The Son of God, your Savior Jesus Christ, has come down from the Father in heaven, in order to give you life with God by His Word and Holy Spirit. Thus has He become true Man, flesh of your flesh and blood of your blood, conceived and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary. And in His own Body He has borne all of your sins, even unto death upon His Cross, that you should be justified and sanctified, enlivened and exalted, in His bodily Resurrection and Ascension to the Father.
He has done as we confess in the Creeds and sing in the hymns of the Church. He has come down from the Father into the flesh, and He has returned to the Father in flesh and blood like your own. He is seated at the Right Hand of God as the true Man, that you should be made alive and holy in Him, that you should be glorified in Him, and that you should partake of the divine nature in Him.
It is in His Body that He receives all things from His Father on your behalf. From His Baptism in the Jordan River, to His Cross and Resurrection from the dead, and in His glorious Ascension, He is anointed with the Holy Spirit, He is given the Name above all names, and He is exalted above all things in heaven and on earth, that all the blessings of God should likewise be given to you.
Thus are you sanctified by the Name and Spirit of God in Christ, and thus do you live with God.
It is often the case that, in speaking of “sanctification,” we have the Christian life in mind, the love that you are to have for your neighbor, the good works that God has commanded you to do. And certainly all of those things belong to the holiness that God has given you in Christ by His Spirit.
But when the Lord Jesus speaks of sanctification, He is aiming at something more and greater than a colony of good little worker bees, an army of industrious ants, or a collection of nicer people. He rather speaks of eternal life with God in both body and soul, in heart, mind, and spirit. It is not a matter of what you do, first of all, but of what you are given, who you are, and where you live. It is in the holiness of the Lord your God that you now live in faith and love and bear good fruits.
To be holy does not mean that you act the part of a goody two-shoes. Not that your behavior is of no consequence, but none of your own works are the source or substance of your sanctification. When you are holy in Christ Jesus you will do good, according to God’s commandments and your God-given station in life, even to those who hate you and hurt you. But to be sanctified, to be and remain holy, is actually to live in the presence of God, the Holy, Holy, Holy One, by His grace, through faith in His Word, by the working of His Spirit in the Gospel of Christ Jesus.
The one true God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is holy, forever and always, in and of Himself. Nothing else is holy except as it exists and abides in right relationship to Him. You are sanctified, therefore, as you are brought into His presence in peace, by repentance and faith in His Gospel.
To be holy is to live with God in Christ Jesus, which is not possible except by the forgiveness of His Cross and the righteousness of His Resurrection. This, then, is your sanctification, first of all, that Christ Jesus gave His Body into death and shed His holy, precious Blood to atone for all your sins, and that God the Father raised this same Lord Jesus from the dead for your justification. It is by His passage through death into life that you are raised up to newness of life, that you receive His Holy Spirit, and that you are reconciled to His God and Father as a beloved son or daughter.
Thus does the Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, sanctify Himself in His Body of flesh and blood, that you might be sanctified in Him, which is to say, that you might live with God in Him. He sanctifies Himself, not that He was bad and becomes good, but that He dedicates and consecrates His entire Body and Life to the glory of God, sacrificing Himself in holy faith and in love for His Father and for you and all His neighbors in the world. He bears and suffers all of your sins and dies your death, in the confidence that His Father will raise Him up and vindicate Him. Not for His own advantage or benefit, but so that you should thus be saved and glorified in Him.
It is by His Cross and Resurrection and Ascension that Christ Jesus returns to the Father in and with His human nature, in and with His Body of flesh and blood. And it is impossible to overstate the significance of this Paschal Mystery. His Ascension to the Right Hand of His God and Father is the culmination of His Cross and Resurrection, whereby you are lifted up and seated with Him in the heavenly places. As He became like you, so do you become like Him. You die to yourself, to your sins, and to the world, but you are raised up in the righteousness and holiness of Christ Jesus; you are named with His Name and anointed with His Spirit, and you live with God in Him.
This is what your Baptism has done for you and means for you, now and forever. Everything that Christ has done and accomplished for you is now yours: His Baptism, His Holy Cross and Passion, His Resurrection from the dead, and His Ascension to the Right Hand of the Father. His Sonship, His Spirit, and His Sanctification. All that belongs to Him, He bestows upon you by His grace.
The Life of God is yours in Christ. The Love of God is yours in Christ. And the unity of the Holy Triune God is also yours in Christ Jesus. For He has bound Himself to you, and you to Him, by the washing of the water with His Word and Spirit. His God and Father is your God and Father. And His whole Church in heaven and on earth is your household and family. For He is the Head of His Body, the Church, the fullness of Him who fills all in all, and you also belong to His Body.
You have heard that Jesus prays for His disciples, that they should be united as one, even as the Father and the Son are one in the Holy Spirit. That they should live and abide with one another in peace, in the unity of the Holy Trinity. That they should love one another with the Love of God.
As a Christian, therefore, you are called to live in communion with your brothers and sisters in Christ; for you belong to them, and they belong to you, as surely as both you and they belong to one and the same Lord, Jesus Christ. Not only those who live and worship alongside you on any given Sunday, but the saints of all times and places, all who believe and are baptized into Christ.
