the temple to pray, one leaves justified. One man offers an eloquent prayer, which is to be commended, but his prayer revealed where his confidence ultimately lied: in himself. So, he left without his sins forgiven. The other, as we will see, returned to his home forgiven. Jesus demonstrates in our text that the ones who are truly justified – who are made righteous and whose sins are forgiven – are those who trust not in themselves, but only in God’s abundant mercy.

I.

Our text begins, “He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: ‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.’” In Luke 18, things are starting the ratchet up a little bit. If your remember last week, our text was Luke 19, which was just after Triumphal Entry. Jesus is teaching in this chapter in view of His upcoming passion. The things that He talks about have His suffering and death as their central point. Soon after our text comes Jesus’ third prediction of His death, which will accomplish all that was written in the prophets; He will win salvation for the world by His death and resurrection. His suffering is what makes peace between God and the world and is the reason for our justification.

In order to teach this, Jesus uses a parable. He sets up a contrast that would be startlingly real to the audience. In one corner, a Pharisee, and in the other, a tax collector. It’s important to remember that, contrary to how we perceive Pharisees now, they weren’t the bad guys. Well, they were for their evil doctrine; but think of the Pharisees as the people in church that everyone likes. They are the most religious, most giving, most well-liked people in the congregation. They were whom everyone looked up to. The tax collector, on the other hand, was the bad guy. Yeah, they were Jews. But they were greedy swindlers, who worked for the Roman occupiers. They paid a great sum of money be tax collectors, only so they could extort more money out of their fellow man. And yeah, they probably went to church, but they maybe weren’t the most well-liked.

II.

Both men go up to the temple to pray. “The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’” The Pharisee goes up to the temple for the time of corporate worship with all the other people, but he situates himself so that he is set apart from the others. To some extent, this was the Pharisees’ M.O.; to them you were either pure or not. Salvation for them was measured by how pure you were. Included among those who were not pure, were some who were fellow churchgoers. So, he separated himself from the crowd, because if he got too close, then he would also be impure, and then also so he could be seen by the others.

He offered this prayer: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers…” Now, in some ways, the prayer itself is not so bad. It is good to thank God that He has preserved us from falling into great shame and vice. If it weren’t for the Holy Spirit, we would be much worse off. It’s okay to recognize that. But that’s not what the Pharisee did. Remember why Jesus is telling this parable. The Pharisee was saying that he was better than all other men. All the others are unrighteous robbers and adulterers, but not him. He concluded that, because he does not do any of those things, he must be righteous. Then he justified himself by saying, in addition, he also fasted not once but twice a week and tithed not just what he earned, but also what he bought.

Jesus spoke this parable against those who were confident that they were righteous in and of themselves. They were the ones who counted their works, and based their hope of salvation on them. The Pharisee wasn’t really thanking God, but he was advertising and celebrating himself. He didn’t need to ask God for forgiveness, because he knew how good he was. His posture and prayer revealed what was inside his heart: neither repentance over sin nor faith in Christ, only his own goodness. Therefore, Jesus said, the Pharisee was not the one who went down from the temple justified. The Pharisee thanked God that he was not like the others, the unrighteous. But now he is the “other,” the one whose sins were not forgiven. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

III.  

The tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other.” As the Pharisee stood in front of the congregation congratulating himself, the tax collector stood at a distance. All men are liars, cheaters, adulterers, and thieves – in other words, poor miserable sinners – a fact the tax collector freely acknowledged. Convicted by God’s Word and ashamed of his sin, the man would not even look up to heaven. Instead, he beat his chest. This act of contrition was common in times of great sorrow, but even then usually only among women. For a man to do it…

He offered up a simple prayer, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Hidden in those words is a profound theological statement that we miss in English.The word for mercy in Greek is ἔλεος , which is where we get Kyrie Eleison from. That isn’t the word the tax collector uses. He uses the word ἱλάσθητί, which relates to another word, ἱλαστήριον. The ἱλαστήριον is the part on the ark of the covenant that would be covered by blood of a sacrifice. Once a year, one priest would go furthest into the temple, into the holy of holies. There he would present a sacrifice and sprinkle the blood on the mercy seat of God. That blood would cover the sins of the people.

When the tax collector came to the temple and offered that simple prayer, what he was asking was that the blood that was shed for the forgiveness of sins would be for his sins also. His sins were great and many, there was no righteousness in him. But God is righteous and merciful and provides His own payment for sin. The author to the Hebrews writes, “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins…[therefore, Christ] by a single offering [he] has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” When the tax collector begged that God would have mercy on him, he asked that God would make atonement for his sins and wash them away with blood. And, so has God done through the blood of Christ.

Jesus said, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other.” Those who are truly justified, made righteous, are those who trust not in themselves, but wholly in God’s abundant mercy. The Pharisee prided himself in his goodness. Though it is good to tithe and do other good works, it is wrong to place your confidence in them and measure your salvation against them. Or, insert good intentions, good morals, church attendance, or whatever else you want into that sentence. The Pharisee is anyone who places his hope of salvation and confidence anywhere other than God’s mercy. The tax collector went away justified, forgiven his sins, because he trusted not in himself but in God’s great compassion. Does that mean the tax collector got a free pass to continue on sinning? No, for being forgiven our sins leads us to show that same compassion to others. But, that is the point. We are not saved by who we are, by our works, or by anything else we do. We are saved because God has had mercy on us. He has made atonement for our sins not by the blood of bulls and goats, but by the blood of the only-begotten Son of God.

