Rogate – Sixth Sunday after Easter
“Conquering the World”
Rev. Jacob Sutton, Pastor
St. John 16.23-33
09 May 2021
+ In the Name of Jesus +
Jesus knows what is coming. “I am departing the world and I am going to the Father” He says. He goes to the Father through death and resurrection and ascension to be given the kingdom and the glory, to rule the entire world in love, to be with us as our God-Man brother in the flesh at all times and places. He will get there through His innocent suffering and death, paying for our sins not with gold or silver but with His holy, precious blood given and shed on the cross. All done so that we would be His own and live under Him in His eternal, righteous reign, preserved in His Church from age to age.
Jesus’ disciples, however: they only hear that Jesus is “going away” – and still do not completely understand the necessity of Jesus’ suffering and death as their Lord and Christ. They do not see yet that good things – gracious, eternal, merciful gifts from God – are to be accomplished and given through what appears to be a cursed and awful defeat on Golgotha hill at the hands of the Jewish leaders and the Roman soldiers.
The disciples seem to just mumble out some pious reply, just to have something to say. Sort of like when someone you are conversing with has something profound to say, and there is that uncomfortable silence because you don’t understand fully what was said, and perhaps do not know how to respond. “Well, yes, sure, Jesus, you are speaking rightly and openly – you know what you are talking about, Jesus” and for good measure, they add this piety: “We believe that you have come from God.”
Jesus responds with the text we wish to chew upon further today. These are not words of judgment or rebuke for His forlorn and simple disciples. Instead, He responds with good news for them, words of grace and kindness. He knows how to comfort us – even when we do not fully understand what’s happening around us in life:
Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but take heart, I have conquered the world. (St. John 16.32-33)
Jesus knows that His cross is scandalous to us. That even now our hearts and minds are scattered by Satan’s power and rage, by the flesh and blood and every ill that needs to be curbed as they set themselves against God’s will. It is easier to not fight our enemies, to try and appease them, and simply go each to his or her own home, and leave Jesus alone and His Church alone, and so attempt to shrug off the cross shaped and cross formed life of being a disciple of Jesus Christ, called to take up your cross and follow Him through death to true and eternal life in Him.
Jesus knows that in this world, you have tribulation. – the times and days are perilous, after all, to be a Christian, to be a disciple of Jesus. Hardship, war, and strife, plague and famine – and people who hurt us by the way they live, and then we add our own sins against our neighbor, when we are unwilling to serve the other in their needs.
Yet, says Jesus, you cannot truly leave me alone. I am not alone – the Father and I are one. He is with me on this saving mission of love through cross and grave to my righteous reign that has already been given to me in all eternity from the foundation of the world. I am the very Son of Man set in power and authority over all things by the Ancient of Days in the prophet Daniel’s great vision of heaven’s throne. The Father has my back, even if no one else does.
Jesus says, in me you have peace amidst tribulation and cross bearing. You can ask the Father all things through me, in my name, and He will give them to you – and your joy will be fulfilled at your prayer. For despite how things appear in the midst of my betrayal, passion, suffering, and death, I know that my Father’s will on earth will be accomplished, even as it stands done before His throne in heaven.
It is quite a marvelous and mysterious word from Jesus on the night in which He was betrayed for Him to utter these confident words: “Take heart, [have courage], I have conquered the world.” I have already gained victory, I have already conquered, and I remain victorious, eternally, over the world. Even in suffering and death, God’s name is hallowed, His Kingdom comes, His good and gracious will is done.
Jesus knows that His cross is scandalous for you. He knows that in this world you have tribulations and face death itself, making it difficult to be His disciple. Yet, the Father and the Son are one in their unending love for you. You have in Jesus peace with Him and His Father, you can truly approach God and talk to Him and bring Him your requests, because of the Father’s heart of mercy that acted in the victory of the cross: Jesus’ conquering the of the world and our every enemy through the scandal of the cross and His justifying, glorious resurrection and ascension.
