May 25th, 2014 – John 16:23-33
Christ is Risen (He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia) Amen +
The Christian lives his life in two spheres, two different angles or approaches. On the one hand, part of the Christian life deals with God. There is the Christian’s relationship with the Father. We can call this the vertical relationship, the relationship between God and you. On the other hand, part of the Christian life deals with the neighbor. We all are in relationship with all the people around us, we relate to the entire world. We can call this the horizontal relationship, it is the relationship between your neighbor and you. These are the angles or approaches we have to life – everything deals either with our relationship to God or with our relationship to our neighbor. In fact, that is how Jesus sums up the entirety of the Law – love God, love your neighbor. Every other teaching of the law is just an expansion of one of these ideas.
What Jesus teaches His disciples, and us, today, is that both of these relationships, your relationship with God and your relationships with your neighbors, both of these are grounded in Christ Jesus. Your relationships, all of them, are completely impacted and influenced by what Jesus has done. And so today, we here are going to look what Christ has done for every relationship we have.
I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. 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; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. One of the things that we hear, that we talk about as Christians, is our relationship with God. To be honest, a lot of times I find most of the talk that goes on about our relationship with God to be dull, boring, overly sentimental and tacky. Why do I say this? Because we can treat our relationship with God just like any other relationship – we will talk about how it makes us feel, what we get out of it, or end up silly little love songs about it more befitting a junior high “romance”. We can treat this relationship very casually, and when we do that, we lose something – we lose the sense of wonder and awe that we ought to have, the sense of wonder and awe that we hear from David in our introit, wonder and awe that God actually hears him.
As I am wont to do, I am going to point you to the Garden of Eden – because in understanding creation and the fall, you understand so many things. So Adam and Eve sin, and what do they do? They hide from God. God comes, they hide in the garden. Why? Because they have sinned. Because they have broken God’s Law, and that Law now requires death. They deserve punishment, they deserve anger and wrath. They have opposed the Almighty – and so there is nothing left for them themselves but to fear. That is the state that you and I are in by nature. If left to our own devices, the only reaction we could have to God is to be afraid. If left to our own devices, we could only expect God’s wrath.
Yet what does Christ say to us today? 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, for the Father Himself loves you. Do you see the wonder there? Do you see the change, the depth, how radically different things are because of Christ Jesus and what He has done? We will ask the Father in the Name of Jesus – we will pray in Christ’s Name. We can be so casual with our prayer. How often do you sort of zone out in the prayers of the Church – how often is the mealtime prayer said as quickly as possible, if not forgotten? How often is the Lord’s Prayer just sort of said on autopilot? We’ve become so casual with God that we lose the sense of wonder that we ought to have. Here we are, sinful beings, beings who have transgressed against God Almighty – and Christ Jesus comes – Christ Jesus comes and takes God’s wrath and anger in our place upon the Cross – and so Jesus says to us, “Everything is fine now – ask in My Name.” We don’t have to hide from God anymore – we approach Him in the Name of Christ Jesus – we approach Him as those who have been Baptized, those who have had Christ’s Name applied to us. We no longer hide from God, but we go to God covered in the Blood of the Lamb. Do you see the wonder in that? Do you see how beyond anything else we will ever have in this life that this is? This is the implication, the result of forgiveness. God is Your Father now, you are His baptized child, and as such He desires to hear your prayers, desires to continually give you forgiveness over and over. You are redeemed by Christ, and that changes your entire approach to God – which is something we should never take for granted. When we praise God, when David praises the deeds of God – the biggest deed David praises this idea – that God hears him and has mercy. This is the true wonder. And all because of what Christ Jesus has done, all in His name.
And dear friends, just as our relationship with the Father is established in Christ, so to our relationship with our neighbors is established in Christ. Hear what Christ Jesus says. I have said these things to you, that in this world you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. Living in a fallen world is difficult. You all know this. We are surrounded by all sorts of things that just aren’t right. There are the random things that go wrong – the weather, things breaking down, all these kinds of things. And then there are other people in the world, who are unkind, unjust, hurtful. Even our own bodies betray us – we slow down, we ache, we hurt, we can’t do what we want to. All of this Jesus sums up as tribulation. All these things point out and remind us that we are still in the fallen world, that the end is drawing nigh. Wars and rumors of war, famine and earthquakes, all remind us that things are messed up.