The Church remembers and gives thanks for the faithful departed, for the saints who have gone before us in the faith and confession of Christ Jesus, because they are one with us in His Body. As death has no mastery over Him and is not able to separate His disciples from Him, neither is death able to separate those who belong to Him from one another. Not really. Not forever. Not in any way that finally matters. They are saints, both here in time and hereafter in eternity, because they are sanctified, as you are sanctified, by the Love of God in Christ. And so they live forever.
St. Paul tells us that God the Father did not spare His only Son, but gave Him up for us all, that He might be the Firstborn of many brethren. And to that end, the Son of God humbled Himself and handed Himself over to the Cross, that you and many others might become the children of God.
Beloved of the Lord, as brothers and sisters of one Lord Jesus Christ, as sons and daughters of one God and Father in Him, as those anointed by one and the same Holy Spirit, love one another. Give thanks for one another, and live together as one household and family of God. As surely as it is good and right to remember and give thanks for the saints who have gone before us, so learn from their example to love and serve the Body of Christ with which the Lord has surrounded you here.
Do not neglect to do good to your neighbors. Do not turn your back on your brothers and sisters, but consider their needs and look for opportunities to help and serve them. Pray for them in the Name of the Lord Jesus, and be open to the fact that you may also be the Lord’s answer to those prayers. Use the Lord’s time, energy, and money, whatever He has entrusted to you in this life, to care for His children on earth as an instrument of His grace and mercy. Sacrifice yourself, and give life to others, as the Lord gives life to you. For you are holy, as the Lord your God is holy.
Your good works of faith and love are the works of Christ Himself, which He has not only begun but continues to work in you by His Word and Holy Spirit. As He loves you and has reconciled you to His God and Father in Himself, in His crucified and risen Body, so does He bear good fruits after His own kind in your body and life. He is the true Vine, as He has told you, and you live and abide in Him, as a healthy and productive branch, by His grace through faith in Him. By and with His Word of the Gospel, He daily and richly forgives your sins, and He gives to you His Spirit.
The Lord Jesus guards and keeps you while you live here in this world. He prays to His Father that the evil one would not get his hands on you. And as He prays, so He acts. He guards and keeps you by His Word of Truth, lest you perish and go to your own place, like Judas. He wills that you should not perish, but that you should live and abide with Him in His own place with the Father.
He guards and keeps you by the preaching of His Cross and Resurrection. That is the Word of Truth, the testimony of His holy Apostles, who witnessed all His coming in and going out from the waters of His Baptism to His Ascension into heaven. By that preaching of Christ Jesus, you are brought to repentance and to faith in Him, you are forgiven all your sins, you are raised from death to life by His Holy Spirit, and you are reconciled to His God and Father. Even when your heart condemns you for your sins, this Word of the Gospel of Christ is greater than your heart.
Christ Jesus guards and keeps you by sending men in His Name, His called and ordained servants, as God the Father sent Him into the world. From His Apostles to this present day, He has never failed to call and send His ministers of the Gospel. He is the Preacher who preaches His Word by the means of their mouths — from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth, even to the close of the age.
He sends His men to you, also, to preach to you in His Name and stead. And He thereby preaches Himself into your ears, even as He gives Himself, His Body and Blood, into your hand and mouth and body in the Holy Communion. He does this now, as always, that you should be sanctified in Him, that you should be preserved by His Name, and that you should not die but live with God.
Jesus is always working, as His Father is always working, to give you peace and rest, to give you life with God in Himself. So, then, as He preaches to you on the one hand, He is also praying for you on the other hand. Thus does He unite both God and man, both heaven and earth, in Himself.
He prays the same thing that He preaches, that you should be sanctified, safe, and alive forever. He prays and intercedes, not in desperation, but in the confidence of His Cross and Resurrection. As He has sanctified Himself, and as the Father has glorified Him, so surely are you saved in the Body of Christ Jesus — crucified, risen, and ascended to the Right Hand of the Father.
Everything has been accomplished for you, and everything is answered with God’s resounding “Yes” and “Amen,” in the Body of Christ Jesus. Indeed, His prayer and His Ascension cannot be separated from one another, because the Body of Christ is both the Prayer and the Answer to the prayer. He is the One who arises like sweet-smelling Incense into the Holy of Holies made without hands, eternal in the heavens. Not only when He prays and intercedes for you, as He always does, but so also when you pray and intercede in His Name, as He has taught you and invited you to pray. He lives and prays, not only for you, but in you. And so do you live and pray in Him.
He has risen and ascended to the Father in and with His Body, that you might live with Him there in the heavenly places. That you might reside in the bosom of God the Father. That you might be held in His strong and loving embrace. That no one should ever snatch you out of His hand, but that you should remain forever safe and sound, in perfect peace, and alive with Christ in God.
Remain, then, here in the Temple of His Church on earth, as the Apostles did after His Ascension. Return often to this “Upper Room” where the Lord Jesus bids you to recline at His Table, where He feeds you with His Body and His Blood and thereby sanctifies you for divine life in Himself.
He is your Life and your Salvation, your Righteousness and Holiness, in all your coming in and going out, now and forever. He is not far away but here with you, even as He ever lives to pray and intercede for you before the Throne of God. He has taken His stand with you here, even as He has prepared a place for you with the Father in heaven. So does He bind all things together in one, and so do you bear the Name and the Spirit of God in Christ Jesus, unto the Life everlasting.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.