Seventh Sunday of Easter | John 17:11-19 | The High Priestly Prayer
This last Thursday marked 40 days since the Feast of Jesus’ resurrection;
40 days from Easter Sunday;
40 days of absolute joy.
He who was raised up on the cross has been raised from the tomb;
He who was taken has returned;
And He who we handed over has handed Himself back to us:
Alive, glorified, triumphant, and visible to everyone.
But Thursday marked something else, too.
Three days ago was the Feast of the Ascension.
Three days ago, after 40 days of utter joy,
Jesus ascended into Heaven where He is now seated at the right hand of the Father.
It like almost as soon as we had Him back,
Jesus is taken away again.
So how is it that the Apostles returned to Jerusalem with great joy?
How can that be?
How can they go on?
How can they carry out Jesus’ mission in the world, if Jesus is not in the world?
Didn’t He say that He would be with them always, even to the end of the age?
So how can He say that and then moments later, ascend into heaven,
Leaving them here in the world?
For years Jesus has been there with them every day.
He walked next to them;
He prayed with them;
He answered their questions;
He shared their meals.
But Jesus is no longer part of their world.
In these days after the Ascension, Jesus is more.
He is not part of their world.
Jesus is their world.
He is their universe;
He alone is their life and their breath.
He alone is their hope and their joy.
It’s true that things are different from what they once were.
The disciples can no longer keep Jesus to themselves.
And yet they understand that Jesus still keeps them.
That’s why the disciples went back to Jerusalem and to the Temple with great joy.
They go on with joy because He who once filled their living room now fills all things.
Jesus’ ascension means that He is no longer limited by time or space.
So when Jesus says He is no longer in the world,
It means that He is no longer in the world in precisely the same way they are.
And strange as it is, it’s actually better.
It’s better because now, in His Word and Sacrament, Jesus can be with everyone.
Which means that Jesus’ disciples, wherever they are, are not left as orphans.
But neither are they at home.
Jesus’ disciples remain inthe world, though they are not of the world.
They are from a different place.
The new heavens and the new earth is their home.
They are citizens of God’s Kingdom, and no other allegiance may compete.
This is no longer their world.
Jesus is their world.
And the world has hated them for it.
The world has hated Jesus’ disciples because they are foreigners, aliens.
They are from another place, with a different kind of joy.
Jesus’ disciples don’t think like people of the world think.
Jesus’ disciples don’t walk like people of the world walk.
Jesus’ disciples don’t talk like people of the world talk.
And they are hated for it.
If that seems a bit too abstract, it’s kind of like this.
About eight years ago I spent a good long while backpacking across Europe.
The biggest stretch of that was spent in northern Spain.
This was convenient, since I spoke the language.
On a typical day I’d walk about 15 miles.
And while I relished the peace and quiet of those days,
I never could keep myself from chatting.
I’d spend hours talking with folks about a wide range of topics,
But every conversation ended the same way.
“You’re a foreigner, aren’t you?”
I at their food, drank their coffee, and spoke their language fluently.
But my accent gave me away.
Though I was in Spain, I was not a Spaniard.
Even if I moved there and lost my accent, I’d never be one of them. Not really.
Nevertheless, they’re a hospitable people.
They didn’t hate me.
They gave me the benefit of the doubt,
Until one day, they didn’t.
“You may be American, but you’re a citizen of the world.” a local said.
“No. I’m not from there either.
I’m a Christian, and a citizen of Heaven.
God the Father is my King.
Jesus is my Savior, Brother and Friend.
The Holy Spirit is my Guide.
I’m a pilgrim –
And not just here.
Between now and Heaven, I’m a pilgrim everywhere.”
That’s what I wish I’d said.
But most people I met were rigid atheists and hostile to the Church.
And I didn’t want to be hated.
I wanted to get along.
But that will never be truly possible.
You will never be able to just get along.
You are Jesus’ disciples.
And you are in the world.
But you are not from here.
You speak their languages fluently,
But I hope that your accent gives you away.
I know that you want to be liked, and so do I.
That’s why I know that this is very difficult to hear:
I hope that you are hated.
I hope that the world hates you.
I hope that the world hates me.
I hope the world hates my wife and my children;
It sounds terrible, but it’s better than getting the false idea that we are at peace.
Even if we’re not being persecuted, we’re not at peace.
So this morning before Service as I kneeled during the prelude,
I prayed that the world would hate you;
Not because you walk around being a jerk;
But on account of Jesus and His Word.
Because if they don’t;
If the world loves you and adores you and fawns over you,
Then you can’t be Jesus’ disciples –
Not when Jesus says that the world will hate you on Him.
You have been born of Word and Water in Holy Baptism,
You owe this world and its ruler no allegiance.
For the sake of their true citizenship, Jesus’ disciples are despised.
For the sake of the Word, Jesus’ disciples are hated.
And they expect nothing less.
More than that, Jesus’ disciples desire nothing less.
As we hear the words of Jesus’ “High Priestly Prayer,” we remember again the words He spoke just moments before:
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. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.– John 15:18-21
All that said, nobody desires peace more than Jesus.
Nobody wants everyone to come home more than Jesus,
Who prays to His Heavenly Father:
As You sent Me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
For their sake, Jesus consecrates Himself to crucifixion.
For your sake, Jesus devotes Himself to destruction.
For the sake of a whole world that hates Him, Jesus has suffered death and hell.
And now, for the sake of everyone everywhere, Jesus sends His disciples.
As the Father has sent Him, so He has sent them.
They are in the world, but not of the world.
You are in the world, but you are not of the world.
You bear it no allegiance.
It is not your home.
You are a pilgrim.
Note, by the way, that I say “pilgrim,” and not “wanderer.”
You are not wasting time, meandering along.
You have a destination and a purpose.
To speak as Jesus speaks,
To do as Jesus does,
To pray as Jesus prays,
And love as Jesus loves.
In a word, “To be sanctified in truth.”
To be holiedin and by the Word of God.
That (outside) is not your world.
That is not your home.
You are not even American Christian.
There’s no such thing – or there shouldn’t be.
You are a Christian in America.
You are a pilgrim, a stranger in a foreign land.
In Spain, especially along the Camino, there’s a little joke:
What’s the only thing that happens before breakfast?
The Pilgrims are kicked out of their hostels.
But before we left, we’d share a meal.
Before the sun came up, we’d put together whatever we had in our packs:
Sausage, cheese, bread, and maybe a bit of a chocolate bar;
And it felt like a banquet.
Some of us walked farther and faster than others.
Some we’d see that night, some we’d never see again.
But that’s when we were one.
That’s when we were nourished.
That’s what brought pilgrims together as we neared our goal.
It’s not a one for one comparison, but it is helpful, I think.
To know that Jesus binds us together here.
He makes us one.
First in Holy Baptism,
And again at His Holy Meal.
It doesn’t look like much.
But Jesus makes this a feast.
But these are not cheap calories,
And we are not providing for ourselves.
Here, Jesus prepares for weary pilgrims a banquet:
Here we see and hear and taste how our risen and ascended Christ is with us always,
Even to the end of the age:
When His Risen Body and Blood are given to us for the forgiveness of our sins
As strength for our journey,
To make us one, just as He and His Father are one.