So how do we live in a world like this? What do we do? One option, the sinful option, the option we often take, is to play by the world’s rules. If someone hits me – I hit back, and harder. If someone takes what is mine, I take it back. If someone hates me I hate them back. In this way of thinking the burden falls to me – I have to conquer, I have to endure, I have to slug it out and make things better for me. So what is that type of life like? Is it a happy life? I find I don’t like arguing that much. Is it a calm life? Living like that can be quite agitating. Is it a peaceful life? No, living like that is tiring and hard and hopeless. Why? Because living like that is sinful. What does God tell us to do with our neighbor? Are we to hate them? Are we to leech off of them and use them? Are we to conquer over them? No – we are to love them. Our every thought, word, and deed is to be for their benefit. All too often though, we think sinfully, we let the old Adam, our sinful nature have its way, and then we strive and connive, we have no rest – for there is indeed no rest for the wicked.
Yet what does our Lord say? But take heart; I have overcome the world. Your sinful nature says that you must fight and strive in the world. Your sinful nature says that you have to fight and scratch and claw for everything in life. Jesus says you don’t because He has already overcome the world. Let’s look at this for a moment. Is there anything you need in this life that Jesus doesn’t provide for you? Is there any blessing that you can somehow get apart from Christ? No, of course not. We receive all our blessings from God. The problem comes in when our sinful nature wants us not to receive gifts from God, but to take from our neighbor. And the sinful nature really kicks in when we are wronged, when people do bad things to us. See, you have to stand up for yourself and fight. Jesus says no. Christ is the one who defeats sin – He has fought the good fight. That is what He did when He went to the Cross and died, not just for your sin, not just for the sins of the people who are nice, but for the sins of the whole world. On the cross, Christ overcame the world.
Do you see how this impacts your relationship with the people around you in the world? Let us say that someone sins against you – does you great harm. What do you do? Lash back in anger? Do you seek to make things “right” – by which we mean make things the way we want them to be? We don’t have to and in fact ought not do either of those. Rather, we remember this – that sin done against you – Christ died for it. He paid the punishment for it upon the cross – and if Christ has died for it how can we bear ill will towards someone for what they have done? We relate to our neighbor in Christ – and when we see things they do that are hurtful – we simply see one more thing that Christ died for, one more thing that Christ has conquered over. Therefore, it’s not my job to punish, or hate, or destroy those who wrong me. Moreover – does anything that anyone does to me change the fact that Christ Jesus has died for my sins and provides me life, salvation, and every blessing I need here in this life? No. Therefore as Christians we are to fight against our own sinful flesh - that is the good fight – not against our neighbor but against our own sinful desires. Christ frees us from our sin, frees us to beat down our temptations, frees us to show love. Jesus takes care of us – we don’t have to worry about ourselves; show love to any and to all. Because of what Christ has done we are freed from hatred and strife with the neighbor. Do you feel anger at anyone for what they have done – are you upset at how they have slighted you – there is a big truth – Christ has overcome them and their wickedness, and Christ gives you all that you need – see Him and what He has done for you – have peace.
It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? If we only looked to Christ, if we only had our eyes upon Him at all times, life would be so much smoother. We would see and remember the wonder that we now have a restored relationship with the Father – because Christ Jesus has died for our sin. We would look at the world with a completely different approach, seeing not enemies or foes, but seeing how God has richly blessed us and set us free from lives of hatred and anger by His forgiveness. And we know this – this is nothing new. Yet our sinful nature strives against Christ – and so our Lord Jesus speaks His Word, draws our eyes again to Him. He says, “You are forgiven for My sake – this is the reality, the fact that shapes your entire life.” And when our eyes wander, He speaks to us again, so that we might learn to see Him and only Him, that our faith may grow, that we might more happily and contentedly walk with Him wherever our lives lead us. Christ Jesus truly is our all in all. God grant that by His Word we see this ever more clearly. Christ is Risen!