 

Jesus Prays for Us

Text: John 17:11b-19

This week we return again to the night on which Jesus was betrayed. The last two weeks our Gospel readings were from John 15 where Jesus assured us that He is the vine and we are the branches. He promised that as we abide in Him and His Word, He abides in us and causes us to bear fruit. Bearing fruit is the work of the Holy Spirit, who leads us to speak the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ to all people without partiality. However, Jesus names a solemn consequence of the work that the Triune God does among the body of believers. Jesus says to the Disciples, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”[1]

It is on account of this reality that Jesus does one last thing before He departs for Gethsemane to be betrayed. Knowing that we who are kept in the Word of God by His grace will be hated by the world, Jesus prayed for us.

I.

Jesus knew that His departure was at hand. Soon He would be delivered into the hands of sinners; soon He would be given a mock trial, and crucified. We would expect Jesus’ main concern to Himself. After all, being crucified has to be one of the most painful ways to die. But, Jesus’ main concern is not for Himself. He prayed to the Father, “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. 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.”[2]

Jesus’ chief concern is for those who remain in the world as He returns to the Father. He is returning to resume the glory He had in unity with the Father and the Holy Spirit before all Creation. Part of that involved that the Disciples remain behind. We’ll get back to that in a little bit. Jesus’ prayer includes a request that God the Father keep the Disciples in His name, the name which Jesus shares, that they may be one. Jesus called the Disciples out of darkness into the Light by the confession of faith in the Triune God. While Jesus was with the Disciples He guarded and kept them in the name of God Most High. Despite the pot-shots and criticisms of the Pharisees and Sadducees, the derision of even their own families, Jesus guarded and protected the Disciples during their time together. Not one of them was lost, save Judas the betrayer, in order to fulfill Scripture.

II.

Christ’s work calling the Disciples and guarding them in the confession of the Truth bore fruit. It bore fruit in that already through the ministry of the Disciples many had been called to faith in Jesus. But it also bore fruit in another way. Jesus continues praying to the Father, “Now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 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. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”[3] Jesus has given the Disciples His Word, which has borne fruit in the world, and the world hates it. The world hates Jesus and persecutes those who believe in Him.

Jesus said that His followers should not be afraid if the world hates them, for so it hated him. He taught in the Sermon on the Mount that we should, “Rejoice and be glad,” when others revile us and persecute us and utter all kinds of evil against us falsely on His account, “for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”[4] Just as Jesus is not of the world, so are we not of the world, and it hates us for it. Nevertheless, Jesus does not ask that the Disciples be taken out of the world, but that they be kept from the evil one. The devil seeks to devour and destroy the Truth of Jesus Christ. He tried to destroy the Apostles and early Christians through persecutions and trials. He is trying to do so today by infiltrating both society and the church. Satan influences the workings of the sinful nature to try and choke out saving faith in Jesus Christ not by denying forgiveness, but by denying sin. Therefore the world hates us. Jesus prays that we be kept from the evil one, which we echo in the Lord’s Prayer.

III.

Jumping ahead in Jesus’ prayer, He makes it clear that He is not just praying for the Disciples, but for us as well. He says, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.”[5] Jesus’ prayer to the Father for the Disciples and us is that God would sanctify us in the truth of His Word. For that reason, Jesus says, He consecrates Himself. This means that Jesus has set Himself apart; He has dedicated Himself to the work of God, namely His own death and resurrection, that we be sanctified in truth. To be sanctified means to be made holy. Jesus died as payment for our sins and rose from the dead so that we may be made holy through faith in His Word.

For what purpose have we been saved by grace and made holy by His Word? Jesus says, “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.”[6] At His Ascension, Jesus instructed the Disciples to go to all nations, making other disciples by baptizing in the name of the Triune God and teaching them to observe all that Christ has taught them. For this purpose Jesus prayed for the Disciples and us: that we be kept in God’s Word and protected from the evil one, even as we are sent out into a world that hates our confession of faith in Jesus.

Today we returned to the night on which Jesus was betrayed. It was the same night He washed His disciples’ feet, giving them a new model of love. He also instituted the Lord’s Supper whereby He gives the forgiveness of sins. He would shortly be going to Gethsemane to be betrayed, suffer, and die for our sins. We would understand if Jesus took the opportunity to pray for Himself. We probably would at least get a quick one in if we were Him. But instead, He prays for His disciples.

As He goes to the Father by His death, resurrection, and ascension, the Disciples will remain behind. He has given them His Word, which has made them holy. The world hates the holiness that comes through faith in Jesus. Nevertheless, Jesus didn’t pray that they be removed from the world, but that they be protected from the Devil. As Jesus was sent into the world to proclaim the Good News, so does He now send His Disciples and us. He sends us out into the world to preach the truth of His Work for us. Though the world hates our faith, Jesus will always be with us and will keep us in His Word.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Jn. 15:18–19.

[2] Jn. 17:11–12.

[3] Jn, 17:13–16.

[4] Matt. 5:11-12.

[5] Jn. 17:20.

[6] Jn. 17:18.