There stands in front of us a fine and enduring illustration of our Lord’s words today that He knows our tribulation as His disciples, that in our difficulties He promises the Father hears our prayers, and that due to His conquering of the world we have peace and can go forth with courage and good hearts. We see this painting upon our altar reredos every Divine Service: Jesus and Peter on the water. Let’s allow ourselves to think upon this scene in light of Jesus’ words today.
Jesus had retreated by Himself upon a mountain to pray after the feeding of the 5000 by five loaves and two fish. His disciples meanwhile retreated into their familiar territory – a boat on the Sea of Galilee, overnight rowing just like in their fishing days. Perhaps they had it in mind to go back to home base in Capernaum. But with the night came a strong wind and high waves.
Jesus sees their struggling little boat from afar and knows their tribulation. It’s like the time we find ourselves in. Jesus has done His saving work, and has gone to the Father for us. We feebly struggle here in the ark of His Church, rowing against the wind and waves and impending doom of this world. Yet He sees us in our need and comes to us. He overcomes the limitations of this world, He has indeed conquered it. He walks on the water to His disciples. Today – He comes to us in Word and Sacrament, at His Word, comes with forgiveness, peace, and comfort, all to be apprehended by faith. What does Jesus say to His fearful disciples in the boat? The same words He says in today’s Gospel: “Take heart, take courage, it is I – do not be afraid.” He conquers the world.
But there is always that desire in our flesh to ask for proof, isn’t there? Peter asks our skeptical question. “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He is granted his prayer and walks to Jesus on the water. But the sea threatens again. The devil tempts Peter again with dying to this life. He begins to sink. Confronted by the darkness of that watery grave, Peter cries out in what little faith he has, even one beset by doubt and despair: “Lord, save me!” Here is that moment depicted by our painting.
The Father and Jesus are one, Jesus points to Him in heaven. Of the Father’s will, Jesus brings heavenly aid to Peter, pulls Him up to salvation and together, they get into the boat. “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” For unlike the Church after I go to the Father, you actually see me now, Peter! You have my Word, Peter – it is enough. Take heart, have courage, I have conquered the world, my disciples. I come to you with peace and joy from the Father, and with me – the winds cease, salvation comes. Even a little faith – even one that fights doubt and despairs over the waves and winds of this world – it is enough – believing in me, I bring you to the safe harbor of heaven’s peace and joy. There, you will worship me with the disciples and all the saints: “Truly, you are the Son of God.”
And you do so worship Him and have even this day, and will yet some more coming up in the holy liturgy. For Jesus has come, conqueror of the world, has answered our prayers in His name to His Father for forgiveness, peace, a clean heart, for salvation from death, devil, temptation, and every evil by His grace and mercy. The Father has answered our prayers that His kingdom comes and enlarges and that Satan’s domain would be conquered as we saw Jesus walk on the water of the font today and pull up Miriam Norma Mullins safely into the holy ark of His Church.
Jesus even today knows the tribulations and cross bearing you face, and your sometimes weak and sometimes strong pleas for help, and brings you words of comfort and peace, and walks in here under bread and wine with His victorious crucified and resurrected body and blood to bring the glory and unity of Him and His Father unto you – to touch you with their heavenly peace and joy.
Jesus knows that His cross is scandalous, that life in the ark of His Church is not easy for you. You may even begin to wonder if Jesus is here as He promises, you may even begin to sink in doubt and despair of life. He knows that in this world you have tribulations and face death itself, making it difficult to be His disciple. Yet, the Father and the Son are one in their unending love for you. You have in Jesus peace with Him and His Father, you can truly approach God and talk to Him and bring Him your requests, even the weak ones, even the desperate ones, because of the Father’s heart of mercy that acted for you in the victory of the cross: Jesus’ conquering of the world and our every enemy through the scandal of His bloody cross where He suffered for our sins, and His justifying, glorious resurrection and ascension to the right hand of His Father.
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit +