The Words of our Lord in the Gospel this morning are profound, but they may seem confusing to you and difficult to understand. They go round and round in a circle of sorts, so that it’s hard to know where they begin or where they end exactly.
Of course, our Lord Himself has no beginning and no end. He is the Alpha and Omega, the One by whom all creation exists. For He is the Word, the almighty and eternal Son of the Living God. And the Words that you have heard from His lips in this Gospel were first spoken in His prayer to the Father as your merciful and great High Priest. So it is no surprise that such divine speech is difficult to comprehend! For here the Lord your God speaks within Himself, the Son within the bosom of His Father, concerning divine Mysteries and the divine Glory of His Cross and Passion.
It is nevertheless these very Mysteries and this divine Glory that Christ proclaims to you and shares with you by the Ministry of His Gospel, that you might receive His Spirit and live by His grace. That is what it’s all about. Jesus prays that you would have eternal Life with God. And by His Word and Spirit, He reveals the nature and source of this Life, which is yours in His Gospel.
It all originates with God Himself, and it remains forever in Him, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Word of our Lord Jesus returns again and again to His relationship with the Father — to His equality with the Father, and to His faithful dependance on the Father. It is the same divine Glory that He shares with the Father from all eternity, which He reveals in His Flesh, fulfills for the salvation of all people by His Cross, and shares with His disciples through His Word and Spirit. It is the same divine Glory that is bound up with the Name of the Lord your God, which Christ has also received as true Man in your stead, and with which He has named you in your Holy Baptism.
Both His Glory and His Name are the Self-revelation of God Himself. They are not something else other than God Himself, nor can they be separated from Him. It is nothing else and nothing less than the Holy Triune God who is actively present to reveal Himself in His Glory and His Name.
In the Old Testament, the Glory of Yahweh was manifest for His people in the Tabernacle, first of all, and then the Temple in Jerusalem. That is where He caused His Name to dwell with them, which is to say, where He Himself abided with them. In the New Testament, the same Glory of the same Lord God, Yahweh, is manifest for you and all His people in the Body of Christ Jesus. His Body is the Temple of God. His Name and His Glory abide with you in His Flesh and Blood.
All of this He does and gives to you by His grace alone. It is His divine Charity, which emerges entirely from within the inner Life and Being of the Holy Triune God. His Charity is not prompted by any compulsion or necessity, nor by anything laid upon Him from the outside. But prior to and apart from all things, God the Lord is gracious because He is Grace within Himself.
When you give charity to your neighbor in need, you may be prompted by a great many factors, including the grace of God toward you. But His grace toward you — His divine Charity toward all people — derives solely from the relationship of the Father with His Son in the Holy Spirit.
The Father loves the Son from all eternity, and it is for His sake that He loves you. It is His very nature and identity to love, because God is Love. The Father loves the Son, the Son loves the Father, and the Holy Spirit is the personal Bond of Love between the Father and the Son. It is that divine Love, which constitutes the Holy Trinity, which moves the Lord to do all that He does.
It is because the Father loves the Son from within His very nature and essence as God, that He desires and chooses to manifest, multiply, and share that same divine Love with others outside of Himself. He thus creates the heavens and the earth and all that is in them, and He still protects, provides for, and preserves all that He has created, all for the sake of sharing His own Love with His creatures. No selfishness here, but divine Self-giving. That is also why God has created you and given you life: So that He may love you! You exist to be loved by God in and with Christ.
From before the foundation of the world, this divine Love depends on nothing else than God the Lord Himself. It therefore has no end, nor can it ever end. God so loves the world, not because the world is loveable, but because He is Love. So does God love you, not because of who you are, nor because of anything that you do or have done, but because of who He is and what He does.
That is why, even after the Fall into sin, God continues to love the world that He has made, the man and the woman and their children. Though He cursed the creation because of man’s sin, He preserves the creation for this present time for the sake of His promise to the man and all his kin, the promise realized and fulfilled in the true Man, Jesus Christ, the Father’s own beloved Son.
In Love the Father sends His Son to become flesh, to bear the sins of the world, and to suffer death upon the Cross for the salvation of all the children of man. In Love the Son comes down from the Father in heaven, descends into the depths of all your sin and death, and returns to His Father from death and the grave with you and all of His disciples embraced within His crucified and risen Body. Although you are such a poor, miserable sinner, the Holy Spirit calls you by the Gospel to enter into this divine Love of the Father and the Son by faith in His forgiveness of your sins. For in His Love, the Lord your God does not hold your sins against you but continues to forgive you.
All of this great work of salvation flows directly out of the heart and soul of God Himself, from the innermost Being of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is the very Glory of God, therefore, to manifest and reveal His Name and to give Himself in love for His creatures, entirely by His grace.
And the pinnacle of this divine Glory is the Cross and Passion of Christ Jesus, the incarnate Son. It is there that the divine Love which is God Himself is manifest to such utter heights and depths that nothing greater nor more glorious could ever be imagined, much less achieved. It is there, especially, that God loves absolutely for His own sake those who are so absolutely un-loveable.
The Body of Christ on the Cross, given into death for the salvation of sinners, is divine Grace in the flesh. There the one true God opens up His great heart of Love to those who pierce His sacred heart and run Him through with the swords and daggers, darts and spears of unbelief, idolatry, and all manner of sins. He takes it all — and He dishes out love and mercy and forgiveness in return. He continues to open up His Heart to you, for whom He shed His blood and died. In Love He gives into your mortal body the very Body and Blood that He sacrificed for you upon the Cross.
What love could ever be more profound or more intimate than this, that your Creator and Lord should feed you with His own sacrificial flesh and blood; that He should give Himself to you so completely, and that you should receive Him into yourself for the forgiveness of all your sin, and for life and salvation in Him. There is no other love that even comes close. Not the passion of young lovers, nor the unwavering faithfulness of couples growing old together; not the amazing bond of a mother with her child, nor the patriotism of men who lay down their lives for their country. None of these even come close. They all pale and fade away in comparison to this divine Love in the Body of Christ Jesus, which is given for you. Such Love is the great Glory of God.
Consider, then, the divine Life that is now yours, by the grace of God, in the Body of Christ Jesus.
That divine, eternal Life, like the divine Love in which it is bestowed upon you, is not something separate from God Himself. It is indeed the Life of God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
His Life is given to you, and it becomes yours by His grace, through the Ministry of God the Son, who is sent by the Father, in the flesh, to reveal the Father and to make the Father known to you. Not academically, intellectually, or emotionally, but personally and intimately, as children know their own father. He makes God the Father known to you as your own God and Father in Him.
This knowledge of God, which is eternal Life, is conveyed to you by more than ordinary Words. The Word of Christ Jesus is Spirit, Truth, and Life. His Word of the Gospel, His forgiveness of your sins, is the very Power of God unto salvation. And in the waters of your Holy Baptism, His Word named you with His own Name, the Name above all names, which is the Glory of God. He anointed you with the Holy Spirit and bound you to Himself as a beloved and well-pleasing child of God. And so it is that the Word of God continues to become Flesh, and to give Himself to you in His Body and His Blood, to eat and to drink, that you may live in Him and He in you forever.
It is by and with and in this Word – made Flesh – that you know the true and only God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent. And it is by this Word, by faith in this Word, that you are taken up into the divine, eternal Life and Love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in the Body of Christ Jesus.
Thus, both the Grace by which you are saved and the Life to which you are saved are as sure and certain and steadfast as the Living God, whose Grace and Life they are. You may be absolutely confident and certain of the Word and promises of God in Christ, and rejoice in His salvation, and call upon His Name in peace, and so live here and now by His Grace, unto the Life everlasting.
Of course, such faith and life are easier said than done so long as you remain in your mortal flesh.
It is most certainly true that everything has been accomplished by the Cross of Christ and made manifest in His Resurrection. And all the fruits and benefits of His Cross and Resurrection are given to you here in time, within His Church on earth, through the Ministry of His Gospel–Word and Sacraments. Especially in the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus, you are given the highest and best Treasures of heaven itself. For the Body of the Lamb who was slain, and yet who lives, is the central focus of all the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven. Without His Body, crucified and risen, and without His holy and precious Blood, heaven itself were void and bare. But here Christ freely gives those Gifts into your hands, into your mouth, and into your body.
Even so, for now it is also the case that you must live by faith alone and not by sight. For now you live under the Cross, and you struggle day after day with your sinful life in this sinful world. Your fallen flesh remains stubborn and persistent, so that you must continue drowning and dying by returning to the significance of your Baptism through daily contrition and repentance. You feel the ravages of sin and death slowing you down and always adding new aches and pains in this body and life. You feel the Cross putting you into the grave, but you do not feel the Resurrection and Ascension of your body. Round about you on all sides, one by one, your nearest and dearest get sick and die, while tragedies and accidents and terrorist attacks permeate the daily news.
Beloved of the Lord, let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. In the world you do have tribulation. But now take courage, for Christ has overcome the world. His death is death’s undoing, because it is the Atonement for your sins, and for the sins of the whole world. And God the Father has raised this same Jesus from the dead. He has crowned Him with glory and honor. He has placed all things under His feet, including all the sin and death that you experience now.
The Resurrection of Christ Jesus from the dead has opened up His own divine Life to you and to all who believe and are baptized into Him, that you should live with God in Christ forevermore. You are His Body and His Bride; so you are with Him where He is, your Husband and your Head who loves you with a neverending Love. Here at His Table is the foretaste of that glorious Feast of Life. And even as you carry His Cross as a Christian disciple, it is already your participation in the Glory of the Lord, who by His Cross has obtained the Victory over sin, death, and hell.
It is still a time of waiting, a time between the now and the not yet. You wait upon the Lord and for that Day when the trumpet shall sound, and the voice of the archangel shall call out, and the dead in Christ shall rise; and you shall be gathered together with all the saints into the bosom of your Father; and you shall see your dear Lord Jesus face to face with your own eyes in the flesh.
Until that Day, humble yourself under the hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time. Cast all of your anxiety on Him, because He loves you. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all Grace, who has named you with His Name, will glorify you with His Glory.
In the Name + of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.